Tidal, the Jay-Z-backed streaming service that is supposed to put artists first, might have gone a bit overboard with that mantra. The Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv reports that in 2016 the streaming service falsified and inflated streaming numbers for Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo and Beyoncé’s Lemonade albums. The disputed numbers in question were that The Life of Pablo achieved 250 million streams in 10 days and that Lemonade tallied 306 million streams within 15 days.
As far as albums go, the current music streaming record for an opening week was until recently held by Drake’s More Life with 385 million streams. It was just just broken on Monday by Post Malone’s Beerbongs & Bentleys, which got 431 million streams in its opening week across Apple Music, Spotify, and all other major streaming platforms. Tidal’s user base in March 2016, meanwhile, was reported to be only three million in total, compared to the well over 100 million subscribers across all music platforms in 2018.
The newspaper teamed up with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Centre for Cyber and Information Security to investigate data that the paper said it received from a hard drive that was said to hold internal streaming numbers from the company. The investigation lead to a research paper, which can be read here, where the group concluded that data manipulation must’ve occurred:
Our analysis also shows a significant number of system users were affected by the manipulation, which may exclude a external or user originated manipulation. As such the manipulation likely originates from within the streaming service itself. Due to the targeted nature and extent of the manipulation, it is very unlikely that this manipulation was solely the result of a code based bug or other anomalies.
The CCIS did not definitely say whether the data was manipulated by Tidal, but the specificity of the alleged data manipulation around two albums raises questions. Dagens Næringsliv also allegedly got access to Tidal royalties reports that said Tidal paid Sony $2.5 million (£1.84 million) for Lemonade in April and May 2016 and about $2.38 million (£1.76 million) to Universal in February and March 2016 for The Life of Pablo.
Dagens Næringsliv reported that Tidal has vehemently denied the accusations of manipulating their data and accused the newspaper of making up or manipulating the stats to convince the Norwegian University of Science and Technology to do the report.
Tidal has responded with 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.