jay-z-tidal-press-conference

News broke late Thursday of Apple Music being in preliminary talks to buy Tidal, the streaming service competitor helmed by Jay Z and thirteen other artist-owners including Beyoncé, Kanye West, J.Cole, Daft Punk, Madonna & more. Although talks are ongoing and may not necessarily result in a deal between the two companies, all you need is speculation in this world for everyone to lose their minutes and question everything.

The streaming wars effectively end if Apple buys out its strongest competition. Prince’s catalog gets to be heard by all, presumably. You can ignore West’s “Famous” video on an even larger platform. But in reality, the main thing that occurs if Tidal effectively sells out a year after a virtual parade announcing its existence? The artist-owners win and the consumer just shrugs and has passing convos about the app.

When Tidal first hit the scene last March, consumers bemoaned that its rollout was far more about celebrity endorsement than feeding a market with features. Spotify already had playlists and a large music catalog, Beats Music had been dormant only to be rebuilt as Apple Music in June 2015. Pandora didn’t matter really in the long term. Tidal had a monthly price tag that stood above the competition, boasted about its high quality audio files that only an audio nerd would initially love and enjoy and how it was more than just a streaming platform.

The backlash against Tidal grew, leading to main company front man Jay Z to get on Twitter to defend it. It was a rare moment where Hov felt flames to his feet as consumers weren’t only dissatisfied with the buggy interface and pricetag but the non-genuine tactic of putting more money in artists pockets. Hov flipped the conversation to show how much money artists weren’t getting from streaming platforms such as Spotify. Consumers temporarily bought in. It was until April of this year, a full year after Tidal relaunched that the service truly took off thanks to Beyoncé’s Lemonade visual album, the only location of Prince’s entire catalog on any streaming platform and Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo.

Tidal was a public success, not because of Jay Z but because of everyone else who had bought in to the idea. Even if he put in $56 million of his own money, Jay Z bet on himself and his merry cast of friends in order for this platform to work. Short films, web series such as Money & Violence, documentaries and more made Tidal stand out. People joked about purchasing free trials just to hear Lemonade or The Life of Pablo. All of the jokes and taunts people had about the service since its initial launch turned into people publicly admitting that they were now part of Tidal’s growing subscriber base.

And wind of Jay Z selling the company somehow diminishes all of that goodwill, allegedly.

Per The Wall Street Journal:

Tidal charges $20 a month for a high-fidelity version of its 40-million-song catalog or $10 a month for standard-quality sound. Tidal said it has 4.2 million paying subscribers.

But the company has experienced management turmoil, churning through three chief executives, including one hired by previous management and one interim, in less than a year. Jeff Toig, former chief business officer of SoundCloud, a Berlin-based audio-sharing service, has been CEO since January.

Tidal has held exploratory talks beginning last year with other potential partners, such as the streaming service Rhapsody, according to a person familiar with the matter. Rhapsody recently changed its name to Napster.

Should a deal be formalized between Apple Music and Tidal, it’s not a complete loss for Jay Z. It’s him at his most hyper capitalist, turning a $56 million deal into a potential billion dollar one. The real question turns to the content that lies on Tidal. Does Apple Music buy into something like Money & Violence? Does Jay go back on his word of protecting Prince’s masters and discography by giving it up? Matter of fact, does it make Hov do an about-face when he stood in front of people at Terminal 5 in New York City last May using Freddie Gray and the fires of Baltimore as a ploy to remind people why black ownership, especially in this space was necessary? And what about the growing number of lawsuits from artists who’ve sued Tidal in recent months for lack of payment on their royalties?

Apple Music and its 15 million subscribers will gain even more visibility and will put an end to the streaming wars only a year into their existence should an actual deal occur. Even in primitive stages, it’s not the first rumor being tied to Tidal in regards to being sold to another party. Remember earlier this year, March to be exact that Samsung was reportedly in talks to buy Tidal – and it didn’t happen.

Hov might be a billionaire at the end of this. The other artist-owners down with Tidal may be even richer off a potential sale as well. For whatever PR hit Jay Z may take, he’ll already have a line or a bar in place to remind people that it’s all about business — even if the integrity of it all may be flushed away.