The Full History Of Jay Z’s Fractured Relationship With Streaming Services

Jay Z

Shawn Carter a.k.a Jay Z has celebrated his 50th birthday by returning his entire music catalogue to Spotify.

After two years, Carter, who owns competing streaming service, Tidal, brought back his discography after removing the majority of it back in 2017.

And while his fans celebrated the milestone (and his birthday) by immediately adding him back to playlists — it was a surprising move all the same.

So, why would Jay Z bring the titles back to a service he left in the first place?

Here, we take a look at the fractured relationship Jay Z had with the streaming giant and what may have led him back to where he started.

Why Jay Z left Spotify

In 2017, Jay Z removed most of his music from Spotify, leaving only a few early albums and collaborations behind.

And the reason seemed pretty clear.

Jay Z co-owns Tidal, a competing music streaming service which was the “first artist-owned global music and entertainment platform”, that he bought for $56 million.

The subscription-based music, podcast and video streaming service combined high-definition music videos with exclusive content and special features on music and was launched in 2014 by Norwegian public company Aspiro.

Upon its launch, Jay Z co-owned the platform with the likes of Arcade Fire, Beyoncé, Calvin Harris, Coldplay, Daft Punk, Deadmau5, Jack White, Jason Aldean, J Cole, Kanye West, Madonna, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna and Usher and promised superior sound quality and better compensations for all artists who used it to host their music.

In 2015, Jay Z targeted other streaming giants (including Spotify, Apple and Google), saying that artists weren’t receiving the proper compensation

What’s happening with Tidal?

Tidal never really took off in the mainstream and reached it’s peak when Beyoncé, released Lemonade in 2016.

The service reached a peak of 1.1 million, however, reports to music labels in the first two years revealed that it had 1.2 million activated accounts and 850,000 subscribers.

In 2015, a Norweigen newspaper Dagens Næringsliv reported it had received internal reports from the company saying that they only had 350,000 subscribers — leading the industry to believe the numbers were being inflated.

Since 2016, numbers have not been reported.

Kanye West, Jay Z and Tidal

In February 2014, Kanye West boldly tweeted that The Life Of Pablo “will never never never be on Apple. And it will never be for sale…  You can only get it on TIDAL.”

After the tweet, fans reportedly flocked to the streaming service, largely so they could listen to Ye’s new music.

But then, only six weeks later, he went back on his word and suddenly, Pablo was available on Apple Music and Spotify.

Fans were furious, with one, Justin Baker-Rhett, even filing a lawsuit against Tidal and West.

Calling, what Baker-Rhett described as “fraudulently induced consumers to subscribe to Tidal” and a “deceptive marketing ploy”, the fan alleged that millions of fans had signed up to the service, believing that they wouldn’t be able to gain access anywhere else.

In January 2019, the lawsuit quietly reached settlement, with Baker-Rhett voluntarily filing to dismiss the case.

However, Norweigan authorities began a formal investigation into the claims and at the time of the dismissal, publication Dagens Naeringsliv said that “at least four former Tidal employees (including its former head of business intelligence) have been interrogated in front of a judge [for a total of 25 hours] as part of the investigation.”

Two years before the settlement, the drama with West continued, and this time he —  one of the most prominent and influential OG members — was jumping ship.

West claimed the service owed him more than USD $3 million in compensation for videos he had made, plus the legions of fans he brought with him.

According to reports, the relationship between Carter and West deteriorated quickly, however neither side filed a lawsuit.

Kanye West Jay Z
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Spotify vs Tidal

So what is the actual difference between the two?

— Tidal premium plan is $9.99 a month and a HiFi plan for $19.99 per month.

— Spotify offers a free three-month trial and then $11.99 per month.

— Tidal Premium includes “high quality” at AAC 320 kbps, while Spotify Premium offers 160 kbps (320 kbps with ‘extreme premium’)

— Both apps offer iPhone and Android compatibility and desktop players.

— Tidal boasts over 60 million songs, while Spotify offers 40 million.

— Tidal offers exclusive tickets, tracks and content

Will you be listening to Jay Z now that he’s back on Spotify?