So maybe you can’t normally justify a Tidal subscription, but this is big news. It’s a pop culture bombshell! Beyoncé was right all along! That’s almost definitely what that whole Solange elevator thing was about. Plus, this Jay-Z guy is supposed to be pretty good, music-wise. So you mosey over to the website for Jay-Z’s streaming service, Tidal, the only venue at which 4:44 is available, ready to listen participate in all the water cooler conversations sure to come from this album’s release.
Here’s the problem: 4:44 is currently available only to people who subscribed to Tidal before June 26, and to Sprint customers. (Sprint owns a one-third stake in Tidal.) Tidal latecomers can’t access it.
I signed up for Tidal solely to listen to a Jay Z album, which turns out is the only thing I can't listen to on Tidal pic.twitter.com/xp0Y0FP9EX— Mark Ronson (@MarkRonson) June 30, 2017
But luckily, there’s a way for those who didn’t leap on Tidal long ago to experience 4:44.
For today only, iHeartRadio is streaming the entire album for free. 4:44 is only 35 minutes long and iHeartRadio is repeating it all day, so you can hop into any of the loops and catch up quickly. It’s also playing on 160 of iHeartRadio's pop, rhythm, and urban stations throughout the country.
After the live stream ends at 12:01 am Eastern on July 1, you will probably be able to stream it elsewhere, eventually. Jay-Z hasn’t officially announced any specific plans to end Tidal’s exclusive hold on 4:44, or to make the album available to new subscribers, but “sources” reportedly told Variety that 4:44 will be available on all major streaming services after a week of exclusivity on Tidal.
Tidal isn’t alone in making this kind of move. More and more streaming services are embracing “windowed” releases, in which premium content is available to long-term or higher-paying subscribers before it’s available to anyone else. Spotify, for instance, recently announced that it would be releasing its new content to paid subscribers two weeks before it’s released to customers with a basic, unpaid subscription, a move that might have influenced Taylor Swift’s decision to return her back catalog to the service.
Windowed releases tend to be popular among artists, especially high-profile artists, because they help to amplify our collective sense of music’s value. The Napster era created a cultural expectation that we don’t have to pay anything for music, but windowed releases help to reintroduce the idea that it is worth shelling out for access to certain content, even when you know you can get it for cheaper later. For Tidal, which is artist-owned and brands itself as artist-friendly, it’s an intuitive move that will only help it in the long run.
Update: This piece has been updated to note that 4:44 is being played on iHeartRadio radio stations, not just streaming online.