TIDAL accused of manipulating streaming data

A report by Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv claims that Jay-Z’s platform faked the streaming numbers for Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo and Beyoncé’s Lemonade.

The streaming figures have reportedly led to tampered royalty payments, and the two aforementioned artists, along with their record companies, receiving larger payments at the expense of other artists. TIDAL has denied accusations of any manipulation.

In March 2016, the platform claimed that it had exceeded three million subscribers and from its six-week exclusive of Kanye’s The Life of Pablo, meaning the album had been streamed 250 million times in 10 days. The platform also later stated that Lemonade had been played 306 million times during TIDAL’s 15-day exclusive.

DN began an investigation in January 2017, following TIDAL’s accusations of deliberately inflated streaming figures. After acquiring a hard drive of TIDAL data, the publication tracked down a number of subscribers to ask whether the statistics matched. One example is composer Halfdan Nielsen in Copenhagen, who allegedly streamed Lemonade over 50 times. According to Nielsen, the figures were “nonsense”.

NTNU’s Center for Cyber and Information Security (CCIS) also examined the data and produced a report, which found that various methods were used to up the streaming count. The report states: “We have through advanced statistical analysis determined that there has in fact been a manipulation of the [TIDAL] data at particular times. The manipulation appears targeted towards a very specific set of track IDs, related to two distinct albums.”

TIDAL has also been accused of accessing user accounts to play duplicates of The Life of Pablo tracks at precisely 2am and 5am, while user patterns were replicated for Lemonade. DN reports on The Life of Pablo: “According to the logs, every single user supposedly listened to a large number of tracks at precisely the same second in time.”

The figures for the two albums make up a large portion of record company royalty payments, with The Life of Pablo cashing in €2 million of a €3.2 million payment from TIDAL to Universal. The streaming platform has denied the accusations, and DN reports that TIDAL’s legal team alleged the newspaper “falsified the underlying data to procure a ‘study’ which suited their foregone conclusions.”

“TIDAL believes that the data the report is based on is stolen, incomplete for the relevant periods, that DN has changed the data and has lied to NTNU about the origin and content of the data.”

Read the full report here.

(via Music Business Worldwide)