Did Tidal really massively inflate Kanye and Beyoncé’s streaming numbers?
Just like when Taylor Swift pulled her discography off of Spotify, Kanye West’s decision to give Tidal exclusive streaming rights to The Life of Pablo back in 2016 was seen as a pretty risky move. It turned out to be a pretty good decision, seeing as the album racked up 250 million streams in the first ten days of release. But now it appears those numbers may have not been so accurate after-all, with Norwegian newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv (DN) claiming that the company purposefully inflated both West and Beyoncé’s streaming figures.
According to Music Business Worldwide, which translated DN’s report, Tidal has inflated the numbers for Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Kanye West’s Life of Pablo by “several hundred million” plays, after it obtained a hard drive that allegedly contained streaming data that had been manipulated by the service.
With the data, DN went to the Norwegian University of Science and Technology to get it analysed and produced a comprehensive study. According to the study, the team reports that “there had in fact been a manipulation of the data at particular times due to the large presence of similar duplicate records occurring for a large percentage of the user base that was active at any given time”.
This means that Tidal allegedly increased listener’ streaming numbers by multiplying the amount of times each user listened to Lemonade or The Life of Pablo.
“According to the logs, every single user supposedly listened to a large number of tracks at precisely the same second in time,” reports DN. “In addition, the tracks are restarted at the same second and millisecond.”
When DN spoke to three Tidal subscribers, it found some glaring impracticalities. According to the report, one user apparently streamed Beyoncé’s 46-minute album Lemonade 180 times in 24 hours – that’s an impossible 130 hours of Lemonade in 24 hours, something the user denies doing – even purposefully.
When Tidal claimed that The Life of Pablo was streamed 250 million times in the first ten days, it also said that it had reached three million subscribers. If true, it would mean that each subscriber would have had to have played the album eight times a day. It’s not technically an impossible scenario, but it’s a little difficult to believe.
DN says that Tidal paid Sony $4 million in royalties across April and May 2016, with Lemonade accounting for $2.5 million of that total. Universal were apparently paid €3.2 million (£2.8 million) by Tidal for The Life of Pablo between February and March 2016, something that DN claims is the reason for the inflation of their streaming numbers.
Tidal has since rebutted DN’s claims, giving Alphr the following statement.
“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.’ 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.”
DN previously reported back in December that Tidal had racked up $44 million worth of losses in 2016, something else that Tidal denied. The paper also alleged that Tidal had inflated subscriber numbers back in January 2017.
Last March, the company boasted that it had hit three million subscribers, but even then it’s still miles behind Spotify, which has 70 million subscribers and Apple Music, which has 30 million paid-up users as the graph above from our friends at Statista demonstrates.
Whomever you believe, it’s not hard to see that Tidal has been struggling in the immensely competitive market of streaming music services, and it’s not something which has been helped by its high £20 a month subscription fee.