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Norwegian newspaper, Dagens Næringslivsaid, has accused the streaming service Tidal of deliberately inflating its streaming data behind Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Kanye West’s The Life Of Pablo by hundreds of millions of plays, consequently leading to “massive royalty payouts” for the two artists at the expense of other, smaller acts.
Tidal has since issued a statement denying the claims, even going so far as to call the accusations a “smear campaign.”
A statement obtained by Rolling Stone from the company reads:
“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,’” in reference to a January 2017 report in which Dagens Næringsliv described Jay-Z and Roc Nation executive Lior Tibon with the aforementioned details. “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.”
Dagens Næringslivs backs its claims of Tidal’s forgery with an analysis on internal data it reportedly received on a hard drive they had obtained that contained “billions of rows” of song titles, user IDs, and country codes, and found that – as translated into English partially by Music Business Worldwide – massive repeats of Beyoncé’s and Kanye West’s latest albums were present.
According to the data, one such user streamed Beyoncé’s 46-minute album 180 times in 24 hours which would add up to 8,280 minutes, though there are only 1,440 minutes in 24 hours.
After its exclusive Tidal release in February 2016, Tidal announced that TLOP was streamed 250 million times by its users in the first 10 days that it was available. Simultaneously, Tidal was claiming 3 million subscribers at the time — which averages out to each individual user streaming the album more than a dozen times a day. Similarly, Tidal also claimed that subscribers streamed Lemonade 306 million times in its first 15 days of availability when it was released that April.
After having received the hard drive of data, Dagens Næringsliv reportedly contracted the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Center for Cyber and Information Security to run a forensic analysis on it. The CCIS found that 150 million TLOP plays and 170 million Lemonade plays were “duplicates” that did not reflect the actual listening activity of the subscribers they were attributed to. Tidal was made aware of the findings and their lawyer claimed at the time that the newspaper’s data has been falsified and that the study the CCIS conducted was done under false pretenses.
“The number of minutes elapsing before the track is re-entered in the log varies, but the time interval is always a variant of a figure multiplied by six minutes (6, 12, 18, 24, …). In addition, the tracks are restarted at the same second and millisecond,” the Dagens Næringsliv reads.
Ultimately, if the numbers do in fact prove to be falsified, and not a bug in the system, the implications on the industry are quite serious.
According to record label royalty payment reports obtained also by Dagens Næringsliv, Tidal paid West’s record label Universal upwards of $3.8 million dollars following the album’s release. Of that total, $2.3 million was directly in relation to TLOP. The service also paid $2.5 million to Beyoncé’s label Sony in April and May of 2016, though the total royalty payment exceeded $4 million.
To supplement its data, Dagens Næringsliv also spoke with several Tidal subscribers who were identified as frequent listeners in the data set. One user, who was confronted with numbers showing that he had listened to TLOP songs 96 times in one day, had some choice words: “It’s physically impossible.”
H/T: Rolling Stone
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