A Report Suggests Beyoncé & Kanye’s TIDAL Streaming Numbers Were Inflated (Video)

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In recent weeks, several of the major streaming platforms have been under public fire for some of their hate speech policies and excessive marketing. While JAY-Z’s Tidal service has avoided those headlines, an ongoing investigation into the platform raises some other questions entirely.

VICE News has published a video that examines Tidal’s numbers, and possible misreporting of its streams, as well as favoritism to some of the platform’s 15 primary artist-investors. If true, that favoritism paid Tidal artist-owners money that would have been allocated to all other artists who share their music with the service.

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Back in 2015, when Jay purchased the Norwegian company for a reported $56 million, several of his artists, friends, and peers joined him in relaunching and rebranding the service. Two of those artists were very close to Hov. One is his wife, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. The other is Jay’s star pupil dating back to his Roc-A-Fella Records days: Kanye West.

A year later, in 2016, Tidal released data surrounding its listeners. In the public release, the platform reported figures such as Kanye West’s The Life Of Pablo being streamed 250 million times in its first 10 days of availability. At that point, Tidal had a reported 3 million subscribers. Public figures also boasted that Beyoncé’s Lemonade had been streamed 300 million times in its first 15 days available to subscribers.

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Norwegian newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv investigated those numbers in the 2016 report. “After receiving a hard drive from an alleged whistle-blower, they hired an expert to investigate,” says an un-credited VICE reporter. The woman responsible for the probe was Professor Katrin Franke from the Norwegian University for Science and Technology. VICE visits the forensics laboratory where the investigation took place. “Her team found unusual listening patterns in Tidal’s user data from Kanye and Beyoncé’s ’16 LPs. “There are multiple timestamps with exactly [the same] hour, minute, second, millisecond, and they had all the same user ID, and they had all the track records, which would imply that this one user needs to have 60 devices where he pushes at the same millisecond the button to play the favorite record. Likely? [No],” Franke says to VICE.

Franke deduces that 320 million streams across 1.7 million suspicious looking accounts were included in Tidal’s reporting data. That data also showed users listening to the same sequence of tracks again and again, throughout the same day.

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VICE also spoke to Jeremy Simmons, a Maryland-based Tidal subscriber and professed Bey’ adorer. Franke’s team analyzed his account within the data on the leaked hard drive. That information suggests that Simmons streamed Lemonade for 18 hours on a single day in April of 2016. “Yikes. There’s no way. I love Beyoncé, but 18 hours is…no,” Simmons says with a laugh, after learning of the timestamps in the data. “That leaves six hours of the day [not listening to Lemonade].”

The report shares that Tidal reportedly paid Universal Music Group $2.2 million for streams of ‘Ye’s Pablo a month after its release. Beyoncé’s label and distributor, Sony Records, received $2.5 million for Tidal’s Lemonade streams through mid-May. The report points out that those revenues have implications to other artists, as royalties are determined by a percentage of all streams within a period. In other words, Kanye and Bey’ are not paid by the individual stream, but by the percentages of their streams in a set period, against all other artists. If those numbers were deliberately inflated, then money belonging to another artist was allocated to West, Beyonce, and their respective teams and labels.

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Dagens Naeringsliv provided a snapshot and analysis based on the data they obtained. Kanye received 50% of all revenue paid to artists between February 14 and 23, 2006. Meanwhile, Beyoncé gathered 52% of all artist revenue between April 24 and May 5 that same year.

VICE points out that Tidal has disputed these claims. They told the news agency, “The information on the hard drive was stolen and manipulated” and intends to “fight the allegations made by Dagens Naeringsliv. The platform calls the 2016 report “a smear campaign.” Meanwhile, the company is investigating what they are referring to as “a data breach.”

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VICE contacted Tidal’s artist-owners and Sprint, who now owns 33% of the company. Those artists are said to include Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, T.I., J. Cole, Daft Punk, Chris Martin, Madonna, and others. The artist-owners that responded declined to comment.