Jay-Z’s empire may soon be a little bit larger. The rapper and business mogul is about to get into the streaming music business.
On Friday, the Swedish company Aspiro, which is behind the streaming services WiMP and Tidal, announced that Jay-Z’s company, Project Panther, had submitted a bid to acquire Aspiro for $56 million. The deal, which already has unanimous approval, according to a board statement, would catapult Jay-Z, whose given name is Shawn Carter, into one of tech’s most competitive industries.
Gone are the days when Pandora was the only option around for streaming music. Today, there’s Spotify, Rdio, Beats Music, and Sony’s newly announced Playstation Music, which is powered by Spotify. Each service offers a different breadth of music options, for different prices, on different devices, in hopes of eking out a bigger slice of the music streaming pie. If Pandora’s going to be pre-loaded in your BMW, then Spotify’s going to seize on your Uber ride, and Apple’s going to make sure that Beats Music, which it acquired along with Beats’ hardware business last year, is on every single iPhone.
With WiMP and Tidal, Jay-Z would have lots of catching up to do. Today, WiMP has just 512,000 paying users, compared against Spotify’s 15 million and counting. Tidal has yet to release its numbers. Still, both WiMP and Tidal do promise music lovers something different from leading competitors: a higher quality listening experience. That’s because it uses a process called lossless compression that preserves the original audio data, even when the file is compressed. While other options exist for high fidelity audio, including Neil Young’s recently released PonoMusic player (which has faced some harsh criticism since its debut), they’ve yet to truly catch on with the masses. That could be because, generally, they tend to be more expensive than the alternatives, which is a tough sell for a generation that’s grown up on all-you-can-eat, free streaming. Tidal, for one, costs $20 a month.
Still, as arguably one of the most famous faces in music today — not to mention one half of the most famous couple in music today — Jay-Z may be able to bring some much needed cachet to this new type of streaming technology. And for Jay, the advantage is clear. With his hands on a streaming service, he’ll be better able to promote the other parts of his empire, including his entertainment company Roc Nation, and the artists it represents.