Steve Albini Calls Tidal a "Budget Version of Pono"

BY Josiah HughesPublished Apr 15, 2015

Everyone's got something to say about Jay Z's new illuminati streaming service Tidal. First, post-banjo rockers Mumford & Sons called it "commercial bullshit." Then, Death Cab for Cutie cutie Ben Gibbard said organizers "totally blew it." Now, renowned audio nerd and noise-rock legend Steve Albini has weighed in on the debate.

In a new interview with Vulture, Albini dropped plenty of wisdom nuggets regarding Tidal's arrival in the cluttered streaming market.

Regarding its claim to offer uncompressed audio, he likened the service to Neil Young's audio player, calling it a "budget version of Pono." He added that people who stream music generally don't care about compression, saying, "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."

He added: "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 artwork. 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."

Endlessly quotable, Albini added that no streaming service can withstand the internet's ability to make content free of cost for users. "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."

Tidal launched late last month with a star-studded press conference that included appearances from Jay Z, Kanye West, Rihanna, Daft Punk, Drake, Madonna, Nicki Minaj, Alicia Keys, Coldplay, Arcade Fire, Jack White, Usher, deadmau5 and Beyoncé.


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