Jay Z may have 99 problems, but as of today, not owning a music streaming service certainly ain’t one.
Through his Project Panther business entity, the hip-hop superstar and business mogul acquired Aspiro, a Swedish music streaming company that specializes in high-fidelity digital audio. The deal, which Project Panther first sought out in January, was finalized today for a reported $56 million.
Aspiro operates two small streaming brands called WiMP and Tidal, which collectively only have a few hundred thousand users. By contrast, market leader Spotify boasts over 15 million paying subscribers.
The music subscription market has been heating up for some time, as tech giants like Google and Apple have taken aim at Spotify’s dominance. Last year alone was a huge one: Apple acquired Beats Electronics for $3 billion, Google launched two music streaming products and Deezer–another European company and Spotify’s closest competitor–finally via an exclusive partnership with Sonos.
For its part, Apple is still working out exactly how it will turn the Beats subscription service into a viable competitor to Spotify. Google has already beaten Cupertino to the streaming music market with not one, but two, streaming services–Google Play Music All Access went live with its hybrid Spotify/Pandora competitor last May. The service features an all-you-can-stream library of music alongside an algorithm-powered Internet radio feature, which now seems to be a standard feature on these music subscription services. Then in November, Google announced YouTube Key, a currently-in-beta attempt to formalize–not to mention monetize–YouTube’s already massive role in the distribution of online music.
It’s not clear exactly what Jay Z plans to do with Aspiro, but the focus on high-resolution audio might prove to be advantageous. Several other companies are betting that improved audio quality could be in high enough demand to give incumbents like Spotify and iTunes a run for their money. One year at ago South By Southwest 2014, Neil Young formally announced his high-fidelity Pono Music download store and player, which started shipping in January. Meanwhile, Deezer’s limited U.S. launch catered to audiophiles by focusing on high-bitrate streams available only on Sonos hi-fi sound systems.