Who’s that singing on your phone? Might be Jay Z, Madonna, Rihanna or Kanye West, if you’re a Sprint subscriber.
On Monday, the mobile phone company (majority-owned these days by Japanese giant SoftBank) announced it has bought a 33 percent of the Jay Z sprung, artist-owned Tidal streaming music service. “Special offers, promotions and content you couldn’t get elsewhere” will soon be offered to Sprint mobile customers who also latch on to a Tidal subscription that’s streaming to their phones, said Sprint spokesperson Danielle Babbington. SoftBank’s buy-in has been accomplished for a relatively paltry $200 million, against a valuation of $600 million, reported Music Industry Blog.
While launched with much hoopla in March, 2015 with 16 noted artist stakeholders, Tidal has proven a poor performer next to rivals.
On a global scale, noted MIDiA Research recently, Spotify is king with 43 million customers, Apple Music is second with 20.9 million subscribers, Deezer is third with 6.9 million payers and Napster (formerly Rhapsody) boasts 4.5 million subscribers.
Tidal’s share is a mere 1 percent, with about 1 million paying listeners. That’s a far cry, noted Variety, from the 3 million subscription number the service claimed in March and seems shocking, given all the special perks Tidal has offered to its clientele, including exclusive premieres on albums, live concerts and music videos. And, for audiophiles, Tidal has an optional upgrade to lossless coded (FLAC) digital streams delivering significantly better sound quality than most rivals offer. At this month’s CES, Tidal upped the offering yet again, this time with a new Hi-Resolution “Master” streaming option using MQA (master quality authenticated) coding, initially available to computer listeners, only.
Telco music bundles – like Cricket with Muve Music and then Deezer and T-Mobile with Rhapsody/Napster - were important in the early stages of streaming subscriptions, “helping kick start the market” , noted MIDiA. But their share of total music subscriptions has fallen from 32 percent in 2013 to 14 percent in 2016, as listeners have come to realize the services value and transfer access to home-based music streaming systems like Sonos and Bose SoundTouch, to computers, and to music-app loaded game systems, TV sets, a/v receivers and soundbars.
The new deal gives Tidal “access to Sprint’s customer base, free marketing (well free to Tidal at least) and a war chest to take on the streaming incumbents,” reported Music Industry Blog. “Tidal is not about to suddenly become the global streaming leader but it can now, with a fair wind, become a serious player in the U.S."