Tidal takes on Spotify with a free tier, better monetization for artists

Tidal Music Pop Life
Tidal Music Pop Life (Image credit: Android Central)

The article has been updated to reflect Tidal's clarification that the occasional interruptions are not from advertisers, but rather from the service's efforts to educate users about the music industry.

What you need to know

  • Tidal has announced a new free tier with periodic interruptions.
  • The service also added HiFi audio quality to its $10/month plan.
  • You can stream more than 80 million songs from Tidal's library through the free and paid tiers.

Tidal is taking on many of the best music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music by launching a free tier in addition to its two paid tiers with support for HiFi audio.

The service now offers three subscription tiers, including Tidal HiFi and HiFi Plus in addition to Tidal Free, which is initially available on the best Android phones. All of them provide access to Tidal's library of more than 80 million songs, but the free tier has some notable trade-offs. For example, it does not provide offline listening and unlimited skips, both of which are available on the premium tiers.

Tidal will also insert occasional interruptions meant "to educate consumers on the music industry," the company told Android Central. Tidal clarifies that these interruptions are not ads coming from third-party companies, though an ad-supported free tier will arrive sometime in the future.

In addition, Tidal Free's audio quality maxes out at 160kbps. On the other hand, Tidal HiFi and HiFi Plus have 1411kbps and 9216kbps maximum bitrates, respectively. For $10 per month, you can also access the service's curated playlists and have unlimited skips with the HiFi tier.

Meanwhile, HiFi Plus has everything you might want in a music streaming app for $20 per month. For that price, you get to experience various immersive audio formats such as Master Quality audio, Dolby Atmos, and Sony 360 Reality Audio on top of HiFi streaming. Both the paid tiers will also allow you to listen to songs on connected devices through Tidal Connect.

Tidal Tiers

Source: Tidal (Image credit: Source: Tidal)

Artists will also benefit the most from HiFi Plus with its new Direct Artist Payout plan. Under this scheme, the artist you listen to the most will get 10% of your monthly subscription fee in addition to regular streaming royalties. Next year, Tidal will also launch its new Fan-Centered Royalties, in which the artists you stream will get a higher payout based on your streaming habits than they do from other streaming platforms.

The free tier is available only to US subscribers for the time being, though the paid tiers are live in territories where Tidal is available. That said, it's obviously a way for Tidal to lure users into switching to paid tiers in the long run.

Jay Bonggolto
News Writer & Reviewer

Jay Bonggolto always keeps a nose for news. He has been writing about consumer tech and apps for as long as he can remember, and he has used a variety of Android phones since falling in love with Jelly Bean. Send him a direct message via Twitter or LinkedIn.