This is a story with huge gossip potential. It could have major impact on the recording industry. It could have major impact on the relationship between artists. Could it have a major impact on the relationship between Beyoncé and Jay-Z?
Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) has published the findings from a year-long investigation into TIDAL’s streaming data, with analysis by Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Cyber and Information Security. The study shows that TIDAL allegedly grossly inflated streaming numbers for Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo and Beyoncé’s Lemonade, which means that they were paid out more than they earned and those payouts would have taken away from what other artists received.
According to Music Business Worldwide, DN was suspicious about TIDAL’s streaming stats because their subscriber base at the time of the release of both of those albums was significantly lower than the streaming figures that they were releasing. And it gets even weirder – because their research was made possible by what was contained on an “illicit hard drive” with “billions of rows of [internal TIDAL data]: times and song titles, user IDs and country codes”.
So now, in addition to standard celebrity ego fraud, we might be dealing with digital espionage?
Dagens Næringsliv has published multiple reports on TIDAL. In January 2017, the newspaper alleged that TIDAL was inflating subscriber numbers. Then, in December 2017, DN reported that TIDAL lost NOK$368 million (around $44 million) before taxes in 2016. In response, a TIDAL spokesperson said, “We have experienced negative stories about Tidal since its inception and we have done nothing but grow the business each year,” according to The Verge.
In a statement to Pitchfork about this most recent DN investigation, TIDAL is challenging the newspaper’s motivation:
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.
It’s their only move. Because remember, TIDAL was supposed to be the platform that best served the artists. And if they’re favouring certain artists over others, well, you know how it works with artists – in their minds, they’re all #1 and they all deserve #1 treatment. Over the last few years, Jay-Z has been building a media empire. Along with TIDAL, Roc Nation has moved into talent and sports management. His entire brand is built on having the confidence of other artists – because he is an artist himself. And he’s married to the artist that all artists consider to be the greatest among them. Jay-Z’s professional reputation is on the line.
As for Beyoncé, she’s a TIDAL owner too. Lemonade is still only available to stream exclusively on TIDAL. And Beyoncé haaaaaates a mess. This is a f-cking mess. It could be an even bigger mess than the elevator situation. The elevator incident happened in May 2014, right after the Met Gala. A month later, the Carters kicked off the On The Run Tour amid all kinds of speculation that they were in crisis. This year’s Met Gala went down 3 days ago. On The Run 2 kicks off in 3 weeks. What is it with this Met Gala and tour timing?!?
Beyoncé runs a tight operation. She’s probably deep in rehearsal right now. She’s perfecting every single detail. And suddenly, instead of riding a Beychella high into the tour, we’re dealing with what could be a professional disaster. How will this play out on stage?