It’s still 2020 folks, so I’ll believe anything. However, after learning that Square, the digital payments processor, is reportedly talks to buy Tidal, the music streaming service, I thought the world was getting really weird. At first glance, that is one strange pairing, but after thinking about it for a good long while, I can sort of see it.
A report in Bloomberg this week states that Square CEO Jack Dorsey, who is also the CEO of Twitter, has talked with Jay-Z about buying Tidal, which the artist acquired in 2015, in an effort to diversify the digital payments company. The outlet, which cited an unnamed source familiar with the situation, said the negotiations may not result in a transaction.
Tidal describes itself as an artist-owned streaming platform, and counts on almost two dozen high-profile owners, including Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Calvin Harris, Coldplay, Kanye West, Madonna, and Nicki Minaj, among others.
Per Bloomberg, Dorsey aspires to build Square into a company made up of “stand-alone, complementary services.” Square already offers its sellers a variety of different products and services, from online stores and delivery services to point-of-sale hardware and marketing.
Now see, all of those services make sense for a digital payments processor. I can see how a Square seller that uses the company’s point-of-sale hardware and online store might also be interested in its marketing offerings. But it’s not immediately clear how a music streaming service fits into all of that.
After going over the idea repeatedly in my head, one of the only reasonable things I came up with—and please let me know if you all have any more ideas—was that the Tidal acquisition could potentially make it easier for Square sellers to play music in their establishments. (Apparently, it is not as easy as just pressing play because of, you guessed it, copyright).
Another thing that crossed my mind was that the acquisition could let Square sellers offer experiences such as free concerts via streaming to their (socially distant) customers. According to its LinkedIn page, Tidal has livestreamed more than 120 concerts since its inception. Bloomberg highlights that it has also offered other experiences, such as streaming Rihanna’s summer Fenty/Puma collection in 2016. This could be a good offering considering that we’re still in a global pandemic and it’s not likely that we’re going to be able to go to concerts, fashion shows, or other events like we used to anytime soon.
Whether either of those possibilities, or any other, is on the table is unknown. Besides reporting on the existence of talks, the Bloomberg report didn’t include many additional details.
Finding a new purpose in life would probably be good for Tidal, which has struggled to compete against Spotify and Apple Music. The last time it reported its paying subscriber numbers, in 2016, it only had three million. In comparison, Spotify said it had 144 million paying subscribers this past September. Apple, for its part, which last reported paying subscribers for its service in 2019, reported that it had more than 60 million.
While it’s still unclear whether Square and Tidal will join up in the end, the photos of Dorsey and Jay-Z in recent months—first in the Hamptons in August and then on the beach in Hawaii—suddenly take on an entirely different meaning.