Square, the payments-processing company led by CEO Jack Dorsey, announced plans to buy a “significant” majority stake in Tidal, the music and entertainment streaming platform run by Jay-Z.
Square said it expects to pay a $297 million, in a combination of cash and stock, for the Tidal stake, with existing artist shareholders the remaining stakeholders. Tidal will operate independently within Square. Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter is expected to join Square’s board, subject to the closing of the transaction.
Why is Square buying Tidal? The company sees an opportunity in enabling direct-to-fan business models. According to Square, the deal will extend its “purpose of economic empowerment” to musicians — a new category for the payments company. Square plans to bring new systems and tools to help artists find new ways to support their work and find “financial freedom.”
In 2015, Jay-Z led a consortium of artists in a $56 million deal to acquire Norwegian streaming company Aspiro. Other Tidal artist-owners include Beyoncé, Alicia Keys, Coldplay’s Chris Martin, Kanye West, Madonna, Nicki Minaj and Rihanna. Tidal, which hasn’t disclosed subscriber numbers, has managed to hang on in the streaming game amid competition from huge rivals like Apple Music and Spotify. One of Tidal’s differentiators has been its high-fidelity audio offering; Spotify plans to launch its own hi-fi tier later in 2021.
Jay-Z tweeted about the pact Thursday, “I said from the beginning that Tidal was about more than just streaming music, and six years later, it has remained a platform that supports artists at every point in their careers. Artists deserve better tools to assist them in their creative journey.”
He added that he and Dorsey “have had many discussions about Tidal’s endless possibilities that have made me even more inspired about its future.”
According to Dorsey, who is CEO of both Square and Twitter, the deal “comes down to one simple idea: finding new ways for artists to support their work.”
“New ideas are found at intersections, and we believe there’s a compelling one between music and the economy,” Dorsey said in a statement. “I knew Tidal was something special as soon as I experienced it, and it will continue to be the best home for music, musicians and culture.”
Jay-Z and Dorsey have become chummy over the years, and last summer were seen together aboard a yacht in the Hamptons. Last month the two formed a Bitcoin fund focused on developing the cryptocurrency’s adoption, initially in Africa and India.
Tidal will be led on an interim basis by Jesse Dorogusker, currently head of hardware at Square. “Together, Tidal and Square will be music-obsessed and artist-focused while we explore new artist tools, listener experiences, and access to financial systems that help artists be successful,” Dorogusker said.
Tidal’s streaming service offers more than 70 million songs and 250,000 high-quality videos in its catalog along with original video series, podcasts, playlists and artist discovery via Tidal Rising. The company’s service is available some 56 countries and Tidal has relationships with more than 100 labels and distributors.
Square does not expect Tidal’s financial results to have a material impact on Square’s consolidated revenue or gross profit in 2021.
In 2017, Sprint bought a 33% stake in Tidal. This week, Jay-Z bought back those shares from T-Mobile (which acquired Sprint).