If you consider yourself an avid Apple Music user, then you probably have noticed that albums from hip-hop artist Jay-Z, who happens to be owner of the competing music streaming service Tidal, have been removed from the services.
It appears that most of Jay-Z’s solo album collection has been removed while some content featuring Jay-Z as a collaborator, and potentially not the sole owner of the content, remains available for streaming. This is not a new behavior for Mr. Carter as he has removed select albums from Apple Music in the past, including Reasonable Doubt and The Blueprint series, but this is the first time he has pulled his entire catalog of albums from the service.
Jay Z's albums appear to have been removed from Spotify recently as well, so his decision might be unrelated to any exclusive feud with Apple.
Tidal representatives have not officially announced the move, but Spotify’s support team has substantiated the removal to its users on social media in saying, it can “confirm that some of Jay Z's catalogue has been removed at the request of the artist," but they did not provide a specific reason.
Tidal recently made headlines when Sprint acquired a 33% stake back in January; a move that would give Sprint’s customers "unlimited access to exclusive artist content not available anywhere else" (via MacRumors). Sprint’s investment followed the looming acquisition rumors surrounding Tidal over recent months with Spotify, Google and others reportedly showing interest.
At the time of Sprint’s acquisition, questions concerning Tidal’s company growth and subscriber numbers had emerged in response to a claim made by Norweigen newspaper, Dagens Næringsliv. The publication stated it obtained internal reports from Tidal that show the streaming service had only 350,000 subscribers in September 2015. That same month, Jay Z tweeted that Tidal had reached 1 million users. And when Tidal announced it reached 3 million subscribers back in March, its monthly report to the music labels stated it had 1.2 million activated accounts and 850,000 subscribers. (via TheVerge)
The latest subscription estimates for Apple Music put the service at over 40 million users on mobile, leading Spotify by 10 million, despite Spotify claiming 50 million paying subscribers versus a total 20 million for Apple. It appears the music streaming industry is undergoing an intercompany flex-off where subscriber counts are toted as style points.
As the battle for exclusivity in music streaming wages on, it's unclear if Sprint's stake in Tidal has anything to do with Jay Z's music being removed from Apple Music or Spotify. Tidal's other stakeholders, including Kanye West, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Daft Punk, Jack White, Madonna, Arcade Fire, Alicia Keys, Usher, and Calvin Harris continue to offer many of their songs and albums on Apple Music.
Spotify and Apple Music are increasingly stepping up efforts with original content. Spotify recently announced the plans for its first original series as a counterpart to Apple’s Carpool Karaoke, both attracting exclusive subscribers for next month. The competition has also enticed efforts of companies abroad as Google Play Music undercut Apple Music in India this month.