Jay Z recently spent $56 million to purchase Aspiro, the Swedish tech company behind the streaming music services Tidal and WiMP. And the company is putting its new cash to work. As of yesterday, tracks from Taylor Swift are streaming on Tidal. Aspiro services are available in dozens of countries, but has only around 500,000 total subscribers and just 17,000 on Tidal as of December 2014. There are over 15 million paid subscribers and 60 million active users on Spotify.
So why does Swift want to be on Tidal and not Spotify? She is protesting the free tier on Spotify, which she says doesn't fairly compensate artists. Tidal, by contrast, focuses on providing extremely high quality audio files and is only available to subscribers willing to pay $20 a month, double the cost of Spotify.
Will the addition of Swift make a difference for Tidal? Probably not. It was big news when she pulled her tracks off Spotify, but her catalog has always been available services like Rhapsody and Beats. Plus, Swift isn't giving Tidal her newest album, 1989.
It's unclear exactly what Jay Z's larger strategy is for positioning Tidal against competitors in a very crowded and largely unprofitable marketplace. But it makes sense that he would want a foothold in the one part of the music industry that is still growing at a healthy pace, with streaming recently passing CDs in terms of revenue generated. Someday, the thinking goes, the business will finally turn the corner. Until then...