Tidal Is Finally Doing the Spotify Thing With a Free Subscription Tier

Tidal Is Finally Doing the Spotify Thing With a Free Subscription Tier
Will Tidal's new subscription tiers entice you over to try it out? (Photo: Brad Barket, Getty Images)

Tidal, the premium streaming music service geared toward audio enthusiasts with artist backers like Jay-Z, is making some significant changes to its subscription plans to bring in more listeners.

Tidal, which has always required a paid subscription to stream tunes, now offers a free plan, which is exclusive to U.S. subscribers. The free tier provides access to the service’s entire music catalogue and playlists, albeit with “limited interruptions.” The bitrate of streaming music for the free plan will top out at 160 kbps.

Tidal is also making changes to its paid tiers. The service has upgraded its standard plan to include lossless and high-resolution audio, up to 1411 kbps. For A$11.99/month, the standard plan offers offline downloads and access to Tidal Connect, which lets you cast your music to external devices from your smartphone. Additionally, it unlocks access to My Activity, which lists insights on your listening habits, like how much of your streaming has translated into payment for the artists you support.

Tidal HiFi Plus received a boost, too. It costs A$23.99/month and features Tidal’s most premium audio content, including tracks compatible with Dolby Atmos and Sony 360 Audio. Tidal’s Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) recordings will remain exclusive to this tier, so you only pay for it if your sound system can accommodate it. It also gives you access to exclusive content and “future features.”

Tidal is still attempting to woo musicians after being red-flagged some time ago for inflating the listening numbers of certain artists. As part of its new subscription tiers, the company introduced monthly direct-to-artist payments, which Tidal will pay out along with streaming royalties. And beginning in 2022, Tidal won’t aggregate royalties from its HiFi Plus subscribers but rather the actual streaming activity of individual subscribers.

As Tidal explains on its website, this is all to make you feel like your subscription “goes directly to your own favourite artists as opposed to the industry accepted method of allocating it to the most popular artists.” The company will be working with Square, Cash App, and PayPal to ensure that payments to artists are swift. (It’s worth noting that Square acquired Jay-Z’s stake in the company earlier this year and is now Tidal’s majority owner.)

Tidal’s appeal has long been the highest-quality music streaming in the business. But with Apple Music and Amazon Music Unlimited now offering hi-fi streaming for the same price, Tidal had to diversify its subscription services to attract more users.

Anyway, this is the best time to go for the gold. Tidal’s biggest competitor, Spotify, has focused its recent efforts on podcasting and acquiring content exclusives. Though it announced a hi-fi tier earlier this year, it has yet to deliver on it for its Premium subscribers. At least this way, Tidal can say it was first.


Editor’s Note: Release dates within this article are based in the U.S., but will be updated with local Australian dates as soon as we know more.