Jay Z, the rap star and entrepreneur, has made a $56 million offer for the Swedish company Aspiro, the owner of two digital music services, in a deal that would give him a foothold in the rapidly expanding world of streaming music and put him in competition with major players like Apple and Spotify.
The bid, made through a company called Project Panther, which Jay Zindirectly controls, was revealed in a statement early Friday by Aspiro, which is publicly traded in Sweden. According to the statement, Jay Z’s offer — representing a 59 percent premium over the stock’s closing price on Thursday — has already received preliminary acceptance by Aspiro’s board.
Aspiro’s two services, WiMP and Tidal, have so far been fringe outlets in the growing field of subscription music. Spotify, Deezer, Rdio, Rhapsody and even YouTube now compete to sign up paying customers by offering on-demand access to millions of songs online. Last year, Apple paid $3 billion for Beats, the company founded by Dr. Dre and the music executive Jimmy Iovine, and it is expected to revamp its music offerings, with streaming playing a prominent role.
Exactly what Jay Z — whose real name is Shawn Carter — has planned for Aspiro’s services is unclear.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for the rapper and his company gave some insight into his thinking, saying that the shift to streaming “offers great potential for increased entertainment consumption and an opportunity for artists to further promote their music. Panther’s strategic ambition revolves around global expansion and up-scaling of Aspiro’s platform, technology and services.”
Jay Z’s pursuit of Aspiro may suggest an interest in what so far has remained a niche market for digital music: high-fidelity audio. WiMP, available in a handful of European countries, and Tidal, which arrived in Britain and the United States last fall, offer streaming music in so-called lossless audio formats that are much higher in quality than what is offered by Spotify and most other similar services.
WiMP has 512,000 paying users, according to Aspiro’s most recent quarterly report; it has not said how many customers it has for Tidal, which sells subscriptions at $20 a month, twice the going rate of most streaming outlets.
The number of companies selling higher-quality digital audio has grown substantially recently. In addition to Tidal and WiMP, Deezer offers its Elite version through a deal with Sonos speakers; the new PonoPlayer from Neil Young recently went on sale; and Sony has been drawing attention for its high-resolution new Walkman, at prices over $1,000. But analysts say that for the most part, consumers have shown little interest in these products.
For Jay Z, another possible attraction in buying a streaming service might be to expand the media portfolio of Roc Nation, which started in 2008 as a music-focused joint venture with Live Nation Entertainment and has since also expanded into representing top athletes.
With a streaming music outlet under his control, some music and technology executives said, Jay Z could develop special exclusive content deals for artists in the Roc Nation fold, helping it compete against bigger companies.