Tidal introduces a new free tier and splits its HiFi tier in two

(Image credit: Tidal)

Tidal has announced changes to its pricing structure that will see the inclusion of lossless 16-bit 44.1kHz audio streams in its standard plan, and the addition of a free tier that will be exclusive to the USA.

Priced at £9.99 / $9.99 / AU$11.99, the newly rebranded ‘Tidal HiFi’ tier includes interruption-free access to audio at up to 1411 kbps (compared to 320kbps previously) as well as offline capabilities and access to features such as Tidal Connect. Tidal’s basic Family Tier will also see the same increase in standard bit rate streams.

Meanwhile, customers in the US can take advantage of the service’s first-ever free plan, called (unsurprisingly) ‘Tidal Free’, which offers streams of the company’s complete library of 80 million tracks at 160kbps with “limited interruptions”. Tidal says these interruptions will not be from advertisers but rather self-led and aim to educate consumers on the music industry.

So what perks remain for the top tier? Now known as ‘Tidal HiFi Plus’, for £19.99 / $19.99 / AU$23.99 month, users have access to the same features as the HiFi plan, plus immersive sound formats (Dolby Atmos Music and Sony 360 Audio recordings) and Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) tracks (at up to 9216 kbps) alongside early access to any future offerings.

Tidal is also introducing new initiatives designed to appeal to music fans concerned about how their subscription cost is divided up by providing artists with payments that directly represent each user’s listening habit. 

Starting today, ‘direct-to-artist’ payments will distribute up to 10% of your HiFi Plus subscription to the artists that you listen to the most each month, in addition to standard streaming royalties.

And in a further deviation from the industry norm, from next year 'fan-centric royalties’ will mean that the royalties attributed to HiFi Plus subscribers will no longer be aggregated and will instead be paid according to each subscribers’ streaming activity.

It’s important to note, however, that ‘direct-to-artist payments’ and ‘fan-centric royalties’ will only be paid from fees paid by HiFi Plus subscribers.

The company has joined forces with Square, Cash App, and PayPal to help secure “quick and seamless” payouts to artists. In order to benefit from the scheme, artists must opt-in to access direct artist payouts, either through Tidal’s invite-only direct registration option or through distribution partners.  Access to the program will open in the coming months, with further information available at tidal.com/ForArtists

While today’s announcement marks a significant shift in Tidal's business model, it’s not entirely surprising as the company has recently faced increased competition from other streaming services such as Apple and Amazon, which are now offering hi-res tracks at a significantly lower cost.

Spotify now remains the only major player not to offer hi-res music despite announcing that it would introduce its own hi-fi tier before the end of the year.

Both of Tidal’s new HiFi tiers will be available internationally from today, while the company plans to extend the free tier to other markets in the future.


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Mary is a staff writer at What Hi-Fi? and has over a decade of experience working as a sound engineer mixing live events, music and theatre. Her mixing credits include productions at The National Theatre and in the West End, as well as original musicals composed by Mark Knopfler, Tori Amos, Guy Chambers, Howard Goodall and Dan Gillespie Sells.