I’m all for supporting black businesses. I try to do my part by being a patron of my local neighborhood boutiques whether they’re cafés, a massage spot, clothing vendor, skincare, etc. and online boutique stores. But if said black business is already an established millionaire, a corporation unto himself even, I have to fall back a bit.
I had to cancel my Tidal subscription. I can’t bring myself, nor does my budget allow me to pay for something I can get for free, or pay for one time to have for life. Sorry Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Madonna, Chris Martin and dozens of others. I’ll continue to buy (some of) your CDs and see (some of) you in concert, but I cannot support you on this front. Having said that, Jay-Z put on an excellent show at Barclays Center on Monday.
How did I come to have Tidal in the first place, you ask? I got a card for a free membership when I attended a Lauryn Hill concert earlier this year at Radio City Music Hall. There was a table with Tidal employees or interns giving away free Tidal swag. I got the card with a code for a free trial subscription, and I think one of those small drawstring backpacks that for the life of me, I can’t find anywhere in my apartment.
I don’t do well with free trials and memberships that auto-renew. Even though I mark my calendar to cancel my memberships, I somehow don’t get around to doing it. I can’t say that I forget because I see the reminder, but I tell myself all day that I have time. Next thing I know, it’s midnight and I’ve been auto-renewed and billed. Depending on the customer service, I can get the charges reversed, but sometimes I can’t. That’s how I’ve ended up in yearlong memberships for different online dating sites several times. Every. Single. Time. As I type, I’m stuck in another 3-month period cycle with Black People Meet—a year later.
At first I didn’t plan to use the Tidal free trial. A little voice, or perhaps a gut feeling told me to keep it in case the ever-sneaky Beyoncé aka Queen Bey decided to drop another secret album. Back in December 2013, people woke up and freaked out after learning that she’d released the self-titled Beyoncé album, with videos, at midnight on iTunes. Then, in April 2016 there was the surprise release of Lemonade temporarily exclusively on Tidal after her special premiered on HBO. Being the old school head that I am, I purchased both albums in CD format even though I also purchased Beyoncé on iTunes first. I guess you can say I’m part of the Beyhive, and I definitely do suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out) from time to time, so I saved the Tidal code for the next single-word-titled Beyoncé album.
Lo and behold, it was her husband Jay-Z who dropped an album that was exclusive to Tidal (at first). It wasn’t secret, though marketing for it was mysterious at first. Times Square and other cities were plastered with billboards that simply said 4:44. People lost their minds hypothesizing what it meant. Then the billboards were updated to include Jay-Z’s name, but they read Jay:Z to match 4:44. The date 6.30.17 was also added. As the date drew closer, there was a promotion that Sprint users would get a free Tidal subscription and therefore access to the 4:44 album. What about us other folk? I’ve been a Verizon customer (against my will?) for nearly 20 years!
Though I’m book smart (I swear my MFA is legit), sometimes I can be an idiot. For some reason, I thought the album would be available only on Tidal FOREVER, even though this would cut out a large part of his target market. Yes, I consider myself an R&B girl, and a member of the Beyhive, but you will find most of Jay Z’s CDs in my CD and iTunes collections. I’m a fan of his, and as aforementioned, I have FOMO. I could not not hear his new music.
I went to the AMC in Times Square to watch the Diddy Bad Boy documentary Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop. Multiple billboards on the corner of 42nd & 7th taunted me about the upcoming release of 4:44. I snapped a picture and took to social media to ask, nay beg, my so-called friends to share their Tidal passwords. Crickets. The day before release day, right before I was set to leave for work in the morning, I remembered I had the free trial code. I located it easily in the stack of business cards I collect at networking events. I bragged on social media about said free trial, to which one cousin asked me to share my code or password. I ignored it.
Karma bit me on the ass. The code let me access Tidal for free, but I would not have access to 4:44 the first week. With the exception of Sprint users, new free trial members could not listen to the album on the streaming service. It was behind the pay wall. In the meantime I had already activated my account so I listened to other full albums of artists I liked, but whose CDs I had not purchased. Wale’s Shine got a lot of streams from me during that time. As did Trey Songz’s Tremaine, and a few other artists.
No longer did I fret about not getting to listen to 4:44. My cousin sent me the tracks in the form of .flac files through Dropbox. For the life of me I could not figure out how to transfer them onto my iPod. I played them track by track from Dropbox. iHeart stations played the whole album on air and online that first day. No joke, it seemed like every car passing by was playing 4:44. Did everyone have Tidal? All day and all weekend long, my social media feeds were bloated with audio and video from the album. I don’t know how many times I heard Nina Simone’s sampled voice and Jay-Z rap: “OJ like, ‘I’m not black I’m OJ’…Ok” from the track The Story of OJ.
I was ecstatic when Tidal lifted the restriction. Tidal was already on my laptop, phone and iPod. I played the hell out of that album hoping to get my fill before I’d have to bid it farewell. I can’t remember how or when it finally dawned on me that no way would Jay-Z alienate a whole group of fans who don’t or can’t subscribe to Tidal. This is the same man who rapped “Financial freedom is our only hope.” Struggling to pay for a music streaming service certainly contradicts that. My go-to place to buy CDs is Best Buy, so I can earn points on my purchases. I checked their site. It was available. I selected in-store pick up and checked the date of when my Tidal membership would end.
I thought the free trial was for 30 days. It was for 90! I never played around with Tidal too much because I didn’t want to get hooked. I barely used it anymore, except when I received alerts about new 4:44-related videos or Jay Z interviews. Other than that, I gravitated towards my preferred my iPod, and carefully curated stations with favorited songs on Pandora. Once in a blue moon when I want to listen to full albums, I pull up either YouTube or Spotify—the free versions, of course.