Apple is considering buying Tidal, Jay Z’s music streaming service, the Wall Street Journal reported.
According to the WSJ, the tech juggernaut is exploring the possibility of the sale because of Tidal’s main selling point: its relationships with popular artists like Kanye West, Beyonce, Madonna, and Rihanna among others. The Tidal app offers 19 of its artists and bands small stakes in the company and allows them to earn more revenue from their streams compared to other services.
— Larry Miller (@larrysmiller) June 30, 2016
— Unboxd (@unboxdtv) July 1, 2016
Jay Z bought the company in March of last year from Swedish company Aspiro, who had initially created the Tidal brand. It cost him a cool $56 million.
Tidal has publicly stated that it has 4.2 million paying subscribers and does not offer a free version, unlike other streaming services like Spotify. With the Tidal app, subscribers pay $20 monthly for the hi-fidelity version and $10 monthly for a standard version giving them access to a 40 million song library. The app gained a lot of momentum this year on the back of exclusive releases from some of its biggest artists namely, Kanye West, Rihanna, and Beyonce.
Tidal is also the only music streaming app with access to the Prince catalogue. The late pop legend was very suspicious of the revenue model used by other services but had a relationship with Jay Z, so decided to host his music there before he died of an overdose in April.
As the Wall Street Journal reports, when it comes to music streaming apps, Spotify is the market leader with 30 million paid subscribers and 70 million free users. Although it has a wide user base, Spotify has gotten on the bad side of a lot of prominent artists by refusing to allow them to withhold their music from the free tier. Hugely popular artists like Adele and Taylor Swift have refused to add their new material to Spotify. Adele only released her 2015 album, 25, on the streaming service this month.
Apple has been trying to play the game of exclusive early releases as well, TechCrunch notes, with the relese of Drake’s new album, Views. But they don’t have the star power that the Tidal app has amassed through their artist partnerships. Their full roster of artist “partners” includes Alicia Keys, Calvin Harris, Arcade fire, Chris Martin from Coldplay, Beyonce, Daft Punk, Jack White, J. Cole, Jason Aldean, Kanye West, Deadmau5, Madonna, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, and Usher.
Although many people criticized the Tidal app at its somewhat ridiculous signing ceremony/grand opening, they’ve fulfilled their promise of delivering exclusives to their subscribers. For example, the Tidal app remains the only place where you can stream Beyonce’s 2016 release, Lemonade.
Writing for TechCrunch, Josh Constantine surmises that Apply buying the Tidal app might be a good thing for music lovers. For one thing, you’d be able to easily access music from a majority of pop artists in one place.
“If Apple does buy Tidal, it could be good for listeners, who are facing a balkanized music catalog divided between the different streaming apps,” Constantine writes. “To listen to the new Drake and the new Kanye, you’d need two almost entirely redundant $10 per month subscriptions. If Spotify gets serious about exclusives thanks to the hire of former Lady Gaga manager and tech investor Troy Carter, things could get even worse.”
But the whole Apple-Tidal deal is just a maybe right now. A deal may or may not happen. But, as TechCrunch observes, a Tidal and Apple Music partnership means a one stop music shop featuring the most popular artists in the world today sold on a very popular smartphone device. It’s unlikely that Spotify will be able to compete with that.
[Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images]