Apple Reportedly Exploring a Tidal Acquisition

Daisuke Wakabayashi , Hannah Karp, and Patience Haggin, Wall Street Journal:

Apple Inc. is in exploratory talks to acquire Tidal, a streaming-music service run by rap mogul Jay Z, according to people familiar with the matter.

The talks are ongoing and may not result in a deal, these people said. Apple is exploring the idea of bringing on Tidal to bolster its Apple Music service because of Tidal’s strong ties to popular artists such as Kanye West and Madonna.

This doesn’t surprise me in the least for the very reason the Journal cites: artist connections.

Streaming music services are all pretty similar in premise: ten bucks a month gives you access to a massive library of music. One of the ways they differentiate themselves is to swoon artists enough for them to make their newest releases exclusive to a platform for a short amount of time before it’s generally released. A bunch of these exclusives over the past year went to Apple Music, but those they didn’t get — the newest albums from Kanye West, Rihanna, Beyoncé, and other high-profile artists — all went to Tidal. If Apple were to maintain those relationships post-acquisition and keep the ones they have, they’d have the exclusive release market effectively cornered.

Though that sounds like kind of a dick move, I’m not so sure it will be. In practical terms, that might prove a net positive for consumers, as there’s no need to subscribe to two or more streaming music services just to get exclusive releases from favourite artists.

There’s another positive, too: if this deal even marginally increases the chance of a full Jay-Z album produced by Dr. Dre, I’m all for it.

Update: Perhaps it’s less about Apple buying Tidal than it is about Tidal selling to Apple.