What Does The Spotify IPO Mean For Jay-Z’s Tidal?

Written by Williesha Morris

Spotify made a direct initial public offering on April 3 and began trading on the NYSE —  an unusual move because no outside investors or financial institutions were involved.

So far, the IPO has been moderately successful. Current shares of Spotify are just under $150. However, the online music, video and podcast streaming platform has yet to turn a profit, making this a risky choice for long-term investors.

Spotify was founded in Sweden in 2008. The IPO means it is now worth around $25 billion, making it the largest music company in the world

Jay-Z’s Tidal is the latest competitor for Spotify. Founded in 2016, Tidal offers exclusive artist releases and high-fidelity audio. Tidal is also not making a profit — in fact it’s operating at a loss, according to Allabolag, a Swedish financial database.

The Tidal platform has offered exclusive album releases from Kanye West and Beyonce, among others. The service is live streaming the April 27 Concert for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama, featuring musicians including Usher, Kirk Franklin and Common.  

Spotify IPO
Photo: Tidal

For super fans, album exclusivity is a must. If you loved Beyonce’s “Lemonade” video, being able to stream her entire album in high-quality audio is non-negotiable.  Other music fans feel exclusivity isn’t enough of a draw.

Geraldine Barnett, a Cleveland tax accountant and Spotify Premium subscriber, said exclusive titles are often leaked.

“I’m not a fan of album exclusivity so I’m interested in seeing what Spotify will do to satisfy their investors,” Barnett said in a Moguldom interview.

Spotify has announced significant changes to the free version of it service. Normally, app users can’t select individual songs and must use the “Shuffle Play” function only. This is slated to be removed as a premium service and become available to everyone.

Spotify is also making a formal product announcement on April 24. The product is rumored to be a car music player. Spotify is offering the first three months of Hulu for $1 for premium subscribers — an offer they originally gave solely to college students.

While Spotify is great for mainstream artists, Barnett said she has to use SoundCloud to find the work of other musicians. SoundCloud is considered a “social” audio platform, where anyone can upload and listen to audio tracks.

“As a music consumer, I don’t want to subscribe to every service to ensure that I’ll be able to listen to my favorite artists’ music,” Barnett said.

There are differing views on the viability of Spotify for indie artists. While young, indie-pop musicians are reaping success from Spotify, jazz and classical musicians are worried their older fan base will be pushed away.

The impact of Spotify’s IPO on streaming services like Jay Z’s Tidal remains to be seen. The publicity from the IPO could further cement Spotify’s place as the leading streaming and subscription service for the foreseeable future.

This places Tidal at a disadvantage, having to play catch-up with service offerings. However, should the Spotify IPO fail, this could be a sign that direct investment is too risky. That would help Tidal mitigate losses should it become an IPO in the future.

Spotify is making unprecedented changes to the way tech companies do business, despite operating at a loss. The company is making bold movies, but it remains to be seen whether those will translate to profits.

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