EMPIRE STATE OF MIND

Woes aside, Jay Z has turned Tidal into a business worth $600 million—10 times its original value

Whatever troubles Jay Z is facing with his music streaming service Tidal, there’s no denying how astonishingly far it’s come.

When the rapper first bought Tidal back in 2015, he shelled out $56 million to its Swedish parent company Aspiro, and, in return, got a scrappy high-fidelity streaming business that seemed unlikely to topple the reign of much bigger competitors like Spotify.

It hasn’t. But yesterday, when wireless carrier Sprint announced a major partnership with Tidal, sources told Billboard that Sprint paid $200 million for a 33% stake in the company—meaning Tidal, overall, is now worth $600 million. In two years, Jay Z has managed to increase the streaming service’s worth tenfold.

How’d he do it? The most likely reason behind the 1,000% increase in Tidal’s value is the platform’s clever strategy of exclusive music releases. Indeed, Sprint and Tidal will create a $75 million fund just for exclusive content.

While limiting the release of music to a single platform or website does come with its own problems—chiefly, piracy—Tidal’s exclusives, tied to big-name artists, have successfully bolstered the company’s downloads, subscribers, and overall public recognition. Beyoncé’s exclusive drop of Lemonade on Tidal on April 23, 2016 caused the service to leap on Apple’s App Store from #202 to #3 in a few hours, for example.

Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo and Rihanna’s Anti similarly gave Tidal a leg up. (West and Tidal were later sued for potentially duping customers into signing up for the subscription streaming service with a misleading use of the word “exclusive,” but that’s another matter.)

Sprint, in purchasing a chunk of Tidal for such a large sum, must see great promise in the service’s exclusives deals with rap and hip-hop’s biggest names—the one strategy that sets it most apart from rivals like Spotify and Apple Music.

There’s a chance the wireless carrier may eventually buy out Tidal entirely, according to analysts, meaning that Jay Z would be making an exit from the music streaming platform he helped bolster so well. But with a hefty wad of cash in hand, to be sure.

home our picks popular latest obsessions search