Jay Z’s artist-owned streaming service, Tidal, and Sprint announced a new partnership on Monday that will give the company’s 45 million customers unlimited access to Tidal, including exclusive content.
In the deal, the telecommunications company acquired a 33% stake in Tidal; Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure will join Tidal’s board of directors. A source familiar with the deal told Billboard that Sprint paid $200 million for its stake in the company and that Jay Z and the company's two dozen artist-owners — Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Coldplay, to name a few — will remain part owners.
“Sprint shares our view of revolutionizing the creative industry to allow artists to connect directly with their fans and reach their fullest, shared potential,” Jay Z said in a statement. “Marcelo understood our goal right away, and together we are excited to bring Sprint’s 45 million customers an unmatched entertainment experience.”
As part of the partnership, Sprint will establish a dedicated marketing fund specifically for Tidal artists that will afford them “the flexibility to create and share their work with and for their fans.” No further details were unveiled about the marketing fund or the exclusive content the service plans on rolling out in its new partnership.
Exclusive content has bolstered the fledgling, often-maligned service, and 2016 was the company’s biggest year yet.
Rihanna worked with Samsung to create an immersive mobile experience called the ANTIdiary, in which users explore multiple rooms that trace the pop star’s life story. The collaboration between the pop star and the tech giant culminated in the gift of download codes for “Anti,” which was supposed to be a surprise release but mistakenly went up on Tidal a few hours early.
Despite giving 1 million copies away for free, which wouldn’t count toward chart placement per Billboard’s rules, and the technical glitch that saw Tidal leak its own exclusive, “Anti” hit No. 1.
Shortly after Rihanna's release, Kanye West used Tidal for the unconventional launch of his latest, “The Life of Pablo.”
He debuted the album at a chaotic listening party/fashion show in a sold-out Madison Square Garden that also served as the debut for his Yeezy Season 3 clothing line. The event was also beamed to movie theaters around the globe.
After Tidal's live stream — which at one point crashed under the weight of some 20 million viewers — West’s album was released to Tidal (it was later made available to Apple), and the rapper started tinkering with "Pablo" in real time, declaring it a "living, breathing, changing creative expression.”
Prince debuted what became his final album, “HITnRUN Phase Two,” exclusively on Tidal, and the service remains the only place where you can stream the late musician’s discography. His estate and label NPG Records launched a suit against Roc Nation, Jay Z’s management firm, late last year in a dispute over how much of Prince’s music Tidal actually had license to stream.
Lil Wayne, who is currently in the middle of a lawsuit with his longtime label, released an exclusive album to Tidal. And the service has also rolled out exclusive video content from Madonna, Usher, T.I. and Harris, and has live-streamed dozens of events over the last year, including Jay Z's Budweiser Made in America Festival and Hot97’s Summer Jam, along with concerts from J. Cole and Lauryn Hill.
And as Beyoncé debuted her latest visual album, “Lemonade,” on HBO, she released the album directly to Tidal, the only place it can be streamed.
Last year, Tidal announced it had amassed 3 million paid subscribers across the 46 countries in which the service is available, roughly 2.5 million more than it had when it originally launched in late 2014, before the service was acquired by Jay Z.
“Jay saw not only a business need, but a cultural one, and put his heart and grit into building Tidal into a world-class music streaming platform that is unrivaled in quality and content,” Claure said in a statement. “The passion and dedication that these artist-owners bring to fans will enable Sprint to offer new and existing customers access to exclusive content and entertainment experiences in a way no other service can.”
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