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Apple To Buy Tidal?

The latest from what The Gen likes to refer to as the streaming wars- a bit like robot wars but with more algorithms and curated playlists. Perhaps one day we’ll look back and laugh at how fragmented it all was, but for now the gloves are off, with Apple reportedly closing in on a deal to purchase Jay Z’s Tidal streaming service.

Citing “unnamed sources” The Wall Street Journal has reported that the companies are currently holding “exploratory talks”, while recode has confirmed that discussions are now underway.

So, they are talking and the tech giant is said to be tabling an offer for the streaming service on account of its close connections with megastars including Kanye West and Madonna, who have used Tidal for exclusive and windowed content.

This is a move that would make a lot of sense for Apple– eliminating a pesky competitor whilst bringing in Tidal’s streaming exclusives, which also include the back catalogues of major artists such as Prince and Neil Young.

According to this insightful analysis over at Music Business Worldwide, most of Tidal’s 4.5m subscribers have signed up for the $19.99 a month HD option Tidal Hi-Fi, meaning that it opens the door for Apple to develop a premium tier HD audio service.

The acquisition would also give Apple an edge over Spotify, a battle that is certainly heating up, with Spotify recently surpassing 30m paying users, whilst Apple is currently at 15m.

Spotify’s global head of comms and public policy, Jonathan Prince, issued a statement attackingApple, in which he accused the company of wanting to “have their cake and eat everyone else’s too”. A recent dispute arose when Spotify wanted to place a pop up message on its ad supported service stating to users: “You discovered a premium feature! You must have a Premium subscription to unlock it”. Apple has reportedly told Spotify that the message violates its App Store rules despite it not linking to any offer, purchase or external website.

Prince also stated that “Apple has long used its control of iOS to squash competition in music, driving up the prices of its competitors, inappropriately forbidding us from telling our customers about lower prices, and giving itself unfair advantages across its platform through everything from the lock screen to Siri. You know there’s something wrong when Apple makes more off a Spotify subscription than it does off an Apple Music subscription and doesn’t share any of that with the music industry”.

Prince was responding to comments from Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren targetingApple’s dominance in a speech. Warren said: “While Apple Music is easily accessible on the iPhone, Apple has placed conditions on its rivals that make it difficult for them to offer competitive streaming services”. Warren is tipped by some to become Senator Hilary Clinton’s Vice President should she be elected President, so the US could well see a whole different kind ofWarren Commission at some point in the future.

Where this leaves the music industry for now is, caught between a rock and a hard place, as the two tech companies continue to make playground shoves in a bid to edge each other out. It almost makes one wistfully nostalgic for the days in which disputes in the music industry could be handled by simply dangling someone from a balcony, Suge Knight style.

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