Jay Z wants to sell you high-quality music subscriptions

He’s been inoculated from the snakes and the fakes.
He’s been inoculated from the snakes and the fakes.
Image: AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Jay Z has been in an empire state of mind lately—last year, he acquired a champagne brand, and went to court to save the art of hip-hop sampling. Now, he has acquired his own competitor to popular music streaming sites like Spotify.

The rapper has purchased Swedish tech company Aspiro for 464 million kroner ($56 million) in cash. Aspiro has two music services:  WiMP and Tidal. Both stream high-resolution “lossless” music files. As Quartz has reported, musicians like Neil Young are backing this technology as a new way to get listeners to pay for music again.

The CEO of Tidal, Andy Chen, previously told Quartz: “For some reason music is the only format where people accept something worse than before. It’s the 21st century. Technology’s job in our civilization is to make life better.” Now, he will have one of the world’s biggest musicians to back him on that quest.

But this is not the easiest place to make money. Apple and Beats have yet to get much of a toehold in streaming—despite rumors that Apple will push Beats Music to every Apple device. The biggest player in the streaming music space, Spotify, has talked about releasing a higher-priced subscription of lossless music to customers, and it is currently in a much stronger financial position than WiMP and Tidal.

It is unclear if Jay Z plans to integrate the service into his business portfolio, by releasing music by artists managed by his Roc Nation label, for example. But even just releasing his own music and that of his wife, Beyoncé—who dropped her eponymous album in 2013 out of nowhere to huge sales—would be a coup for any streaming service.

But it wouldn’t be the first time the rapper—who is worth more than $500 million— has merged music and tech. In 2013, Jay Z signed a $20 million deal to give away copies of his last album to owners of the latest Samsung phones—and managed to force the Recording Industry Association of America to change its rules for counting sales.