Arcade Fire’s Win Butler blames major labels for the poor performance of streaming service Tidal

The frontman said major labels had dictated a $20 subscription price

Arcade Fire frontman Win Butler has spoken out about the problems behind the launch of music streaming service Tidal, in which he and his wife Régine Chassagne are shareholders.

Speaking at the premiere of Arcade Fire’s new documentary, ‘The Reflektor Tapes’, at Toronto International Film Festival, Butler said that none of the many artists involved in Jay-Z‘s company, Tidal were aware of the PR behind the star-studded launch.

It featured appearances from Kanye West, Madonna, Nicki Minaj, Jack White, Coldplay, Arcade Fire, Rihanna, Daft Punk, Calvin Harris, Usher, Deadmau5 and Beyonce, among others.

It was criticised by stars including Mumford and Sons, Steve Albini, Lily Allen and Noel Gallagher, the latter of whom said, “‘Do these people think they’re the fuckin’ Avengers?”

“It was a poorly managed launch,” Butler has said of the criticism, “but conceptually the thing that we liked about Tidal was that it’s HD streaming quality.”

Speaking to The Independent, Butler said that major labels were to blame for the product’s failure, because they insisted the subscription price was double that of streaming competitor Spotify.

He said, “They dictated that Tidal has to cost $20. The major label music industry has completely ruined every aspect of their business. At every step of the way they’ve had the tools offered to them to create an industry that works, and they’ve completely blown it.”

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Criticism of Tidal has been widespread since it launched. Jay Z claimed that the platform would be more beneficial for artists, but many have voiced their criticism of the company’s royalty structure since its initial launch.

Tyler, The Creator said, “I get the concept of artists taking their shit instead of having that weird middle man, but because he got all of the biggest names in the world, it came off as weird. I think that’s why people were turned off. He gotta get an underdog in there that’s not all Number Ones to say, ‘Hey guys, I’m kind of one of you, this is actually kinda cool.’ That’s all they gotta do, because the idea makes sense.”

Steve Albini called Tidal a “budget version of Pono”, Neil Young’s high-definition music player, while Death Cab For Cutie’s frontman Ben Gibbard complained that the launch event “was a wonderful opportunity squandered” and instead of highlighting emerging or struggling musicians, saw a “bunch of millionaires and billionaires” onstage “complaining about not being paid”.

Gibbard’s comments echo those of Mumford & Sons, who recently said that they “wouldn’t have joined [Tidal] even if they had asked” due its bias towards popular artists.

Lily Allen also criticised Tidal. Allen said in April: “I love Jay Z so much, but Tidal is [so] expensive compared to other perfectly good streaming services… He’s taken the biggest artists and made them exclusive to Tidal… people are going to swarm back to pirate sites in droves sending traffic to torrent sites.”

The company soon parted ways with its chief executive, Andy Chen. Chen was the CEO of Tidal’s parent company Aspiro when it was purchased by Jay Z in March. He was replaced by former CEO Peter Tonstad, who then parted ways with the company in June, after just three months.
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