#tidalfail

A few months ago I posted about giving the Tidal music streaming service another shot.

Well… I did, and I’m disappointed to say that it didn’t make the cut.

Here’s the thing: If it was just subtle differences, maybe just little things I didn’t like as much as Spotify’s user interface, I still would’ve stuck with it. I would’ve taken the time to introduce it to my wife and daughter and shown them the differences and how it worked. We would’ve been listening to better music quality and been supporting a service that pays the artists significantly more money and it would’ve been, as Martha Stewart says, A Good Thing.

With so much being digital these days, even small UI differences can make or break a program’s or service’s success. If you prefer one program’s appearance or nuances over another’s, that may be all it takes to sway your opinion, and thus your money, that way.

Put simply on that score, the Spotify app simply looks and operates better than Tidal does. If you add a song to one of your Spotify playlists, it bumps that playlist to the top of your playlist collection so it’s easier to add other songs to without needing to hunt for it. Tidal, meanwhile, fixes its playlists in chronological order (earlier at the top top to newer at the bottom) of when they were made. So making a new Tidal playlist will have it at the bottom of the rest of your playlists, making you have to scroll down to find it for each new added song you want to add to it or when you want to play it.

It could just be that I’m more used to Spotify, but their method seems more intuitive: Oh, you just made a new playlist. There’s a good chance you’ll want to add more songs to it or be using it soon, so we’ll just go ahead and put it at the top of all playlists so it’s easy for you to find.

Different strokes for different folks, and all that. But at least on par with that difference was the way Tidal operated within each playlist: Tidal and Spotify both list the songs chronologically (again, from the first added at the top down to the most recently added at the bottom). But while Spotify has a handy slider on the side of the screen that goes down the whole length of the song list, allowing you to scan over all of your songs with just a single drag of your finger, Tidal doesn’t. Tidal requires you to scroll through screen after screen of your songs manually.

“Manually” here means a literal flick of your finger. We aren’t talking excessive effort, by any stretch. But my primary playlist is now over 600 songs long. That’s a lot of page-by-page scrolling to get toward the bottom end of your list to hear that cool new song you just added.

Yes, in both services, you can simply do a search within your playlists to get right to a specific song, which jumps right to that point in the playlist. But for whatever reason, I’ve found I tend to scroll around in hunts for songs rather than doing a search operation for them, making the difference between Spotify’s slider and Tidal’s required dozens of finger-stroke scrolls stand well apart in terms of convenience of use.

But it was more than just those subtle differences that made my decision for me. The real deal killer was the fact that Tidal randomly adds songs to playlists.

I first noticed it maybe a month and a half ago. I put my Shower Playlist on shuffle play and somewhere in the mix was a song I didn’t recognize. I took a look at the phone to verify that it was a song whose name and artist I didn’t know and didn’t recall adding, particularly since I… well… didn’t really like the song.

Unsure what had happened, I just deleted it from that playlist.

Then it happened again last week. It was with a different playlist, and it was a different song that was added. But given it’s a recurring glitch, I can say with certainty that Tidal straight-up adds random songs to what are intended to be strictly user-curated playlists.

Beyond me simply not wanting to hear unexpected songs when I’m only wanting ones I hand-picked, my main concern was more along the lines of what the result could be if we switched to a Tidal family plan and my wife’s or daughter’s playlists had this same issue. There’s plenty of music out there that isn’t appropriate for a ten-year-old to hear. And with seemingly random songs just getting sometimes tacked onto playlists–worse, not even at the bottom as newly added songs that could simply be occasionally checked for, but these ones were inserted into the midst of the playlists, so they were less obvious to find–I’m not going to take that risk.

The bottom line is that I really appreciate what Tidal is doing as far as paying the musicians more for their work and I’d like to support that music streaming service more than any other on the planet for that and for their sound quality. But unless and until they get a grip on serious programming issues–random songs being added to playlists is a fundamental glitch, and is bewildering to me from a company trying to become a major player in this highly competitive industry–I simply can’t subscribe to them.

For now, while my heart is with Tidal, my money will be with Spotify.

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