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Apple Buying Tidal, Blocking Spotify?

Alex Spencer

Tidal Apple Music Spotify StreamingApple is reportedly in talks to acquire Tidal, the music streaming service launched last March by rapper Jay Z.

Tidal's userbase is smaller than Apple's own Music service – with 3m and 13m subscribers respectively – but, according to the Wall Street Journal, Apple is interested in the service's relationships with artists like Kanye West, Beyoncé. Both have released albums which were initially only available to stream through Tidal, giving the service an all-important USP in a crowded market.

If a deal does go ahead, it wouldn't be the first rapper-founded music streaming service bought by Apple. Apple Music was built off the back of its $3bn acquisition of Beats in 2014.

These rumours are particularly interesting, though, in light of another story involving Apple and music streaming: Spotify accusing Apple of anti-competitive practices after an update to its iOS app was blocked.

According to a letter sent by Spotify lawyer Horacio Gutierrez to Apple earlier this week, and obtained by RecodeApple rejected the update citing 'business model rules'. Spotify had been advertising a promotion in-app that encouraged users to sign up for subscriptions on its own site, in order to receive a steep discount, but Apple claimed that Spotify had to use the App Store's billing system – of which Apple gets a 30 per cent cut – for any customers acquired through the app.

The blocked update seemingly would have removed the option to pay for subscriptions through the Apple's payment platform entirely.

According to the letter, Apple's behaviour is “causing grave harm to Spotify and its customers”. It's worth noting that, with 30m paying subscribers, Spotify has a clear lead on user numbers, even if the Tidal deal does go ahead and its subscribers get rolled into Apple Music's.

Nevertheless, Gutierrez presents the move as an attempt by Apple to minimise this lead, and bolster its own position in the music streaming market.

“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,” reads the letter. “We cannot stand by as Apple uses the App Store approval process as a weapon to harm competitors.”

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