Published May 09, 2018A new investigative report alleges streaming service Tidal deliberately boosted streaming numbers for albums by Beyoncé and Kanye West, with the company now calling the allegations "a smear campaign."
The report from Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv [via Music Business Worldwide] alleges that numbers for Beyoncé's Lemonade and West's The Life of Pablo were altered by hundreds of millions of plays. MBW writes that reporters from the Danish paper obtained a hard drive that allegedly contained "billions of rows of [internal TIDAL data]: times and song titles, user IDs and country codes."
Dagens Næringsliv brought the drive to Norwegian University of Science and Technology's Center for Cyber and Information Security to study. Its study, which can be viewed in full here, found that songs from both Lemonade and Pablo were falsely played over 320 million times.
MBW reports that Tidal has disputed the veracity of the information found on the drive, though DN alleges the numbers match with information provided by record labels during the time period in question.
"We have through advanced statistical analysis determined that there has in fact been a manipulation of the [TIDAL] data at particular times," the report reads. "The manipulation appears targeted towards a very specific set of track IDs, related to two distinct albums."
Alleged false plays include one user playing West's Pablo tracks 96 times in one day, with 54 of the streams coming in the middle of the night. Another instance found users "listening" to more than 150 million "duplicate" of Pablo tracks at once at unusually precise intervals, restarted at the same second and millisecond.
"Given how targeted and comprehensive the manipulation is, it is highly improbable that the manipulation could solely be the result of a code-based bug or other anomaly," the report states, concluding that "[It] is highly likely that the manipulation happened from within the streaming service itself."
In a statement to Variety, Tidal responded: "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."
Variety adds that the "Israeli Intelligence officer" and "crack dealer" comments were made in previous stories from Dagens Næringsliv about Tidal, referring to Tidal COO Lior Tibon and JAY-Z, respectively.
In January 2017, Dagens Næringsliv alleged that Tidal was inflating the number of users subscribed the service. In December of that year, DN also reported that Tidal had lost $44 million USD before taxes in 2016. A spokesperson for the service responded, "We have experienced negative stories about Tidal since its inception and we have done nothing but grow the business each year."
As of press time, West, Beyoncé and JAY-Z have not commented on the report.