Jay Z challenges Apple with artist-owned streaming music service

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Jay Z
Jay Z's got 99 problems, and Tim Cook may be one. Photo: NRK P3/Flickr CC
Photo: Flickr/NRK P3

On his Kingdom Come album, Jay Z talked about being a big star “befo’ Steve Jobs made the iPod.”

Now, close to a decade later, the hip-hop mogul is keen to show that he is still ahead of Apple by introducing his new streaming music rival to Spotify and Pandora, prior to Apple’s own rumored Beats Music rebrand.

Jay Z introduced the “owners” of the Tidal music service Monday at an event in the rapper’s hometown of New York City. Those with a financial stake in Tidal include (deep breath) Jay and his wife Beyonce, Alicia Keys, Daft Punk, Kanye West, Usher, Deadmaus, Madonna, Rihanna, Jason Aldean, Nicki Minaj, Win Butler and Régine Chassagn of Arcade Fire, Chris Martin of Coldplay, J. Cole, Jack White and Calvin Harris.

Taking to the stage, Keys called it “The first-ever artist-owned global music and entertainment platform.”

Tidal is priced at $9.99 per month for regular-quality streams, or a premium $19.99 for a high-resolution service. Jay Z reportedly acquired the Swedish company for $56 million.

In a new interview with Billboard, Jay Z shared his thoughts on fellow hip-hop entrepreneur Jimmy Iovine, who joined Apple as part of the $3 billion Beats acquisition. Specifically Jay revealed how he tried to recruit Iovine to help Tidal compete against whatever Apple’s planning:

“My thing with Jimmy is, ‘Listen, Jimmy; you’re Jimmy Iovine, and you’re Apple, and truthfully, you’re great. You guys are going to do great things with Beats, but … you know, I don’t have to lose in order for you guys to win, and let’s just remember that.’ Again, I’m not angry. I actually told him, ‘Yo, you should be helping me. This is for the artist. These are people that you supported your whole life. You know, this is good.'”

While Tidal is just one more company for Apple to compete with in the music space, its artist-friendly approach mirrors Apple’s in many ways.

Following the success of Tidal shareholder Beyonce with her exclusive iTunes album in December 2013, Apple has been talking with the world’s top musicians, with the rationale that landing more exclusive deals for its music service is, in some ways, better than cheaper prices.

Iovine is well-connected in the music world, but if artists decide to avoid brokering deals with Apple in order to give Tidal a shot, it could cause a few headaches for Apple. Then again, ultimately artists are going to go where the money is — and, right now, that’s certainly with Cupertino.