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Jay Z says he no longer has a record deal, opts to release music through TIDAL

on April 02, 2015, 2:19pm

Jay Z continued to try to explain exactly how TIDAL is different from any other streaming service by participating in a Q&A at NYU/Tisch School’s Clive Davis Instititue of Record Music on Wednesday. The hip-hop mogul fielded student-supplied questions from NYU professor Errol Kolosine alongside TIDAL exec Vania Schlogel.

Perhaps the most interesting revelation in the discussion came in a few short sentences from Jay. When asked if TIDAL would exclude major labels in its drive to service artists, he said that wasn’t a realistic possibility considering how artists’ contracts work. “But if you don’t have a contract as an independent artist, then you can do whatever you want and we would love to work with you.”

Kolosine followed up by inquiring if that meant an artist could theoretically use TIDAL in lieu of a record contract. Jay responded, “I’m on TIDAL. I don’t have a record deal. So, yes.” What he appeared to be saying, then, is that even though he owns Roc Nation, he doesn’t have a contract himself. This could beg the question of whether any future Jay Z albums may be released exclusively on the streaming service.

But that doesn’t mean TIDAL is a label in its own right. “Don’t disrespect us, man,” Jay replied when asked if this was the case. “We have bigger ambitions than that.”

(Read: A TIDAL Wave of Skepticism: A Letter to Clueless Celebrity Investors

Those ambitions include potentially changing the pay structure for other streaming services. “The royalty rates will be higher than other services,” Schlogel said. “In addition to that, there won’t be that free tier that’s been depressing the recorded music industry, and frankly been a part of what’s been driving the downfall of the recorded music industry.” Jay added, “So we don’t really view [Spotify] as competitors. As the tide rises, all the boats rise.” Schlogel later mentioned that student discount prices are in the works, as well.

As for how smaller, independent artists will be able to showcase their work on the platform, Schlogel admitted it’s a work in progress. “We’re still a very young, nascent company and we have a lot of initiatives that we’re working on, especially when it comes to indie talent, emerging talent, giving people visibility, giving people a forum to put their music up and giving them control of their distribution and their creative content.”

Jay noted that their big push is currently the Discovery Program, where TIDAL’s owners will showcase talent they’re into or have stumbled upon. “Imagine if Win [Butler] from Arcade Fire puts up an artist that he discovered in Haiti — and he had this idea, actually, I don’t want to step on his idea — and through the curation process gets something really good and introduces it to the world. And then the world is inspired by that sound. It gets a little ethereal from there, but just the possibilities of what TIDAL can do are really exciting, on a creative front.”

The pair also discussed whether TIDAL’s exclusive content would ever be available for download (“The analytics that we’re seeing tell us that streaming is the next thing, and downloads are going down,” Jay noted), bringing the value back to music, and what was in that vague document everyone signed at the initial press conference. Find the full transcript at FADER.