There’s a war breaking out between some of the world’s biggest tech companies — and it’s all about music streaming.
Rapper Jay Z acquired Swedish streaming company Aspiro, and is using his star power to make that mainstream. And Spotify, another Swedish company, offers free streaming and an impressive collection of music.
But everything could be about to change for music streaming as Apple prepares to relaunch iTunes as a streaming platform after its acquisition of Beats.
Deezer, founded in Paris in 2006, was one of the internet's first streaming sites. Just like Spotify, Tidal and Qobuz, it was an early European success story. But things didn't go smoothly for Deezer in its early days. It was shut down over copyright infringement allegations in 2007. But the site returned with an improved royalty model which let people buy music through iTunes that they had discovered through the service.
But there were more problems for Deezer in 2008 when it faced running out of money. It quickly turned things around by creating its own ad agency to run ads on the site and raising new funding, preventing another shutdown.
Deezer CEO Axel Dauchez exited the company in 2014, and promptly became the CEO of Publicis Worldwide in France. Now, Deezer is led by Dr. Hans-Holger Albrecht, an experienced businessman who has managed several different companies.
Like Tidal, Qobuz is a European streaming site which caters to audiophiles rather than casual music fans. Its big selling point is high-resolution music, which only really sound better if you have high-end audio equipment.
You might think that there's not a huge market for streaming services like Qobuz and Tidal which charge a maximum fee of £19.99 per month (double the cost of Spotify), but there's actually a dedicated network of audiophiles around the world who are prepared to pay more for their music.
Rdio is a streaming site and social network focused around music that competes with Spotify and Tidal. The service was launched in 2010 by Skype cofounders Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis, and has grown to operate in 61 countries around the world.
Rdio launched a free streaming service in 2014, using a similar ad-supported model to rivals like Spotify. It also experimented with its own video-on-demand network named Vdio in 2013, but shut it down after several months.
Rhapsody is one of the internet's oldest music streaming services, launching back in December 2001. It was the first streaming service to operate using a model that's commonplace today: Allow users to pay a fee each month to stream what they want. Rhapsody started with a handful of niche record labels, but worked its way up to signing deals with major labels like Universal Music, EMI, BMG and Sony.
Rhapsody acquired the remnants of Napster in 2011. Napster was a pioneering file-sharing service that blew the music industry open by letting people trade MP3s for free online. It was shut down after court action, eventually going bankrupt and being traded between companies including Roxio and Best Buy.
Folk musician Neil Young has been active in the music industry since the 1960s, and he recently turned his attention the world of technology. He launched a company called Pono, which is a portable high-resolution music player and accompanying online store.
Pono is the kind of music technology that audiophiles go crazy for, and Young succeeded in using his star power to get his fans interested in what probably should be a niche product. That's the kind of effect that stars like Jay Z want to have through their own music streaming efforts.
Radiohead singer Thom Yorke is one of the most vocal critics of music streaming, famously branding Spotify 'the last desperate fart of a dying corpse.' Yorke has repeatedly refused to allow Radiohead's music (as well as his own solo albums) onto streaming sites, sending fans a message that he doesn't approve of those services.
Yorke has the potential to be hugely influential on the world of music streaming. If he were to change his mind and throw his weight behind a streaming service, then that would be a major boost to a site.
Vania Schlogel is one of the most senior executives at Tidal. She joined the company following Jay Z's $US56 million acquisition, but had been actively involved with Jay Z's company Roc Nation prior to the move.
Schlogel is Tidal's chief investment officer, and liaises with the music industry on the site's behalf. She opened the site's star-studded New York press conference, and has her finger on the pulse of the streaming world and Tidal's celebrity investors.
Pandora Internet Radio is one of America's most popular streaming sites thanks to its clever music recommendation algorithm. It learns what you listen to, and suggests more tracks that you might like.
Like Spotify, Pandora has a free streaming tier which lets users listen to music without paying for a monthly subscription. Instead, the free model is support by ads.
Not convinced? Pandora has revenues of $US1 billion a year.
Taylor Swift doesn't own her own streaming site, but she could be instrumental in deciding which streaming service comes out on top. The star has millions of ferociously loyal fans, and whichever streaming site has her music can count on a stream of new users.
Swift removed her music from streaming site Spotify, saying that she the site devalued her music (because it has a free tier) and hurt her music sales.
Tonstad is the interim CEO of Jay Z's streaming service Tidal. He has a long history with the company, previously serving as its CFO, CCO and CEO of Aspiro, the company behind Tidal.
Tidal's previous CEO Andy Chen left the company in April, along with around 25 employees. Tidal said at the time that the departures were 'streamlining' and 'redundancies.' Tonstad is going to lead the company while Jay Z and Tidal's other executives search for a new CEO.
Zane Lowe is a former radio presenter for the BBC's Radio 1 station, where he was known for promoting upcoming artists, as well as blockbuster interviews with big names like Kanye West and Eminem. But Lowe announced in February that he was leaving the BBC after 12 years to take a role at Apple.
Sources have told us that Zane Lowe is serving as the liaison between high-profile musicians and Apple for the launch of its new streaming service. He has been contacting musicians and persuading them to create custom radio stations for the service. One source described him as the 'mastermind' behind the upcoming iTunes relaunch.
Amazon dipped its toe into the world of music streaming in 2014 when it launched a streaming service that was only available to Amazon Prime subscribers.
Prime subscribers pay £79 a year for one-day delivery and video streaming, as well as access to Amazon's music streaming service. But the selection of music is very limited, only featuring 1 million songs, far less than Spotify, which has 20 million. The lack of tracks available was reportedly caused by a failure to strike a deal with Universal Music Group.
Amazon hasn't made a huge effort to promote its music streaming service, but it certainly has the ability to do so. Amazon is developing into new areas like grocery delivery and even buttons in the home that can order items, so it could see streaming as another integral consumer experience that it wants to control.
Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor is best known for his career in music, producing industrial albums, movie soundtracks and flashy stage shows.But he also joined Beats as its chief creative officer in 2013, tasked with overseeing the creation of its streaming service.
Reznor went on to work with Apple after its acquired Beats, and the New York Times said that he is serving as the 'point man' for the Beats Music relaunch. A Billboard interview with Reznor provided more details about his role at Apple. He said that Apple 'expressed direct interest in me designing some products with them.' Reznor also said that his role at Apple involves 'very creative work that's not directly making music, but it's around music.'
Google has its very own music streaming service: Google Play Music. Sure, it's not as well-known as Spotify, but it's part of the Google ecosystem, drawing customers in through their existing accounts.
Hints about an upcoming Google streaming service were first made in 2010 at Google's I/O conference. The service was first launched as Google Music in 2011, kicking off with free albums from The Rolling Stones and Pearl Jam.
Legendary rapper Dr. Dre built up a successful career as a rapper and music producer, both in his solo career and as part of rap group N.W.A. But in 2008 he decided to launch a partnership with headphone brand Beats in 2008, creating a line of headphones called Beats by Dre.
The Beats headphones were incredibly successful, and the company was sold to Apple for $US3 billion in 2014. Apple didn't just buy a hardware company, though. It also got its hands on Beats' newly launched streaming service, Beats Music, which had grown a small but dedicated customer base. It's believed that Apple is going to use Beats Music as the basis for its new streaming site.
Jay Z didn't stop at becoming one of the world's best-known musicians. He's also launching a career in entrepreneurship, acquiring everything from champagne brands to music streaming services.
Jay Z acquired Swedish music streaming company Aspiro for $US56 million in March, and quickly turned the niche streaming site for audiophiles into a mainstream service. He held a star-studded press conference in New York to announce the relaunch of streaming site Tidal, bringing in friends including Kanye West, Nicki Minaj and Rihanna.
But it hasn't been smooth sailing for Tidal. The app has slipped down the App Store ranking, and Jay Z has been forced to send a series of tweets defending it. He also accused rival streaming sites of spending 'millions' on a 'smear campaign' against Tidal.
Apple CEO Tim Cook is head of the world's most valuable company, and looks set to disrupt the streaming market when he announces Apple's music streaming service.
We still don't know when exactly Apple's announcement will be, but the beta release of its iOS mobile operating system makes the radio function more prominent. That means that we could see Cook announce Apple's streaming service at the WWDC conference, which runs from June 8 to June 12 this year.
Jimmy Iovine is a music producer and record industry mogul who turned Beats into a global music brand. He started his career as a music producer in the 1970s, working with stars like John Lennon, Bruce Springsteen, Patti Smith and Stevie Nicks. He also went on to co-found Interscope Records in the 1990s.
In 2006, Iovine co-founded headphone brand Beats. Working with rapper Dr. Dre, the company created a line of headphones and earphones that became immensely popular. That eventually led to a $US3 billion acquisition by Apple.
Iovine is reportedly playing a large role in the development of Apple's streaming service, and Jay Z has accused him off attempting to poach musicians from Tidal. One music executive described Apple's streaming service as 'Spotify with Jimmy juice.'
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