Jay-Z’s streaming service TIDAL has been accused of faking the numbers for his wife’s latest album and close friend Kanye’s last album.
Back in 2016 Kanye launched his divisive but explosive album The Life of Pablo, with an exclusive release on TIDAL for 6 weeks. TIDAL claimed that it’s 3 million subscribers had streamed TLOP 250 million times in only 10 days, which would require every subscriber to listen to the album more than 8 times a day.
Then the wife of the streaming service’s owner, Jay-Z, Beyoncé released her album Lemonade exclusively on TIDAL – permanently this time. TIDAL then claimed in it’s first 15 days that Lemonade was streamed 306 million times, raising more questions over the legitimacy of TIDAL’s reported stats. Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv decided to investigate the streamer’s numbers.
In January of 2017 Dagens Næringsliv began their investigation and discovered documents that seemed to suggest TIDAL had been giving higher subscriber numbers than they really had. Then music data research firm MIDIA Research released a chart showing the subscriber numbers for all the top services, and suggested that TIDAL only had 1 million paying users.
Dagens Næringsliv have now released their follow up report after receiving a hard drive which they say is full of “billions of rows of [internal TIDAL data]: times and song titles, user IDs and country codes’. They are hoping to expose their predicted “several hundred million false plays” which they say has “generated massive royalty payouts at the expense of other artists.”
According to the paper the numbers on the hard drive match up perfectly with the streaming data received by record labels from TIDAL, however the streaming service themselves contest any claims. Dagens Næringsliv say that: “In The Life of Pablo month, February 2016, TIDAL customers supposedly listened to a total of 758, 745, 952 songs, according the numbers on the hard drive. In the record company’s payment reports, the total is [also] 758,745,952 songs.’)
The paper even went so far as to interview TIDAL subscribers who’s streaming data they had received on the hard drive to investigate. They spoke to Washington D.C. law student, Tiare Faatea, who had supposedly listened to Beyoncé’s Lemonade 180 times in 24 hours. Beyond the fact this is literally impossible, Faatea added: “No, that can’t be right.”
The investigation has been picked up by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology after being contacted by Dagens Næringsliv. Their Center for Cyber and Information Security (CCIS) says: “We have, through advanced statistical analysis, determined that there has in fact been a manipulation of the TIDAL data at particular times. The manipulation appears targeted towards a very specific set of track IDs, related to two distinct albums.”
You can read their full report and it’s worrying findings here. The future of TIDAL looks uncertain right now as the evidence mounts that they may not be honest about their numbers.