Daniel Ek, CEO of Swedish music streaming service Spotify, poses for photographers at a press conference in Tokyo on September 29, 2016. Spotify kicked off its services in Japan on September 29. (Photo credit: TORU YAMANAKA/AFP/Getty Images)

Sometimes, rumors are a good thing.

Exactly three months ago, the Wall Street Journal wreaked havoc in the music industry by publishing a report that Apple was in talks to buy Tidal. The synergies between the two services notwithstanding—anti-freemium, exclusive content deals with cultural icons—reactions from within the industry were mixed. Representatives from both Apple and Tidal have since denied the rumors, including Apple Music’s top executive Jimmy Iovine, while high-profile artists like Kanye West resorted to Twitter to voice their support for the acquisition.

The result of this rumor, however, wasn’t just disorganized havoc; in fact, speculation sparked more productive discussions about the streaming world. Consolidation does seem inevitable in a world where not a single music streaming service is profitable, and where the issue of sustainable music tech is becoming more and more urgent. Acquisition rumors give us a clearer understanding of each streaming service’s unique value proposition, and why certain services would work well together.

We’re seeing the same effect with Spotify and SoundCloud this week. Two days ago, the Financial Times reported that Spotify was in advanced negotiations to acquire SoundCloud, perhaps for millions of dollars less than the latter’s $700 million valuation from 2014.

There are some narrative parallels between this rumor and that between Apple and Tidal. Both Spotify and Apple Music boast steady subscriber growth and unique curational prowess. SoundCloud’s user base and cash flow are waning, having lost $44 million in 2014; Tidal lost $28 million in 2015, more than double the previous year’s losses.

Yet, the most notable differences are cultural rather than financial: Apple Music and Tidal feel more like luxury music packages, while Spotify and SoundCloud seem to pride themselves on being more open, accessible and personalizable. Neither Spotify nor SoundCloud deals with exclusive content rights, and listeners can use both services free of charge.

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