Steve Albini calls Jay Z’s Tidal streaming service a ‘budget version of Pono’

The Shellac member claims he stopped boycotting Spotify because he felt 'snobbish'

Producer and alt-rock musician Steve Albini has spoken out about Jay-Z‘s new high quality streaming service, Tidal.

Tidal launched last month (March 30), with the likes of Kanye West, Madonna, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Arcade Fire, Jack White, Daft Punk and more all attending the launch and signing an official Tidal charter.

Jay Z has claimed that the platform will be more beneficial for artists, but many have voiced their criticism of the company’s royalty structure since its initial launch.

Now, the Shellac and Big Black member has spoken to Vulture, raising doubts over the platform and calling it a “budget version of Pono”, Neil Young’s high-definition music player.

“Historically, every time there’s been a new technological progression, there’s been a new convenience format [for listening to music],” Albini is quoted as saying. “So the question is, is it possible for something to be more convenient than streaming? And the answer is obviously yes. If you want your music to play at the push of a button, convenience is going to trump sound quality 100 percent of the time.”

“It’s for the same reason that if you had a screen that displayed paintings in your living room, very few serious art enthusiasts would care for such a screen despite the fact that it might show you very high-resolution images of artworks. They want to own a piece of art that is a direct connection to the person who made it. Having an HD screen in your house that would display artwork might have a market, but it’s not the same market as people who are interested in owning art.”

Albini continues that the growing number of streaming services, each with exclusive content, may mean that music fans seek alternate means of consuming music.

“The for-pay services are deluding themselves by trying to establish a permanent monetization of something that’s in flux. The internet provides access to materials and things. Creating these little streaming fiefdoms where certain streaming services have certain artists and certain streaming services have other artists is a crippled use of the internet. If the internet has demonstrated anything over the years, it’s that it has a way of breaking limitations placed on its content.”

Shellac weren’t originally available on Tidal’s main streaming competitor, Spotify, until Albini felt “snobbish” about his decision.”For listeners, [Spotify is] great. [Heavy metal band] High on Fire is excellent if you want background music for poker.”

Last year, Steve Albini called online music sharing the best thing since punk rock. “The single best thing that has happened in my lifetime in music, after punk rock, is being able to share music, globally for free. That’s an incredible development,” he said.

Lily Allen has also criticised Tidal recently. Allen said earlier 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 & made them exclusive to TIDAL… people are going to swarm back to pirate sites in droves sending traffic to torrent sites.”

Mumford & Sons recently said that they “wouldn’t have joined” Tidal “even if they had asked”, due its bias towards popular artists.