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REPORT: TIDAL FALSIFIED BEYONCÉ, KANYE NUMBERS

For more than two years, the numbers Jay-Z's Tidal has touted have had curious minds hitting their adding machines and saying something’s not right. An investigation by a Norwegian newspaper, Dagens Næringsliv, reveals that Tidal has inflated both its subscriber numbers and the play tallies for Beyoncé and Kanye West.

Under the headline Beyonce Lyttertall Pa Tidaler Manipulert—that translates to “Beyonce’s listening time is manipulated”—the paper reported that the two artists’ listener numbers “have been manipulated to the tune of several hundred million false plays… which has generated massive royalty payouts at the expense of other artists.” Music Business Worldwide did the heavy lifting of translating the story.

Back in March 2016, we questioned Tidal’s numbers on Ye’s Life of Pablo, writing “We're not math wizards, but we took off our shoes and socks so we could count on both fingers and toes and our rough calculation is that 3m goes into 250m about 80 times. Which means that every single one of Tidal's paid subscribers have played Pablo in its entirety eight times a day every day for 10 days.”

The DN, armed with a hard drive that listed users’ data, reached out to Tidal subscribers to see if they did indeed listen to Lemonade and The Life of Pablo non-stop.

Told he listened to Lemonade more than 50 times, Copenhagen-based composer Halfdan Nielsen said “nonsense”; informed that she played Lemonade tracks 180 times within 24 hours, Washington, D.C. law student Tiare Faatea said, “No, that can’t be right.” And music critic Geir Rakvaag may be a night owl but he says it’s “physically impossible” for him to The Life of Pablo 54 times in the middle of the night.

The Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Center for Cyber and Information Security investigated further and released a report that’s fortunately in English. (You can read it here but be warned: you will be blinded by science).

On key finding is in a comparison of Rihanna plays in January when she had a Tidal exclusive to Kanye and Beyonce plays upon release of their albums. On 2/28/16, the top 13 tracks were all from Rihanna’s album, a total of 4.41m playbacks.

The top 18 tracks played on 2/14/16 were all from The Life of Pablo, 33.33m, or 655.15% more playbacks than Rihanna’s album on their release dates.

They then noticed “Kanye’s Life of Pablo continued to have unnatural high number of playbacks over several days. Although both Kanye and Rihanna have somewhat similar popularity, Rihanna’s album flattened out much quicker. Even if this particular music streaming platform could have a certain user base, we would expect Kanye’s spike to react in a similar fashion as Rihanna’s spike. That is, a small spike (not quite as high as indicated by the figure) and then a fast decline and normalisation of the numbers.”

“According to the logs, every single user supposedly listened to a large number of tracks at precisely the same second in time,” the DN reported. “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 CCIS’s data states that more than 170m plays of Lemonade on Tidal conform to the same repetitive patterns. More than 1.3m subscriber accounts were reportedly tapped into.

Tidal denied manipulating streaming figures or tampering with royalty payments when the DN asked for a comment. They further reported that Tidal’s legal team at Reed Smith attempted to shut down the CCIS study, writing “DN lied to NTNU and falsified the underlying data to procure a ‘study’ which suited their foregone conclusions.”

“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,’” reads a Tidal statement published in various outlets, which cites a January 2017 report in which Dagens Næringsliv hurled these epithets at Jay-Z and Roc Nation executive Lior Tibon. “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.”

 

 

 

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