VevoTidal is enjoying its time in the spotlight.
The Jay Z-owned music streaming app recently shot to the top of the App Store thanks to the fact that right now it's the only place you can stream Kanye West's new album, "The Life of Pablo." And Tidal is offering a 30-day free trial (or 90-day free trial for Beyoncé fans) to entice new users.
If you're wondering what Tidal is and whether it's right for you, we've got you covered.
How Tidal got started
Getty ImagesTidal is the brainchild of Jay Z, arguably the most successful and business-savvy rapper in history. He purchased a struggling Swedish tech company called Aspiro in January 2015 and re-branded it as the hip, young startup it is today.
There's a lot of back story to the history of Tidal, but the company's pivotal moment was when Jay Z called together his most influential friends in the music industry, like Kanye West, Rihanna, and Daft Punk, for a meeting in February 2015 to lay out his vision and get them on board.
Here's a promotional video by Tidal with footage from the meeting:
If you're interested more in the history of Tidal, check out Business Insider's lengthy profile.
What makes Tidal special compared to Spotify and Apple Music?
Tech InsiderJay Z pitched Tidal as a way for artists to "take back" the music industry from tech companies that make money selling advertising or hardware. Tidal claims to pay artists higher royalties than competitors like Spotify, and it has an emphasis on surfacing up-and-coming artists with a platform called Tidal Discover.
Besides the economics of the service, Tidal has focused heavily on securing exclusive deals for new music. With the help of Jay Z's influence, artists like Prince, Rihanna, Jack White, Beyoncé, and most recently Kanye West, have all shared new music exclusively on Tidal.
Tech InsiderAnother unique feature of Tidal is its curated playlists. You'll find playlists handcrafted by the likes of Jay Z and Beyoncé along with playlists like "Future vs. Young Thug" that Tidal employees construct. Overall, Tidal's playlist selection feels like a mix of Apple Music and Spotify. There are genre-specific ones like "Jazz Giants" and more mood-specific playlist themes, like "party" and "workout," to choose from.
Tech InsiderLike Apple Music and Spotify, you can save albums and playlists you like to your personal collection on Tidal and make them available for offline access.
Tidal also has wide collection of music videos, concert videos, and even some original (though not very good) programming you can't find anywhere else.
What do you not get with Tidal?Screenshot/SpotifyTidal lacks some key features when compared to its two main competitors.
Spotify has Discover Weekly, a widely loved playlist updated once per week that's personalized based on your listening habits. Spotify also a number of other features Tidal doesn't, including a running mode that matches music to your pace, collaborative playlists, a growing podcasts library, and video clips from media partners like Comedy Central, ESPN, and NBC.
On the Apple Music front, you have Beats 1, the 24-hour radio network with shows hosted by the likes of Zane Lowe, Dr. Dre, St. Vincent, and DJ Khaled. Apple Music has also secured a number of exclusive deals in recent months, like early streaming rights for Drake and Future's last mixtape.
Who should pay for Tidal?
For the vast majority of people, there's nothing exceptional about Tidal vs. Spotify or Apple Music. All of these services basically have the same catalog of music, the same basic feature set, and especially in the case of Tidal and Spotify, even similar interfaces.
Tidal has bet heavily on exclusives like Kanye West's "The Life of Pablo" to garner interest, and that strategy has worked so far. But many artists and music industry execs are highly skeptical about Tidal's future in the on-demand music streaming market.
With Jay Z as its owner, Tidal is heavily inspired by hip hop and it shows. There are of course other genres of music to stream, but what you're going to see prominently featured is largely hip hop and R&B music with a mix of mainstream pop.
If you love Jay Z, Kanye West, and Beyoncé, then Tidal might be for you. It's the only music stream service where you're going to have access to a playlist made personally by Beyoncé called "Hot Sauce," and some people may find that's worth $9.99 per month.
But if that's not hugely important to you, then you'll be happy with Spotify or Apple Music.