Music streaming service Tidal, owned by Jay-Z parent company Project Panther Bidco, has been accused of intentionally falsifying streaming numbers for Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” and Kanye West’s “Life of Pablo” albums; consequently paying inflated royalties to the two megastars’ labels, at the expense of other artists.
In a report by Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (via Music Business Worldwide), Tidal claimed that West’s album had been streamed 250 million times in its first 10 days of release in February of 2016, while claiming it had just 3 million subscribers—which would mean every subscriber played the album an average of eight times per day.
Tidal also claimed that Beyoncé’s album was streamed 306 million times in its first 15 days of release in April of 2016, which would average to nearly seven streams of the album a day per user.
Additionally, trusted music industry research firm Midia estimates that Tidal actually has only 1 million subscribers.
The investigative report in Dagens Næringsliv (DN) claimed it received an illicit hard drive of internal Tidal documents with logs of streams, containing ‘billions of rows of [data]: times and song titles, user IDs and country codes’.
DN claims the data on the hard drive matches company reports. DN says: ‘In the Life of Pablo month, February 2016, TIDAL customers supposedly listened to a total of 758,745,952 songs, according to the numbers on the hard drive. In the record company’s payment reports, the total is [also] 758,745,952 songs.’
DN contacted Tidal subscribers about logs of their play-records on Tidal. One woman in Washington D.C. was told Tidal logs showed she playedBeyoncé’s Lemonade album 180 times in 24 hours. When the publication asked her if it was possible for her to play tracks from Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” 180 times within 24 hours, she said it was not.
The newspaper also reached out to the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Center for Cyber and Information Security (CCIS) to back up its findings.
CCIS claims Tidal data shows various methods of manipulation used to boost play numbers. For Kanye West’s album The Life of Pablo (TLOP), the DN report accuses TIDAL of accessing genuine user accounts to play more than 150m ‘duplicates’ of TLOP tracks at exactly the same times: 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.
More than 1.3m subscriber accounts were reportedly subject to this alleged ‘manipulation’.
Tidal has refuted these claims.
“This is a smear campaign from a publication that once referred to our employee as an ‘Israeli Intelligence officer’ and our owner as a ‘crack dealer,’” Tidal responded in a statement to CBS News. “We expect nothing less from them than this ridiculous story, lies and falsehoods. The information was stolen and manipulated and we will fight these claims vigorously.”
Tidal is a subscription-based music streaming service that combines audio and high-definition music videos with exclusive content and special features on music. The service was maintained by the Scandinavian company Aspiro AB, but was acquired by Beyoncé’s husband, rapper Jay-Z, in 2015 and his company Project Panther Bidco.
Reps for Beyoncé, West, Sony and Universal either declined or have not immediately responded to any request for public comment.