Apple may be ready to tune in to Tidal music

- Jon Swartz @jswartz USA TODAY Contributi­ng: Jessica Guynn, Jefferson Graham, Brett Molina

Could Apple be pursuing a new tune in its music strategy?

The company is in initial talks to acquire rap mogul Jay Z’s Tidal streaming-music service, according to a published report late Thursday. The Wall Street Jour

nal, citing people familiar with the matter, characteri­zed the discussion­s as preliminar­y.

Apple declined to comment. Tidal did not immediatel­y respond to an email seeking comment. But a company spokesman denied Tidal executives held talks with Apple, according to the Jour

nal report. Should a deal occur, it would radically reshape an online music market in which Apple Music trails market leader Spotify, music analysts say.

“I would be surprised if this doesn’t happen. First and foremost, Tidal has very limited options,” music industry analyst Bob Lefsetz told USA TODAY. “Jay Z bought it to sell it, and who’s going to buy it? Amazon is the only other option, and it’s going in a different direction. There is huge motivation for Apple to buy it. It’s at war with Spotify.”

The simmering rivalry reached a boiling point of sorts this week when Spotify accused Apple of blocking a new version of its iPhone app, according to a

Re/code report. “This latest episode raises serious concerns under both U.S. and EU competitio­n law,” Spotify General Counsel Horacio Gutierrez wrote in a June 26 letter to Apple General Counsel Bruce Sewell. “It continues a troubling pattern of behavior by Apple to exclude and diminish the competitiv­eness of Spotify on iOS and as a rival to Apple Music.”

Report of a potential deal came hours after Apple announced a partnershi­p with NASA on the eve of the Juno mission, which is expected to enter Jupiter’s orbit on Monday. NASA will send back sounds of space for artists to make music with, to be featured on Apple Music and iTunes. Apple launched a Destinatio­n Jupi- ter page Thursday on iTunes, with songs inspired from Brad Paisley, Corrine Bailey Rae, Trent Reznor and others.

Apple announced a redesign of its Apple Music service at its June Worldwide Developers Conference to make it easier to navigate, a year after it launched the service. Prior to that, Apple acquired Beats Music for $3 billion in 2014. The company currently has 15 million paid subscriber­s. The $9.99 monthly service lags behind Spotify, with 30 million subscriber­s. Apple Music also offers Beats 1 radio station, which is free.

Last year, Jay Z acquired Tidal for $56 million. As of March, it had 3 million subscriber­s. Earlier this year, Jay Z filed a lawsuit against Tidal’s previous owners, claiming they gave him inflated subscriber numbers when he acquired the service.

 ?? ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ, AFP/GETTY IMAGES ?? Apple reportedly is in talks with Jay Z, who acquired Tidal in 2015 for $56 million.
ADRIAN SANCHEZ-GONZALEZ, AFP/GETTY IMAGES Apple reportedly is in talks with Jay Z, who acquired Tidal in 2015 for $56 million.

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