With Tidal relaunch, Jay Z doubles down on streaming for audiophiles

Tidal, the Jay Z-owned streaming service built around high-quality audio, is relaunching in a move that will give people a new option when weighing competitors like Spotify or Pandora.

The revamped Tidal service went live Monday at 5 p.m. U.S. Eastern time, as indicated by a large countdown timer that dominated its homepage. A spokesman confirmed the relaunch but declined to say how Tidal's service might change. Its existing database holds 25 million "lossless" CD-quality songs.

Tidal's ad-free service costs $19.99 per month and can be accessed from the desktop, iOS, Android and home audio players like Sonos. A version with standard sound quality costs $9.99 per month. Ad-supported services from competitors like Spotify, Pandora, Rdio and Deezer are free, although premium versions without ads cost around $9.99 per month or less.

Unlike its peers, Tidal is positioning itself as an "artist-owned" service, one that will benefit both consumers and creators. During a launch event Monday in New York City, more than a dozen big names including Madonna, Jack White, Kanye West and Alicia Keys joined Jay Z on stage as co-owners of Tidal. A New York Times report said a majority of shares in the service will be set aside for artists, though a spokesman didn't clarify how that will work.

No information about royalties was given during the launch event.

Tidal will provide some exclusive content, Keys said on stage. That content might be provided by the artists who own a stake in the service, as a lure to attract subscribers, though that was unclear.

Tidal launched its high-fidelity service last year, betting there's an audience of music fans willing to pay more for better sound quality. Jay Z bought it as part of a $56 million acquisition of Swedish company Aspiro, announced earlier this month.

Tidal has sought to distinguish itself from competitors by claiming to be the only service that combines high quality audio with high definition music videos, and with editorial content in the form of music interviews and features.

But there's a crescendo of competition. Google offers its own Google Play Music streaming service, and Apple is said to be developing a new version of the Beats streaming service it acquired from that company. There's also Deezer, which offers its own high fidelity streaming service.

But as streaming has grown, so have complaints from artists that it doesn't generate enough revenue for them. Tidal has the backing of some major artists like Taylor Swift, who pulled her music from Spotify late last year over royalty issues.

With the relaunch, Jay Z is positioning Tidal as a service that has strong support from artists. All the musicians at its launch event were big name acts, however, and it's not clear yet how smaller artists might benefit.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

Zach Miners

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