Tidal’s Artist Bios Are Unforgiving, But So Are iTunes’

Earlier today someone tweeted a Reddit link into my timeline that seized upon the idea that Tidal bios were shady. Perusing the few they’d collected (that focus specifically on female pop stars) I quickly realized they weren’t shady at all, but merely factual about the artists’ failings.

It is notable that Jay Z’s allegedly artist-friendly music service would deliver any criticism at all with its content. But, if we’re going into #FactsOnly territory, now’s the time to point out that these bios aren’t a product of Tidal at all. They’re licensed from All Music Guide. The All Media Network is a sort of critical dictionary for music, movies, and celebrities, and multiple media organizations draw upon their vast wealth of written material and syndicate from the company, including Spotify, iTunes, and Billboard.

Here’s an excerpt from Christina Aguilera’s bio, for example:

After a four-year break, Aguilera returned with her fourth album, Bionic, in the spring of 2010. Bionic proved to be Aguilera’s first flop, earning decidedly mixed reviews, generating no hits, and failing to go gold. It was followed by a second stumble in Burlesque, Aguilera’s first starring role on the big screen which was greeted to mediocre reviews and lackluster box office.

And here’s what was deemed “shady” from Madonna’s bio:

The year 2000 also saw the birth of Madonna’s second child, Rocco, whom she had with filmmaker Guy Ritchie; the two married at the very end of the year. With Ritchie as director and Madonna as star, the pair released a remake of the film Swept Away in 2002. It tanked at the box office, failing to crack seven digits, making it one of the least profitable films of the year. Her sober 2003 album, American Life, fared slightly better but was hardly a huge success; despite going platinum, it was her lowest-selling album to date.

That’s an accurate chronicling of how the film and album went down. For the consumer, perhaps it’s comforting that even a Tidal equity holder like Madonna doesn’t get her bio altered to be more positive. On iTunes and Billboard and Spotify it reads exactly the same.

But while this isn’t some Jay Z conspiracy subplot, as the Reddit commenters seem to think, it is worth pointing out because as streaming music services aim to be more editorial focused (see iTunes posting this job description and hiring Zane Lowe, for example) it will be interesting to see how each company’s editorial voice develops — not just when it comes to innocuous biographies, but presumably in original reviews and features as well.