Why Would Apple Music Buy Tidal?

The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Apple is in talks to buy Tidal, the streaming music service purchased just over a year ago by Jay Z. Tidal claims to have 4.2 million subscribers, compared to Apple Music’s 15 million. (For comparison, Spotify claims 30 million paid subscribers.)

It has been common knowledge that Tidal has been up for sale since shortly after it was purchased. After some key executives bailed, and Mr. Z filed a lawsuit against Aspire, the company he purchased the service from, for inflating subscriber numbers, it seemed obvious that this purchase was a mistake.

But why would Apple buy Tidal? Certainly not, as some articles claim, for “its technology.” Tidal offers a lossless streaming option, and some journalists see this is some sort of magical technology that Apple wouldn’t be able to match on its own. Actually, Apple stores all its iTunes Store and Apple Music music in a lossless format (and much of it in high-resolution), so adding lossless streaming would be as simple as writing a few lines of code.

No, Apple would buy Tidal for two reasons. The first is the musicians who own the company. Apple, with its massive cash reserve, could make them an offer they would not be able to refuse, and therefore “acquire” a number of artists who could release music exclusively (at first) on Apple Music. The second is to get a competitor out of the game. While Tidal claims 4.2 million subscribers, this number is unlikely. Tidal is available in only 52 countries, much less than Apple Music, or even Spotify, and it would be surprising that they have grown so quickly.

Nevertheless, if Apple were to buy Tidal, they would certainly shut down the service (or slowly roll it into Apple Music). I would be surprised if they kept it going with its lossless option, though Apple will most likely offer a lossless streaming option of its own in the near future. Not that most listeners need it; it’s just that some may think it sounds better.

12 thoughts on “Why Would Apple Music Buy Tidal?

  1. Your rants against lossless music are long past old. My ears can’t hear the data and graphs you quote but they can hear the fuller and richer sound of lossless music.
    I’m 56 but I can easily pass the NPR and other listening tests out there
    You are clearly biased on this.

    • Thanks for the kind words. You seem to not realize that you are not average. Not only do most people listen to streamed music on mobile devices, where quality is trumped by poor headphones and ambient noise, but if they listen at home, most people use sub-standard equipment, such as Bluetooth speakers or soundbars. You’re part of an elite – and so am I – who own “real” stereo equipment. If you stream music to your stereo, then I understand why you may want lossless. But you’re the 1%; don’t assume the rest of the world consumes music the way you do.

  2. Your rants against lossless music are long past old. My ears can’t hear the data and graphs you quote but they can hear the fuller and richer sound of lossless music.
    I’m 56 but I can easily pass the NPR and other listening tests out there
    You are clearly biased on this.

    • Thanks for the kind words. You seem to not realize that you are not average. Not only do most people listen to streamed music on mobile devices, where quality is trumped by poor headphones and ambient noise, but if they listen at home, most people use sub-standard equipment, such as Bluetooth speakers or soundbars. You’re part of an elite – and so am I – who own “real” stereo equipment. If you stream music to your stereo, then I understand why you may want lossless. But you’re the 1%; don’t assume the rest of the world consumes music the way you do.

  3. Further I have paid subscriptions to Apple Music, Spotify (which I am dumping), Pandora, and Tidal. I also have many years worth of bought from iTunes music including a lot of mastered for iTunes and also flac files. I play everything through a receiver and can switch between sources in second and hear the difference in quality for the same songs. Tidal sounds the best in most cases with mastered for iTunes in second place.
    If you use cheap earbuds like most people you probably won’t hear the difference.

    • You undoubtedly know that when comparing two versions of a track, the louder will will sound “better.” I’m pretty sure that you won’t have exactly the same volume when you switch from one source to another, so I’d say your method of comparing is no more than subjective. If you could compare at exactly the same volume, I’d be interested to hear what you say.

      • My ears can’t detect the high frequencies that canine ears can. I suppose this means that dogs are deluding themselves.

  4. Further I have paid subscriptions to Apple Music, Spotify (which I am dumping), Pandora, and Tidal. I also have many years worth of bought from iTunes music including a lot of mastered for iTunes and also flac files. I play everything through a receiver and can switch between sources in second and hear the difference in quality for the same songs. Tidal sounds the best in most cases with mastered for iTunes in second place.
    If you use cheap earbuds like most people you probably won’t hear the difference.

    • You undoubtedly know that when comparing two versions of a track, the louder will will sound “better.” I’m pretty sure that you won’t have exactly the same volume when you switch from one source to another, so I’d say your method of comparing is no more than subjective. If you could compare at exactly the same volume, I’d be interested to hear what you say.

      • My ears can’t detect the high frequencies that canine ears can. I suppose this means that dogs are deluding themselves.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.