Hold Up- Apple Buying Tidal!!?

The Appetizer

News broke that Apple may be in the process of trying to purchase Tidal, the highly publicized streaming service headlined by Jay-Z and a multitude of artists, including Beyonce, Kanye West, Usher, Rihanna, Chris Martin from Coldplay, and others, who serve as co-owners, in an effort to add to their exclusives and shorten the paid subscriber gap between Apple and Spotify.

The Main Course

The Dessert

I cannot say I saw this coming, but now that it is a potential possibility, I would really like to see what would happen if it took place.  Apple has been in an interesting place that the world is probably not use to seeing it in since the release of the iPod: the position of the underdog.  It is not uncommon for Apple to wait until another tech company releases a product, shows it has legs, then release their own version.  In the release of their own version, they end up taking over the market.  They just get it, and they have the money to back it and are not scared to use it.  But that is the Apple pre-Tim Cook.  While I think he actually is a lot further ahead than most people give him credit for (yes, I do think his vision is comparable to Steve Jobs), if you were to go by recent numbers, which many do, you may think differently.  That feeling of innovation and having the next big thing has not transitioned well since Job’s departed.  My personal belief is that Tim is setting up Apple for the long term- the war more so than the most immediate battles.  As a result, it requires a variety of pieces to be moved slowly but surely, and in the end, I believe that people will say years down the line, oh, now I get it.  But in today’s society, years down the line doesn’t sit well with most- we are definitely a right here and now society.

Apple Music entered late into the streaming game and has been playing chess.  It was the first child of Apple’s purchase of Beats By Dre earlier that year.  One of the biggest challenges it has had, in my opinion, has been showing what separates the service from others.  More so, making it more than a service, something more personal.  Much like how Apple separated itself from Windows in those commercials with Justin Long, it has now been trying to find a way to do something similar with Apple Music.


The potential of tapping Tidal would be genius and make sense.  Not just for the obvious, artists exclusives, but for the more important piece- making the service not a service so much anymore, but more of a personal experience.  It would literally be like having the majority of major artists that have international appeal (BeyHive anyone) that millions of music listeners have a personal connection to under one unofficial record label.  For Tidal, that has been it’s ace- the artists and their exclusives.  Artists that people care about, are loyal to.

Apple caught a whiff of this and incorporated it with Dr. Dre, Taylor Swift.  Speaking of the latter, Apple used her letter condemning their usage of artists’ music without giving them royalties initially (something that I sometimes wonder was actually a publicity stunt for both brands) as a way to show that they are listening to music artists concerns,  and that they, the execs at Apple, care overall.  In doing this, not only did it make them seem more artists-friendly, but it also gave a chance to allow both artists and fans alike to “feel” something- anger and then a warm feeling.  Since then, it has been a steady progression in that direction.  The 24 Hour Radio show, Beats1 personal, personalities, exclusives.  Feelings and exclusives- unique experiences.  Highlighting the fact that their playlists are created by actual people instead of automation- the list goes on.

Spotify on the other hand comes across as just a service still.  It provides music.  But artist exclusives?  You hear more about artists complaining about the service or revoking usage of their music than wanting to work with them.  They have, in essence become what Microsoft was branded as when Justin Long was representing Apple computers.

Then enter Tidal.  The little engine that could, and has done so very well.  Despite the set backs they were hit with upon announcing themselves to the world as a direct competitor in the streaming game, they have amassed huge wins- and it’s been primarily thanks to those exclusives and personal connections to those artists.  Their biggest challenge is that they don’t have the reach.

It actually surprised me in a way that it was not Spotify that was being rumored to buy Tidal.  Yet, it makes sense.  Apple is aiming to be what Tidal has branded itself as- an artist friendly outlet.  Apple wants that- and it is big on emotional connection.  It also has the reach that Tidal needs.  To me, for both parties, it would be a win-win.  And as a user of streaming, it would be a welcome union because that would be one less streaming service that I either have to sign up for, or have to miss out on music from.

That’s where the long game begins.  The Artist friendly / emotionally connected “service” (Apple) vs. the mechanical inhuman “service” (Spotify).  That’s the narrative that is being constructed.  But truth is, for users, does it really matter?  If the rumor is true that Apple is courting Tidal, then that tells me that Apple exec’s believe that it does.  And being smart to have music execs like Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre at  Apple as the music heads also says they are serious about the art of relationships between artists and also the audiences they attract- virtually a merging of the ideologies of Tidal, Spotify, and Apple themselves (artists exclusives, technology, and emotion/unique experiences).

Ultimately consolidation is going to take place somewhere and somehow.  It’s already started on several smaller players (Rdio).  The real question is will this actually happen?

The Overall Meal

4 stars

The Doggybag

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