Square, the company that makes those little portable payment machines you use when you're in a small restaurant or paying for a caricature, is buying Tidal, that music streaming service that's obsessed with audio quality. If it seems like an odd match, consider that musicians often need to get paid in non-traditional ways—that's how it's being pitched in the official announcement, anyway.
The prospective purchase will cost Square $297 million in a mix of cash and stock, with the company owning a "significant majority" of the streaming service. According to the press release, Tidal will operate as an independent segment of Square's corporate structure, though of course the details aren't being laid out in any specific way. Blockbuster rapper and investor Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter, who bought Tidal's Norwegian parent company Aspiro in 2015 and is heavily featured in the service, will join Square's board of directors.
The press release plays up Tidal's artist-first approach to high-quality music and video streaming, but the connection between the two companies still isn't obvious. Tidal has remained a niche player in streaming music as tech giants like Google, Apple, and Amazon joined the fray with their own offerings. It will need significant innovation in order to stay relevant.
The sale is pending final approval, though regulatory hurdles for this acquisition seem to be rather low. Neither Square nor Tidal users should expect significant changes to either service, at least in the short term.