Today, Tidal announced a new partnership with Sprint. Sprint will own 33 percent of Tidal, and in turn, Tidal artists will release exclusive content available only to Sprint customers. With 45 million Sprint customers worldwide, this move could help the struggling Tidal gain a foothold against competitors like Spotify and Apple Music.
Sprint's new stake may come as a surprise considering Tidal's artist-centric vision. Tidal's roster of artist-owners (headed by hip hop star Jay-Z) will maintain control of running the Tidal service and fostering the direct relationship between artists and fans. A dedicated artist marketing fund is also being created as part of the acquisition.
Apart from exclusive content, Sprint has said more Tidal offers and promotions will be revealed soon. The telecommunications company indicated that it will offer exclusive Tidal content its postpaid and prepaid wireless customers, but it's unclear whether that means Sprint customers will enjoy free or reduced rates for the Tidal's monthly subscription service. Ordinarily, Tidal starts at US$9.99 per month, or $19.99 per month for its Hi-Fi streaming option.
Prior to Sprint's acquisition, Tidal stood out from music-streaming leaders like Spotify, Pandora and Apple Music for its artist-driven approach. Purchased by Jay-Z in 2015, the company supposedly compensates artists more fairly, plus it has an ever-growing body of exclusive content including superstar releases like Beyonce's Lemonade. Tidal's hi-fi streaming option is also a perk that pleases many audiophiles.
Despite these differentiators, Tidal has been coming up short. It announced it had 3 million subscribers in March 2016, but that amount pales in comparison to Spotify's self-reported 40 million paid subscribers, or Tim Cook's claim of 17 million Apple Music subscribers at the iPhone 7 event in September 2016.