Jay Z is making a play in the music streaming business. The 45-year-old rapper and entrepreneur is buying Swedish tech company Aspiro for 464 million Swedish crowns ($56 million) in cash. Aspiro currently operates a pair of streaming services: the ad-free WiMP and the high-definition Tidal. Both services angle themselves towards the more committed audiophile, offering daily track recommendations, curated playlists, interviews with artists, and audio available to stream and download in the lossless FLAC format.
WiMp currently boasts around 580,000 paying users
WiMP was the first of the two services to launch in 2010 and is currently available in Denmark, Germany, Norway, Poland, and Sweden. This is a limited customer base compared to the likes of Spotify, but these countries are where streaming has firmly taken hold and as of June 2014 WiMP boasted some 580,000 paying users. Tidal, meanwhile, is built off the back of WiMP and launched in the US and UK last year.
Tidal's music streaming service on a laptop.
For $19.99 a month Tidal users get access to 25 million tracks and some 75,000 music videos, with audio available to stream and download in the 16-bit FLAC format. This is a significant markup compared to rival services like Spotify and Rdio, both of which offer subscriptions for $9.99 a month. Both WiMP and Tidal are available on a range of devices, including Android, iOS, and Windows Phone.
Jay Z, who is estimated to be worth some $520 million, is seeking to buy Asipro via his company Project Panther Bidco. Norwegian media company Schibsted, which owns a majority share in Aspiro, accepted the bid this Friday while Aspiro's board has "unanimously recommended" that the shareholders accept the offer. Project Panther said that it had been following the development of Aspiro for some time, describing it as "an innovative high-quality company with strong future growth potential."
Jay Z joins Dr Dre and Neil Young as musicians who have moved into distribution
No doubt Jay Z was in part inspired by the success of fellow musicians entering the music industry on the distributor's side. Neil Young's successful crowdfunding of his $399 high-definition audio player Pono has proved that there is certainly a market for high-end audio, while Apple is reportedly preparing to re-launch Dr Dre's Beats Music streaming service later this year. Combing Jay Z's star-power with a holistic pitch for music lovers (one that includes editorial content as well as high-def audio) could unite some of the industry's emerging trends and stand out in a crowded market.