Looks like TIDAL has some explaining to do!
Back in March 2016, the Jay-Z owned streaming service made claims that Kanye West’s The Life Of Pablo, which had a six-week exclusive run on its platform, had been streamed 250 million times in just 10 days.
During this time TIDAL also claimed that its memberships had surpassed three million subscribers.
However brows were raised when people pulled out their calculators and realized that if both of these facts were simultaneously true, that would have meant on average, every single TIDAL subscriber would have had to be playing the Kanye album at least eight times a day.
People also gave the suspicious side-eye when Beyonce’s record-breaking Lemonade was released a couple of months later, and TIDAL claimed that the project was streamed 306 million times on its platform in just its first 15 days.
These astronomical stats are what prompted the Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv to investigate in January 2017.
Investigators uncovered documents that suggested that TIDAL had been deliberately inflating its subscriber figures. Which was in alignment with a report from trusted music industry research firm Midia in the same month, that estimated TIDAL’s subscriber base was actually only included one million people worldwide.
Now, Dagens Næringsliv has updated their findings after more than a year of additional digging. Let’s just say, it’s probably not going to make the BeyHive very happy.
Its main accusation: “Beyoncé’s and Kanye West’s listener numbers on TIDAL have been manipulated to the tune of several hundred million false plays… which has generated massive royalty payouts at the expense of other artists.”
The newspaper claims to be in possession of a hard drive, which it says “contains billions of rows of [internal TIDAL data]: times and song titles, user IDs and country codes.” According to the publication, the numbers it reviewed match exactly with information received by record labels during the dates in question.
TIDAL is challenging these accusations and the data on this hard drive, but DN also went the extra step of actually interviewing a series of TIDAL subscribers, and showed them logs of their individual play-counts of both Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Kanye West’s The Life Of Pablo.
When Copenhagen-based subcriber Halfdan Nielsen was informed he supposedly listened to songs from Lemonade more than 50 times he denied it, calling the those figures “nonsense.”
DN also contacted Tiare Faatea, a law student in Washington D.C, who allegedly played tracks from Lemonade 180 times within 24 hours.
“No, that can’t be right,” a confused Faatea responded.
Music critic Geir Rakvaag, also supposedly played tracks from The Life Of Pablo 96 times in a single day with 54 of those plays happening in the middle of the night.
“It’s physically impossible,” he asserted.
And these reactions are just the tip of the iceberg. Many of those interviewed said these stats are false.
The Norwegian University of Science & Tech’s Center for Cyber and Information Security (CCIS) has forensically investigated the data that DN has obtained on TIDAL’s plays and produced a jaw dropping report – which you can download in full here.
“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,” CCIS stated in their findings.
More than 1.3 million subscriber accounts were reportedly subject to this alleged “manipulation” to bolster Beyoncé and Kanye’s streaming figures.
“Given how targeted and comprehensive the manipulation is, it is highly improbable that the manipulation could solely be the result of a code-based bug or other anomaly,” the CCIS report continues.
There is also nothing to indicate a data breach from the outside leaving us to conclude that the manipulation happened within TIDAL itself.
Aside from bragging rights, why does any of this matter? M-O-N-E-Y. Fraudulently obtained money to be more specific.
DN gained access to record company royalty payment reports, which reveals that TIDAL paid Sony in excess of $4 million across April and MOf that, Lemonade alone accounted for $2.5 million, based on the data reported by TIDAL. Which means if these claims are true, the service has been swindling the industry out of large sums of money for God knows how long.
To this point, TIDAL’s legal team at Reed Smith attempted to shut down the damaging CCIS study, claiming in a letter that: “[DN journalist] Mr. Tobiassen and DN lied to NTNU and falsified the underlying data to procure a ‘study’ which suited their foregone conclusions.”
Jay Z, Beyonce and Kanye West have yet to make a statement on any of these allegations.