Tidal Discovery: Something for Unsigned Artists?


Tidal recently launched a new feature called “Tidal Discovery” which focuses on exposing Tidal users to music from unsigned artists. According to the press release, artists will be able to use Tidal discovery to submit their music to Tidal directly without the use of a “middleman”. The catch is that any music submitted through the Tidal discovery program has to be exclusive to Tidal for the first 14 days of its release.

Tidal Discovery artists that perform well on the platform will be spotlighted in the “featured” section of the Tidal Discovery page. Tidal also plans to launch a concert series highlighting top performing Tidal Discovery artists. It seems like a great opportunity for unsigned artists to get much needed exposure but, there’s a few things to consider.

Though Tidal claims to allow artists to submit their music directly, it doesn’t really make good on that promise. Instead, it replaces one middleman, Record companies, for the other, Digital distributors, by requiring artists to go through Phonofile, Record Union, Distrokid, or Tunecore to take part in the program. All of these distributors charge some type of fee:

  • Record Union: 1st year free | $16 annually per album | $10 annually per single
  • Phonefile: 25% of royalties
  • DistroKid: $20 annually
  • TuneCore: $10 annually per single | $50 annually  per album

How is anyone going to “Discover” your music on Tidal Discovery? There’s no section on the homepage that features Tidal Discovery releases, none of the releases are lumped into the general area for new releases, the albums just sit in the Tidal Discovery page. If users don’t navigate to the page, they’ll never know your release exists. The only you can force the issue is to promote your Tidal Discovery release on social media. The thing about that is, your songs will only be accessible to Tidal subscribers so unless people are willing to fork over their credit card information to start a trial subscription, they can’t even hear it.

Maybe Tidal Discovery will help unsigned artists get discovered. Maybe it’s just a covert way of getting artists to work as brand ambassadors promoting the service to their friends, family, and fans using the unlikely possibility of a feature as a dangling carat. What do you say?


  1. Your breakdown sounds about right – if you manage to get traction amongst Tidal subscribers, then you are pretty good company, I guess. For folks more concerned with forming their own career path, I recommend signing up for Boomboxr – the first song is free, and it’s always free to listen.

    Interesting article. Between this new Tidal critique, and today’s awkward launch of Apple Music, I’m feeling more than ever that it’s time for music to return to it’s cottage industry roots. There’s a part of me that actually wants Tidal to work, because I like the idea of artist’s doing something together ( and yes, they are still artists, not just rich suits. The wealth they have now is a direct result of creative work put in and paid
    for by us, the fans. ) but at the same time, they absolutely flubbed the business model. Same with Apple Music – I like Zane Lowe, the BBC jock who left to head up Beats 1, but just the idea of Apple getting into music, and scooping up names like Zane’s for the sorely needed cred, it just feels “big business”, though I’m sure the shows will be great. http://www.boomboxr.com

  2. Great critique. If you can manage to get traction among Tidal subscribers, you’re in pretty good company, but beyond that, who knows. Between this, and Apple Music’s unintentional soft launch, I’m feeling more than ever that it’s time music returned to it’s cottage industry roots. http://www.boomboxr.com The first song is free and listening always will be….


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