Saturday, 25 April 2015

Why I'm leaving Tidal

I signed up for music streaming service Tidal a few months ago, thrilled with the quality full-resolution audio I heard on the meagre 7-day trial and excited by the way I could integrate it with my squeezebox setup via ickstream.

I'd been a Spotify user and enjoyed that service. It too integrated well with Squeezebox but as a family we were sharing an account and more times than not, I'd find the account in use when I wanted to listen. I needed either a second Spotify account or an alternative.

I've been using Tidal a lot for the past couple of months, out and about on my Sony Xperia phone in low-res mode, on my Macbook at work in HiFi mode via the desktop and occasionally home via the web interface.

During this time, the service was re-launched with much ado by a bevy of singers that I never listen to. It passed me by.

I've enjoyed using Tidal but now I'm leaving and here's why;

Inaccessible Music

I pay €20 per month for the service. This is expensive but I'm willing to pay it for a high-quality service and wide range. You can't pay Tidal any more than this. Yet, there's lots and lots of music listed that I cannot listen to. What's going on there?

In all access modes (mobile app, desktop app, web UI) tracks are listed but when I attempt to play them, I get a message indicating that it's 'unavailable for streaming' or, worse, a pop up message indicating that it must be purchased, but with no clue at all as to how one might go about purchasing. The tidal website and FAQ section is silent on this and an enquiry via their Facebook page went unanswered. I'm on the top tier - I'd expect access to everything.

Content Gaps

There's just a lot of stuff I'd like to listen to that's missing. And not esoteric music either - fairly mainstream songs. Here's a couple of examples;

I've been a fan of Brooks Williams for a few years now. I enjoy his smooth vocals and exquisite guitar style (though I can give or take the religious overtones). One of my favourite albums of his is 'Nectar' (2003) but it's not on Tidal.

Though I hadn't been watching this year, I happened to catch the last episode of Masterchef UK last night (amazing cooking!) and a sublime cover of A-Ha's 'Take On Me' was used towards the end. I jumped on Tidal to find it. Several versions there but not this particular one. A quick Google this morning revealed it to be by Aqualung but armed with that info, could I find it on Tidal? No, but it's immediately available on Spotify.

These are just two examples, my Tidal subscription period has been littered with examples like this.

Desktop App Disappeared

During the trial, I downloaded the desktop app for use on my Macbook. It worked great. Bad timing, I know, but a week or so into my subscription, I went looking for the Windows version to install on my music system at home to allow me listen to that High rez content properly. Guess what, it's gone!


The current app works, why not leave it available for download until the new one is ready? Inexplicable.

I'm also disappointed that there's no easy way to remote control the app or any support for ASIO playback.

Insane Dating

I'm not sure how Tidal populates the album date field, but it's confusing and misleading. Have a look at how this 1975 album displays;

What's that about? This is a significant issue when exploring new artists - it's impossible to accurately determine their discography sequencing.

In fairness, the above example might be a re-issue or similar but I've come across several frustrating cases where this approach makes no sense (several albums listed as 2014 is one I can recall).

So that's it. I'm leaving. Spotify are offering me a second account for half price. Apple will be introducing their streaming service soon. I can live without full resolution for now. I might come back to Tidal later if they improve but for now, it's adios.

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