If recent allegations are true, Jay-Z might be in serious trouble. Recent reports reveal that Tidal, the music streaming service primarily owned by Jay-Z, has allegedly inflated its subscriber numbers-- notably for Beyonce's visual album Lemonade and Kanye West's 2016 release The Life of Pablo, which were both originally offered exclusively on their service. As a result, Tidal has been paying an inflated number of royalties to the labels of these artists. While the company has denied such allegations, the reports continue to come in. We'll provide what information we know about these pressing accusations below.
Music Business Worldwide reported on this story. Founded in 2014, Tidal grew to prominence in 2016 with the release of Beyonce and Kanye West's newest albums. They were the primary destination to watch and listen to Lemonade, and the service had the six-week exclusive on Kanye's album. Although Tidal (like most streaming services) wasn't keen on sharing its data publicly, it claimed that Beyonce's acclaimed album was streamed 306 million times during its first 10 days in April of 2016. Likewise, Tidal said Kanye's music was streamed 205 million times during its first 10 days of release that February.
According to the Norwegian newspaper, this information should be called into question because Tidal, at that point in time, only had 3 million subscribers. By their estimations, every single subscriber would have to listen to the albums an average of eight times a day for that math to add up. And while that's not impossible, it does seem a bit unlikely, by their account. Moreover, when the paper began to investigate further and look deeper, it found that Tidal was also likely inflating its subscriber numbers, as the number of streaming subscribers was estimated to be closer to one million globally.
If these subscriber numbers were, indeed, falsified, then Tidal generated "massive royalty payouts at the expense of other artists." Not a great look. As for how the publication obtained these numbers in the first place, they claim they found the data on a hard drive that contained billions of rows of data found on Tidal's internal data. While Tidal is denying these allegations, Music Business Worldwide believes it lines up with information released by the labels. In any case, while this information is nowhere near confirmed, it definitely raise some potential suspicion into the inner business of this newfound streaming service.
In response to these recent number-inflating allegations, Tidal released the following statement to Variety.
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.
Since this story is still developing, we'll keep you posted on any updates when they arrive.