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Dear Mr. Carter… An open letter to Jay Z regarding the Tidal music service


At the end of last month you, Mr. Carter/Jay Z and your cabal of musicians launched your music streaming service which you dubbed Tidal, no doubt an allegorical reference to the Waves that you thought it would make in the music world when you launched it.

In fact you made sure of it, what with your posse of the music’s vocal prima donnas like Taylor Swift (the woman who hates Spotify), Madonna (well she is Madonna), Beyonce, Rihanna, Alicia Keys and Kanye West (the Jackass otherwise known as Yeezus). I doubt there has been a roomful of egos larger than this outside the Grammys.

So much like the Tide your announcement made waves. You argue that this service would allow musicians to wrest back the power that the musician has lost following the rise of the internet with piracy at an all time high.

My interest was initially piqued when I read the site was ad-free. I wondered whether you had come up with some ingenious way to allow your adoring fans to access the music for-free! As it turns out you just found an ingenious way to make more money for you and and your already-rich friends whom you have made co-conspirators in your venture.

So you intend to charge people $10 so that they can listen to music that they can download for free from Torrent sites! Not only is there no ad supported service, you even want to charge people $20 to listen to what you call HiFi (what that heck is that?) audio.

Well most people in my country paid slightly more than that for their Chinese phones sir, and they probably won’t be able to tell the difference. Considering their miserly financial habits I doubt they will spent $300 on a pair of fancy headphones just so they can listen to HiFi audio and that’s without factoring in the cost of the required internet connection.

While I find it noble that you, unlike a lot of other artists out there, are finally embracing technology instead of seeing it as the enemy, I have to say that I found your product underwhelming. Not only is it plagued by the not so small problem of having a limited music collection, the site has no selling point other than vague statements about restoring value to music.

Apparently you and your other friends are not happy that people have free access to music when they are paying $6 to buy a bottle of water. The biggest problem with your objection is that it is so U.S centric. No one I know, even snobs, pay $6 for a bottle of water. In fact most people I know freely drink from nearby streams, something our ancestors have done for eons.

I am tired of musicians, actors, film studios and software developers whinging about piracy and how you are being short-changed. If anything I think the whole lot of you are grossly overpaid compared to everyone!

You work hard for so little?! Tell that to people who work 20 hours a day in dusty sweat shops in places like China and Bangladesh sewing the fancy gowns you wear at the Grammys, the Nike shoes you run every morning in and the fancy lingerie you like so much. You earn millions from one song even with all the piracy going on. They earn an average 40 cents a day! I have never heard you championing their cause. Is their labour worth any less than yours?

Frankly I think you and most celebrities are just greedy. Most of you claim you are losing money because of technologies like the internet and musicians are finding it hard to make a living.

People like Shakespeare, Mozart,  Bach and Beethoven made a living from their arts, while you sir are intent on making a killing. There is a world of difference between the two. Before technology, musicians made a living from their arts going from place to place as troupes and they relied on the generosity of their audience to make a living. They never made millions.

Here is a history lesson: none of the musicians of the 19th century were made as rich from music as you have had. None lived lives as lavish as you do. They made an honest living which is more than I can say of today’s entertainer.

The same technology that made you famous and rich is the same technology that you berate. What is wrong with you artists? You did not like tapes and accused them of killing music, then you berated CD burning and now it is the internet? You would rather the world would go back to the world of Vinyl? You know who else wishes to go back in time: constitutional monarchs who miss their days as tyrants and absolute monarchs.

People keep repeating the phrase that Piracy “is illegal” as if that makes what the copyright holders are doing right. As much as they are being robbed, copyright holders are much like the feudal lords of old because of their far reaching powers; a pompous lot who keep telling us about what’s right for musicians, actors and sportsmen without ever asking themselves what is right for music, movie and sports lovers. You call them pirates I call them Robin Hood.

Speaking of illegal things, did you know your buddy Dre makes these fancy headphones you like so much for a mere cost of $14 a set but sells them for as much as $799? How on earth is that even legal? Thank God for the Chinese I got mine for $5 and they work fine thank you.

What I am saying sir is I hope your project fails. It is backward protectionism. It is tyranny of the highest order when the some of the world’s richest individuals gang up together so that they can charge more and deny us access to their irresistible creations.

It is greed when people who earn millions per gig complain of being robbed when they are working no harder than everyone else. What about the nurses in not just my country but world over? A nurse here would need to work for 120,000 (that is 10,000 years) months to earn what you earned last year alone when being paid a generous salary of $500 a month. For you to somehow suggest that you are being short-changed is nothing short of an insult.

My dear neighbour is a hardworking guard with 3 children. He earns a healthy salary of $150 every month and pays a rent of $80, school fees of $40/month for his two daughters who go to a nearby college leaving him with $30 to spend on clothes (which he buys from bales shipped from America) and food. I have never seen him naked or hungry. He makes a living. You sir are just used to your ritzy lifestyle.

I do not condone piracy but what I find especially grievous is the fact that no one seems to be pointing out one obvious fact; your music, movies and sports are expensive to access. And in no small part those expenses are a result of overpaid musicians, actors and performers who take home ridiculous sums of money.

Piracy may be illegal sir, but I take a great deal of comfort that at one point the Magna Carta was illegal, so was the American and my own country’s war for independence, so was miscegenation. At one point Galileo was forced to admit he was wrong and told to shut up and Mandela was deemed a terrorist.

Unless you start considering the needs of listeners as well, instead of just focusing on the musicians/copyright holders, you will no doubt fail in your quest to “bring back value to music.”

You need to ask yourself the hard question, why are so many people willing to break the law and access copyrighted content. Are they just thieves and criminals? Why is it they do not rob stores to get their food also but only do it with music, movies and software?

Search and find their identities and you will see that they are your normal law abiding citizens who are left with no choice. Take my neighbor example, how is he going to afford your ridiculous charge of $10 a month? Instead he has in his hand a memory card which has hits like “Encore” and your wife’s “Halo” which he illegally got from his friend (not me) via Bluetooth.

My guess is he will continue to get his music the same way. Or he will buy it from the vendors who sell DVDs in our streets who probably illegally downloaded it from some pirate site. I will boldly tell you that I will not be paying to access your music either. I will happily navigate the obnoxious ads on YouTube because I love your music and want you to earn something but I am not willing to sell you my soul for it. I will get my movies and T.V. shows from Streamza (is it legal?) and BoxOffice.

I hope sir this will make you more reasonable. That by my missive you will become more amenable to lower royalties and consider the less talked about plight of the music, sport and movie consumer.

With love from, Africa


P.S Give my warmest regards to Blue Ivy and Blue’s Mother.

Image Credit: Image by Empire News

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38 thoughts on “Dear Mr. Carter… An open letter to Jay Z regarding the Tidal music service

  1. I can not fully agree with you. While I totally agree these are “stinking rich” artist that compared with earlier generations really have nothing to complain about at the same time I understand their concerns with music “for free” though I grew up in the generation when we created mixed cassettes. And as to why Dr. Dre can sell US14 headphones for US700… well why buy them? I wouldn’t. But lots of ppl are now hooked on brands rather than value and is that his fault?? Protest instead by buying good value-for-money headphones and buy your CD or streaming at a fair price so to support the more-or-less rich artists

    1. It all sounds so harmless unless you consider one shocking thing: for all his talent and genius Dre is not an engineer! Ergo somebody is making the headphones for him and their salary is included in the $14 cost!

  2. You tried so hard to come across as intelligent and objective but in… actually, you didn’t try at all, you just wrote an uninformed article so out of touch with the subject matter and confessed to criminal activity along the way. I have no idea how the editor let this article run. I really didn’t expect to find such shallow writing on TechZim at this stage of their journey.

  3. I don’t get your fury Garikai.

    If I make something, it is up to me what price I put on it and how I choose to sell it. I made it.
    If no one buys it, I will likely go out of business and will be forced to review my model.
    However, if someone buys it, I have found a good business.

    Let Jay Z and fellow artists price and sell however they like. If people buy, they have found a good business. If not, they’ll know soon enough and they’ll act.

    You remind me of the lot protesting that Multichoice decided to up the DSTV prices!

    1. L.S.M I think the example you gave of people protesting against multichoice price increases goes against the very essence on modern consumerism. The focus nowadays is more on the protection and promotion of the interests of customers. In as much as you have a right to sell a pencil for $0.40 I have a right to question why I cant get it for $0.30.

      1. Don’t question why you can’t get it for 30 cents. Go find an alternative shop that has that price. Just buy it elsewhere and if enough of you do that I’ll probably start selling my pencils at 25 cents.

        Jay Z’s music and DSTV are not necessities for life. Good water, electricity, food, clothing, the internet etc… are. No consumer council or government has a right to interfere with my profit margins if I’m not selling a basic need.

  4. Content aside, I like the style of writing ….excellent . But, Gari wants to save the world … Ummmmm a tough proposition . I do think it will generally pan out the way he says in terms of consumer voting , but this is nothing new . The timeless law of supply and demand has long dictated consumer behavior. So don’t get hot under the collar mate … Che sera sera 🙂

  5. Good article Garikai. Whilst the tone might sound somewhat “extremist” I believe its important for such strong opinions to be heard. First of all I believe that in this digital age, a lot of things must be free simply because of lower (or absence of) distribution and packaging costs.
    Look at it this way. You can buy good quality software online and you can also legally download millions of free equally good software, you can buy premium quality games but there are tons of good free games, you can pay for stock photography but you can also legally download loads of free photos, there are paid e-books and free ebooks. Almost all content and every service online has the free option and the paid or premium option. This is what has made the internet as great as it is today . However when it comes to music you will rarely find an artist who gives music for free. “Free” music is mostly available via illegal channels. It seems the general feeling amongst musicians is that they must monetize as much of their online content as possible. This is what I dont agree with. I believe that artists must avail to us both free and paid stuff. Forcing us to buy will only result in more of what we know is already happening.

    1. As much as I see your points and somewhat agree to what you are saying. I have to disagree that music should be free online. Cheaper? Yes but free? No. There are still costs associated with getting music out there especially for album releases etc. Marketing, production etc.

      When is comes to free music, I’m not sure if you are familiar with sites such as sound lid where some artists do release free content for their fans in the form of mix tapes. This works quite well to create a buzz.

      The mains I agree with some points however is because I understand why people especially in Zim may not find value in this products as I feel you won’t necessarily get the benefits won’t make any sense. The main reason for cost is because everywhere else around the world the law is putting a tight grip on these torrents and other illegal channels to get such content.

      I do like the techs in blog and feel you guys are a great voice for tech but it will also be good for you to be a lot more objective and put everything you write into perspective. Because it doesn’t make sense for African consumers yet doesn’t mean the product won’t work or its bad. Understand who their target is and maybe suggest how they can break into your demographic.

  6. You see now that is a healthy piece of content – well done Garikai… Let the debates begin!!

  7. Dumb fuc*in article. lol . take a look at the credits of one song and realise that a lot of people need to get paid from the success of one song. In most instances, artists do not even own the rights to their music, labels do and they are the ones who work on artist images and rent those expensive gowns for them to reach the aspirational market (?). Musicians who try to make a living and are not in the 1% are truly struggling in this day and age.

    1. In other words you agree with me. The musicians “anger” is misplaced maybe they should be fighting with their labels: usually a bunch of fat cats purring somewhere waiting to get paid instead of the poor consumer. They should cut their costs.

      1. How do they target the fat cats? By gaining independence. Something that Tidal might still offer to the bedroom artist before we all run, condemn passing criticism . The ability to release direct to consumer is an invaluable tool for this generations musician. There is the option to pay as much as you’d pay for spotify but if you’ve spent a lot on your new Sonos system (for example) you can probably afford and probably prefer the 20 buck option. Another point is this company’s strategy has not even been made clear yet, for all we know since they have signed an unspecified M.O.U with Sprint, they might be looking to bundle the cost that the general consumer would pay for their service into their phone contracts and in return people who use that mobile provider could give the consumer the feeling of ‘free access’ to the art that you say they’ve lost with this service.

        1. The problem here is that these musicians don’t want to cut out the fat cats, they just want to replace them! They are releasing their music directly just like Spotify does at either the same price or at a higher cost!

  8. The problem with your article is that you begin by attacking the wealth of these artists. You can make that argument against Apple and any other successful brand. The fact that you are so disturbed by these particular individuals makes no sense. It speaks to media bias, and an irrational consumer. No one raged at Taylor Swift for leaving Spotify. But now these artists are the problem but Spotify with owner worth 400 million with another 20% owned by record labels is somehow free of criticism? Well, I guess that works if you are a consumer that believes everything should be free. People pay for things for convenience. Everyone does not have the time to download hours of music or to search forever for a movie or book. People are already torrenting. All those artists on stage lead for the most torrented songs or albums in a given year. There will not be some rush to torrenting. People need to stop pretending that (a) they are entitled to free music–you’re not and no artist feels that you are. They just know most won’t pay and (b) that they have embarked in some unethical money grab. If you want to pay for the service you can, if you don’t want to, then don’t. But they have every right to disagree with a streaming service with an ad-model that pays them next do nothing. And what about the writers? Can they go tour like Jay Z? No, they cannot. Which is what he said. Maybe if any of you bothered to listen to what he said at NYU instead of ranting you would understand his perspective more, but this is just think week’s popular false outrage. The type of people crying about Tidal were never going to pay for any streaming service and you were never the target audience.

    1. I do not have a problem with these people’s wealth at all. I only have three problems that I wanted aired:
      a) We are constantly paying an inordinate amount of attention to the problems of the wealthy at the expense of ours and go out of our way to pander to their whims without pointing out the fact that there are two sides to a coin. It is the reason why people are even negotiating carbon emission cuts to fight climate change instead of just doing it. A lot of rich people are going out of their way to make sure that it does not happen on their terms lobbying and jostling in the world’s capitals for example. Rich tobacco companies are the reason why smoking is even still legal! I do not have a problem with the rich I am just saying we need to walk a fine line between these two.
      b) Not so long ago these artists had no good way to monetise their work especially the musicians so for them to suggest that they want to bring back value to music by encouraging the use of shackling technologies like DRM and musician owned streaming services is cherry picking they should flow with the technology, every technology.
      c) Profiteering is dangerous as it leads to increased income inequality. For simplicity let us assume all the wealth in the world is a pie, it is not fair that some people just want to keep grabbing more when others are hungry just because they can.
      As Mr. Tulliver said “The law is for raskils (rascals).”

    1. Are you kidding me! The things I can do in this country for $10. I can get drunk for an entire weekend and even have a bra-ii with 2 friends.

  9. Love the writing style. well written. The content however, is where I differ, I am sure the people you are purportedly writing for don’t give a hoot how much Mr Carter’s songs cost as they can get them from fellow mates or vanoburner. My elder brother, GOD bless his soul, was kind enough to give me a voucher that I used to get a number of songs by Kanye, whenever I meet anyone who likes Kanye, I Whatsapp them the songs or bluetooth them, thats how we get past the $10 prices and I am pretty sure Baba North doesn’t even care about the Zimbabwean market. In conclusion let me say yes the prices are too high for developing countries like ours but am sure quite a number of people in the developed world will make this Tidal thing a success, sorry mate, lolest.

  10. ‘They made an honest living which is more than I can say of today’s entertainer.’? seriously? dude? Did they chuck you out of the illuminati?

    1. Can u imagine their nerve. Now like some uncle and nephew I know, I am roaming around trying to rediscover my identity outside the group.

  11. When I learned about Mozart and Beethoven and them, I was told they lived rather lavish. Mozart only died a pauper coz he was an idiot about money. And back then, music was only for the rich – only the aristocrats went to operas and the like. A good artist was often sponsored by some rich or royal family. So this idea being put across that back then they did it “for the people” or for the art is kinda nonsense. They were trained form childhood – and usually came from rather well-off families to begin with and were given professional tutoring from an early age. The minute you wanna drop names in your story you have to DO THE RESEARCH!

    This statement: “Before technology, musicians made a living from their arts going from place to place as troupes and they relied on the generosity of their audience to make a living. They never made millions” – is wrong. Mozart, Beethoven, Bach etc were not “circus acts.” If you had talked about early jazz artists, or even early hip-hop, you would have been on point but what you said there is utter nonsense.

    1. From what I understand they were neither rich nor poor but that is besides the point, the fact still remains that musicians earn way more now than they did then in real terms, ceteris paribus.

  12. This service is not targeted at your dear neighbour with 3 children. Just like the apple watch, Lamborghini, LG G3, electricity (kkk), aeroplanes etc are out of reach of your neighbour, this is also out of reach for them, so don’t tell Jigga about it, I don’t think he cares.

    There are people who cannot afford to buy cellphones, so they steal from others. If you Mr letter writer (and your 3 kid neighbour plus whoever-else), cannot afford to pay for the service, but you want to listen to music, then go download or copy from someone else.

    I think u just jealous of musicians. Musicians write a few songs and they get millions, a blogger writes shitloads of articles, they get an ex-jap (a lucky blogger at that).
    Advice to all de ghetto yuts, instead of just being jealous, go do something about it.

    1. Lol! Electricity is now a luxury. I am truly jealous of their success I am just peeved they have to complain and say they want more.

  13. I am currently in Norway and I don’t use Spotify, I use Wimp. Its awesome because it even has a decent collection of SADC stuff including some Zim urban grooves + I can buy music from there. The point is we shouldn’t look at Spotify and Tidal just because of their glitter and size. We should use services that suit our needs best. What’s stopping our techies in Zim talking to local musicians and production establishments and starting their own service. Its local music that most of us care about I hope!? International music can be obtained by ‘other affordable means’, NO?

    1. No one is stopping Zimbo techies from starting their own spotify. The problem is on the very day you taste success you are going to learn of some obscure subsection in some obscure law that either makes your service illegal or a certain law will be crafted to tax you to death. Just ask those who pioneered mobile money. When all fails one of the tech giants will push you out.

      1. That is an interesting insight I wasn’t aware of. Are you referring to ‘corrupt’ anti-business legislation made with the intent of defrauding entrepreneurs by shady politicians?

        1. Yes. You have no idea how these folks like to say something is “illegal.”

      2. Have you see the margins Spotify deal with after they look at paying off labels and copyright associated costs ? Peanuts my friend. Also with many artists, BIG artists with the highest play I.e Taylor Swift and soon other bigger artists leaving, I question if that model can even work.

        For local content and maybe regional content with some older music from big international artists? It can surely be an idea to explore

  14. Necessary letter. Sensible points raised on “crazy” profit margins. Yet, i got tired of reading a few times, too much unnecessary info (meant to simplify, justify, clarify or so) a stated point. But again, you cannot complain about my decision to have a certain profit/return from my own investment. And, if we could download food from local supermarkets from the comfort of our homes or offices, i’m sure i’d gladly be doing it (you also)… so, we cannot compare physical and virtual robbery (i don’t think that’s digitally rational). Finally, the wonderfully scripted, yet painfully monotonous letter to Mr Carter would have had better support from your Zimbabwean if , maybe, it was written to piracy guys in our streets by our musicians who are not getting anything for their hard work. Example being Mr. Mapfumo who recently pulled out his album from local shelves coz of piracy.

    1. There is always a limit. That is why there are anti monopolistic laws my friend. Just Google Apple antitrust suit and you will understand what I am talking about. These artist are essentially banding together with the intent of creating a monopoly I assure you.

      1. But there’s an aspect of this debate that we must recognise that Jay Z’s platform is by-musicians-for-musicians. I mean, musicians get to have control of the control of their product instead of, say, Spotify. Isn’t that a positive for the lover’s of music in general? Remember the pathetic situation of Mtukudzi, Manatsa, Mapfumo, The Four Brothers etc in Zim when they made awesome music for decades while some non-musician douche bags made the money? Doesn’t Jay-Z’s model promote production of better music because the musicians are in direct control of how their product of their craft is sold to the listeners?

        1. Fair point about there being the need for a platform owned by musicians but then again Tidal is not going to be one of them: people like Jayz, Akon, Madonna and Winky D make their money producing. They may have begun as musicians but they then joined the sharks when they became producers. I seriously doubt the poor musician is going to benefit much from this new service, there were certainly not conspicuous at the launch.

          1. All the personalities you mentioned are still active musicians as well as producers. Launching and establishment of a platform like this will require capital and therefore you would expect rich musicians to pull it off. Those artists that were present are big profiles whose support the platform needs for a successful launch. This ‘poor musician’ moaning doesn’t fly , I am sorry! Musicians struggle before they make it. That has always happened. Which poor musicians did you want to see there for it to be genuine? Nox Guni?

  15. All the personalities you mentioned are still active musicians as well as producers. Launching and establishment of a platform like this will require capital and therefore you would expect rich musicians to pull it off. Those artists that were present are big profiles whose support the platform needs for a successful launch. This ‘poor musician’ moaning doesn’t fly , I am sorry! Musicians struggle before they make it. That has always happened. Which poor musicians did you want to see there for it to be genuine? Nox Guni?

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