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Apple rumoured to be in talks with Tidal

By | Published on Friday 1 July 2016


There have been a number of rumours that Jay-Z is trying to offload Tidal since he acquired the streaming service and relaunched it at that infamous press event back in March last year. Though less so since the digital platform’s series of big-name exclusives actually started to pay off in terms of signing up new users.

But now we have a big fat new rumour to that effect, with the Wall Street Journal reporting that Apple has had some speculative talks about possibly acquiring Tidal and merging it with its own streaming platform.

The chatter goes that Apple is impressed with Tidal’s close relationships with various A-list artists, many of whom are amongst the firm’s cabal of celebrity shareholders, or are managed by Jay-Z’s Roc Nation business, or the management agencies owned by his main business partner Live Nation.

Apple, of course, bought in its own direct line to musical talent by acquiring Beats and its founders Dr Dre and record industry veteran Jimmy Iovine before launching itself into the streaming music market, though bosses at the IT giant have possibly noticed that Tidal is scoring exclusives on more of the really big releases. And there are still those who believe that exclusive content is the way to secure competitive advantage in the streaming market, especially if you’re not willing to operate a loss-leading freemium level.

While recent exclusives from Rihanna, Beyonce and Kanye West – and exclusive access to the Prince catalogue – have certainly helped Tidal gain some momentum this year, streaming music remains a risky and costly business for the platforms, and therefore requires deep pockets.

Which is one of the reasons behind the speculation that Jay-Z and his popstar buddies are looking for another partner in the Tidal business. The fact the company initially struggled to keep hold of its senior executives in the wake of Jay-Z’s acquisition was also a reason why some thought the hip hop mogul might bail on the project early.

Though, while a merger with Apple Music might result in a quick return on the Tidal investment, it would also likely mean giving up quite a bit of control, which may or may not be an issue for Jay Z. But a merger with, say, Rhapsody/Napster, which has been previously mooted, would get Tidal a few million more users and some useful tel co alliances, and could see Team Roc Nation still in control.

Either way, we should note that while the WSJ’s sources say initial talks have taken place between Apple and Tidal, reps for the latter say that’s not the case, and even those sources claiming that there has been a conversation concede that it’s early days and far from assured any deal with be done. So, don’t be getting too excited about the prospect of a Tidal wave of Apples just yet.