Slow clap for Jack White's defense of TIDAL

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It's bad enough no one wants to support music culture any more. Not even by downloading music. It's bad enough Spotify and Pandora continue to try and influence copyright and royalty laws in America and worldwide to ensure their bottom line stays, while musical culture slowly erodes. It's bad enough more and more musicians have to set up a gofundme to pay to replace their stolen van , or even mount a tour. Contrary to popular opinion, the majority of musicians are not fabulously wealthy. Nor are they kinda wealthy.

The majority of musicians are going through periods where they are destitute. It's amazing to me that people, especially some of my friends in advertising, keep answering this glaring problem with "better get used to it." As problem solvers, finding a way to ensure our culture thrives seems like a problem worth solving. Yet very few even want to see it as a problem.

Whatever gains that might have been made by TIDAL, a good-on-paper artists-first, artist-owned idea, have been destroyed by egos as well as management issues. In just a few short months, TIDAL should have already been a beacon on a digital road filled with robber barons. Instead, it's already on the defensive.

And that's just my problem.

While a lot of Jack White's defense of TIDAL yesterday was sensible, it stupidly brought the whole conversation back to the big guy's money. As if we've learned nothing from Lars Ulrich and Napster.

The series of questions Jack White chose to respond to come directly from his Vault subscribers as well as from Facebook Fans. I have no issue with Jack White, a famous person, speaking for the little guy. He once was the little guy, so he knows what it's like. A lot of musicians see him as an inspiration, and well they should. A lot of his answers to these questions were spot on. TIDAL's purpose is to support artists, get the indie and little heard ones out there as much as the big names. Here's a great example of how to frame the conversation.

I think TIDAL is great for the fact that it will get more money to artists. After reading how little Pharrell from Pandora streaming off of one of "Happy." Really made me realize how little musicians just starting out must be making, when Pharrell only made $2700 off of something like 43 million plays


Jack: Yep, whoever started the model of making a website that gets paid by big advertisers (Youtube) and does not pay that money to the artists GENERATING the interest. Makes no sense to an artist trying to survive.

But then there's this question and answer at the end...

Sorry Jack, but I have 0 interest in making JayZ more money, and I don't understand how Jack could be involved in this awful business model. Totally screws the fans, I thought he was a bit above that. How much money does he need?


Jack: A streaming service owned by artists is the first step, it’s not about the rich getting richer. it takes artists that can get peoples attention to be able to make a scenario possible for those artists that don't have a voice to get in a position where they aren’t struggling, and believe me third man records is full of artists the mainstream’s never heard of and have no voice or power in the system. have you heard of Rachelle Garnier? what about the Smoke Fairies? Drakar Sauna? Pujol? The Gories? Those are just some of the up and coming artists on third man that try to make a living in music. And if you stream their songs… they get paid for it. And they get to LIVE and not take second jobs….and make MORE music! I support keeping musicians you love in business. We want a full third man roster page on tidal that you can stream hundreds of records on, and each time that artist gets something. that’s a beautiful thing.


And also… do we tell Steven Spielberg we don't need to pay him anymore to watch his movies? He’s made enough off of us right? He should show his new films for free right? haha

That last sentence lost the argument and I'm afraid, will now become a sound bite for those who like the status quo. With Occupy Wall Street still fresh in peoples' minds, and people marching in the streets for a higher minimum wage bringing to mind the fact Steven Spielberg is worth nearly 3 and a half billion dollars is precisely where the conversation should not end up. And by the way, the same big tech companies who rip off musicians are enabling people to pirate movies, too.

My point is: Yes, it's important for musicians to get paid. Yes, it's important to ensure they, like the McDonald's hamburger flipper, can make a living wage. In a sense it is the same struggle. But we shouldn't let the very few mega success stories in music overshadow the thousands upon thousands of talented musicians who aren't able to pay the bills. The best way to do this is to drop the money argument once and for all.

This of it this way: Lack of money is a symptom. The larger problem is that soon the best parts of culture will disappear. Artists will not just "get used to it." They'll stop creating. There's proof it's already happening. Stop talking about the big guy and his money. Start framing the argument in different terms. People will never truly understand what they are losing until then.

about the author

kidsleepy 17 year copywriter, now CD, who has worked in many cities including Pittsburgh, New York, Atlanta, Montreal and currently Los Angeles. I snark because I care. I ain't complainin' I'm just tellin' it like it is.

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