It seems Tidal music streaming service continues to have problems. The company has been called out for suspect financials and false claims about the number of subscribers, among other issues. Now it seems that Tidal may be falsifying the number of downloads for two of its biggest stars.
According to the Swedish newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) Tidal has misrepresented the amount of plays Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo had by “several hundred million” false plays. More plays means more money for the two artists one of which is married to Tidal’s owner JayZ.
DN reported receiving a hard drive filled with play data from Tidal that included play times, song titles, user IDs and country codes. DN asked the Norwegian University of Science and Technology for a data analysis. In the published executive summary, the school claims “there had in fact been a manipulation of the data at particular times due to the large presence of similar duplicate records occurring for a large percentage of the user base that was active at any given time.”
Three Tidal subscribers were contacted by DN about data that said they played the albums. The records showed that one subscriber played The Life of Pablo 96 times in a single day, 54 plays occurred in the middle of the night. According to the subscriber that would’ve been “physically impossible.”
Another Tidal subscriber was shown to have streamed Beyoncé’s 46-minute album 180 times in 24 hours. That claim was also denied. Just doing the math reveals that would add up to nearly 8,280 minutes. There are only 1,440 minutes in 24 hours.
Tidal has challenged the validity of the data on the hard drive. But according to DN, the data matches exactly with information Tidal sent to record labels.
According to the university, given the nature of the manipulation, its not likely this was an outside attack or a bug in the software code but rather internal meddling. Tidal is accused of accessing subscriber accounts to play tracks of The Life of Pablo over 150 million times. According to the report the plays occurred at exactly the same times; 2am and 5am. Beyonce’s Lemonade was also streamed at the same second and millisecond.
The result of this alleged manipulation comes down to money. Payouts to Sony added up to $4 million between April and May 2016. Lemonade, released in April of 2016, accounted for $2.5 million of that. Tidal reportedly paid Universal nearly $3 million between February and March 2016. The Life of Pablo accounted for $2.4 million. But, again, more play equals more money for the artists.
In response Tidal denies any wrongdoing. A Tidal spokesperson said DN’s article was a “smear campaign,” adding that, “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.”