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Interview: Jay-Z Talks with Billboard About #Tidal & Changing The Music Business

Kanye Jay-Z

After launching his new high definition music streaming service Tidal yesterday, Jay-Z spoke with Billboard about the new way the music business will move. Jay’s primary goal is to change a broken compensation system and to bend the accepted limits of what’s offered for streaming, including song snippets, loose ideas and video. Take a look at some of the interview below.

Billboard: When did it first occur to you to get into the streaming business?
Jay Z: A year-and-a-half ago. We saw the movement and how everything was going and figured that this could possibly be the last music format that we see in this lifetime. We didn’t like the direction music was going and thought maybe we could get in and strike an honest blow and if, you know, the very least we did was make people wake up and try to improve the free vs. paid system, and promote fair trade, then it would be a win for us anyway.

Billboard: Musicians have long complained that streaming has rendered music virtually worthless. It doesn’t sound like you’re solely driven by financial reasons, but also by a desire to reset the value proposition of music.
Jay-Z: That’s correct, absolutely, and when I spoke to every single person involved that’s what I said. Music is … imagine your life without music. It’s a very valuable part of your life, and like I said, that’s why we got in this business. It seems to be going the other way. People are not respecting the music, and [are] devaluing it and devaluing what it really means. People really feel like music is free, but will pay $6 for water. You can drink water free out of the tap, and it’s good water. But they’re OK paying for it. It’s just the mind-set right now.


Billboard: So, Tidal launches today. Creatively, what do you hope happens, beginning tomorrow?
Jay-Z: Artists come here and start making songs 18 minutes long, or whatever. I know this is going to sound crazy, but maybe they start attempting to make a “Like a Rolling Stone,” you know, a song that doesn’t have a recognizable hook, but is still considered one of the greatest songs of all time, the freedom that this platform will allow art to flourish here. And we’re encouraging people to put it in any format they like. It doesn’t have to be three minutes and 30 seconds. What if it’s a minute and 17, what if it’s 11; you know, just break format. What if it’s just four minutes of just music and then you start rapping?

Billboard: So, you’re an owner and a musician. Are you hoping that the other services will begin to adopt this attitude, or are you content because if they don’t adopt this you’ll have your own point of differentiation?
Jay-Z: I think the goals are the same. Like when the tide rises, all the boats rise. That’s the first thing I said to the group was, “If for nothing else, then we just caused people to look inside their organization and say, ‘Yeah, let’s work on this, let’s work on audio, and let’s work on a pay system.’ ” I already see the conversations, I already see how it’s changing — and it may have changed anyway because that’s just the natural process when things are wrong — but I think we sped it up already, and we’re not even out yet. I already see the discussions and the scrambling. And we haven’t even begun.

To read the full interview, head over to Billboard.