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Why are artists like Kanye West and Rihanna turning their profile pictures blue?

It’s all to do with Jay-Z’s efforts to kickstart a music service he owns.

IF YOU FOLLOW a number of major artists on Facebook or Twitter, you may have noticed some of them have changed their profile picture and cover photo to light blue/teal.

All of them have posted a message about making music history and included the hashtag #TIDALforALL.

Rihanna Source: Facebook

Jack White

Yet while traditional wisdom implies that this is for a good cause or highlights a major issue, it’s actually in relation to a music service called TIDAL, which is making an announcement in New York at 10pm.

What exactly is TIDAL?

TIDAL is a music-streaming service which offers high-definition audio and music videos to listeners, and was bought by Jay-Z’s company Project Panther in January. It’s a subscription service which costs €19.99 per month, but unlike Spotify, it doesn’t offer a free service.

What may be worrying for the likes of Spotify and other companies is the backing it has. Artists like Kayne West, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Jack White, and Madonna are backing the service, and it’s believed that Taylor Swift, who famously pulled her albums off Spotify late last year, will also put her music on the service.

A spokesperson for Big Machine Records told the BBC that the singer’s back catalogue appears on all streaming services that require a subscription fee.

Tidal countdown A countdown to Jay-Z's announcement is displayed on TIDAL's site, as music artists drum up publicity for it. Source: TIDAL

So why are they backing this service?

Connections to Jay-Z certainly helps, but it ties into the growing unhappiness artists have with the current music-streaming landscape, mainly Spotify since it’s the most high-profile.

The breakdown of payments among labels and artists has been a hot topic in the music industry. Such services take away from song and album sales and for the most part, most of the revenue generated  to the streaming service and record labels instead of the performers.

In the case of Spotify, it pays an average “per stream” fee to right holders – mainly the labels in this case – of between $0.006 and $0.0084. The amount paid per stream depends on the country a song is streamed, the number of paid users listening to it, the relative premium pricing, the currency value in different countries and an artist’s loyalty rates.

Ultimately, it means that a song would need to be streamed one million times to make at least $6,000 and when that’s broken up between Spotify, labels, and artists, it’s usually the artist that gets a fraction of this sum.

Shortly after Swift pulled her albums from Spotify, its CEO Daniel Ek defended the service saying he was “really frustrated” by claims of artists and songwriters receiving little to no money from streaming.

He said the service had paid out $2 billion to artists since it started in 2008, $1 billion coming from the past year, but out of the 60 million active users on the service, only 15 million pay for it.

That isn’t particularly encouraging news for Tidal, but it’s hoping that a few other features will convince people to pay a little more for their music.

Brit Awards 2015 - Press Room - London Taylor Swift famously pulled her albums from Spotify late last year. Source: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

So what does TIDAL have that will make people join?

The sound quality. While other services like Spotify offer a compressed version of music, TIDAL offers uncompressed audio that offers better quality music than traditional music files.

The service has 25 million tracks and 75,000 music videos but consumers move towards free services more so it will be tough for it to convince them to pay that much.

But it’s facing competition from a number of rivals. Alongside Spotify, Deezer, YouTube and Google Play Music, Apple is expected to launch its own music streaming service soon. The majority of them offer free ad-supported services and it could be tough to convince those to pay for a service they get for nothing.

Read: There is a sure-fire way to make all Apple staff treat you like royalty >

Read: Everyone is talking about Periscope, but what is it? >

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About the author:

Quinton O'Reilly

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