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Theo Wargo/Getty Images for Live Nation Jay Z likes to do things personally. So one day in March he sat down and dialed the phone numbers of some of the users of his new music-streaming service, Tidal. Staff at Roc Nation, Jay Z's sports- and entertainment-management company, listened as fans reacted with shock to phone calls from Jay Z. "This is the best customer service call I�ve ever received," one fan exclaimed. Some of Jay Z's musician friends also made calls, including Jack White. They wanted to emphasise that Tidal was all about a personal connection between musicians and their fans. But Jay Z didn't stop there. He also called up the band Mumford & Sons, who previously criticised Tidal in an interview. The band referred to Jay Z and his fellow Tidal supporters as "new school f------ plutocrats," but they changed their minds after a phone call from one of the most powerful men in rap music. "I get it much better now," lead singer Marcus Mumford said. "It's sort of an old-school record store. Which I like, now that I understand the vision." Clearly, Jay Z has influence in the music industry, and he has used that power to assemble an all-star cast for his streaming service. It's the line-up of world-famous musicians that has been Tidal's biggest selling point, but, as one streaming expert told us, it could also be its undoing. At the start of January, before Jay Z got his hands on it, Aspiro AB was a niche European media-technology company known mainly for its high-end, expensive music-streaming service called WiMP. It had grown up in the years before the iPhone, providing services for Nokia and Ericsson feature phones. It was a tiny player in the music-streaming world, and nobody paid much attention to it. By the end of March, Aspiro had become one of the most talked-about technology companies in the world. It was acquired by Jay Z, had been the subject of a secret meeting in California attended by Daft Punk, Kanye West, and Rihanna, and was then catapulted into the mainstream at a star-studded press conference. But the backlash began soon after, as the company was forced to deal with the departure of a series of key executives. It also got sued by one of the record labels it was hoping to help and was immediately eclipsed by the launch of Apple Music. Fans remain largely confused as to why Tidal even exists - it offers streaming music at twice the price of Google, Apple, and Spotify. This is the full story of how Jay Z took over an obscure Scandinavian telecoms company in the hopes of staging a revolution on behalf of artists who feel they aren't being properly paid in a world where no one buys CDs anymore. It has not gone smoothly. Aspiro started life as a company based on an old mobile-phone technology If you used a mobile phone to browse the internet back in 2003, then you probably did so using a technology called wireless application protocol (WAP). It let older mobile phones download data using their cellular service. It was a precursor to the much faster networks that we use today. J�rgen Adolfsson, Christer M�nsson, and Klas Hallqvist, the team who went on to create Aspiro, met in 1995 while they were working at Europolitan, one of the biggest telephone networks in Sweden. AspiroAspiro founders Klas Hallqvist, Christer M�nsson, and J�rgen Adolfsson.

Adolfsson and M�nsson moved to Oslo in Norway, where they became aware of WAP and the companies that were starting to build businesses using the technology. They left Europolitan and convinced Hallqvist to join them. Aspiro offered a range of different services using WAP and text messages. It didn't sell its services direct to consumers, but instead sold them onto mobile networks that could include it as part of their bundles. Aspiro developed interactive games, ringtones, horoscopes, even a system to send fax messages from your phone. AspiroThe Aspiro website in 2001.

Aspiro grew quickly thanks to partnerships with European phone manufacturers such as Ericsson and Nokia. Those companies were selling vast amounts of old-fashioned feature phones in Europe, so Aspiro's products reached millions of customers. AspiroA brochure produced by Aspiro in 2001.

Adolfsson and M�nsson wanted to live and work in Malm� in Sweden, so Aspiro's first office was set up there. But Hallqvist wasn't so keen and preferred Karlskrona, which is 100 miles northeast of Malm�. That wasn't a problem; Aspiro just opened an office there too. WiMP became a niche streaming service loved by audiophiles Flickr/sigurdgaAspiro partnered with a Norwegian music store to launch its streaming site. Aspiro focused on WAP for years, and it developed new services for the mobile network that was quickly becoming antiquated. But it also branched out into other online services, including music news and search engines. The most important decision in Aspiro's history was the development of a music-streaming service built in conjunction with Platekompaniet, a Norwegian retail chain that sells CDs and DVDs. WiMP, as Aspiro's music-streaming service was called, did something different from its competitors. It emphasised high-quality audio, streaming at higher bit rates than Rdio and Spotify. That helped it appeal to an older, more affluent, demographic that was more willing to pay a higher price for better-quality music. The new music-streaming service was a hit, and Aspiro launched it across Europe. It used the same strategy that it used for its WAP business to rapidly scale up the business: Aspiro struck deals with telecoms companies and hardware manufacturers to pick up customers who wouldn't have otherwise been aware of the product. WiMP

"WiMP" was rather a strange name for a music-streaming service in English-speaking countries, so it was renamed "Tidal" for those locations. The actual database of music and pricing was unchanged. Aspiro kept on shuffling CEOs Tidal

Since J�rgen Adolfsson was replaced as the first CEO in 2000, Aspiro had seen many different executives take the helm of the company. Longterm Aspiro employee Peter Tonstad became CEO of the company in 2012. He had previously worked as a consultant to the Norwegian environment ministry and as a sales executive for Reuters in Norway. He took over the running of Aspiro at a time when its music-streaming service was growing. Andy Chen/Aspiro GroupFormer Aspiro CEO Andy Chen. But a new, younger CEO eventually took over running Aspiro. Andy Chen used to be the CEO of Preview Networks, a video-distribution company that was acquired by Rightster in 2013. He'd also worked as a mentor at startup accelerator Seedcamp, as well as at Viacom. Chen joined Aspiro in 2013 and served as the CEO of the WiMP music-streaming service. He eventually took over the entire company in January 2014. Tonstad became Aspiro's chief commercial officer. Chen was an experienced public speaker who was comfortable getting up on stage and extolling the virtues of WiMP's high-resolution music-streaming service. Aspiro didn't feel like an old-school telecoms company anymore; this time, it was a tech startup out to disrupt the music industry.

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