- Tidal, the music streaming platform owned by Jay-Z, is being investigated by Norwegian authorities for allegedly manipulating and inflating streaming play counts, according to Reuters.
- Although the official investigation was just launched, the Norwegian newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv has been investigating Tidal’s numbers, and reported on the issue last year.
- The newspaper claimed that Tidal had over-reported the play counts for Beyonce’s “Lemonade” and Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo” by “several hundred million,” and used over a million fake accounts to manipulate streaming numbers.
Norwegian police have launched an investigation into Jay-Z’s music streaming service as a result of allegations that play counts were over-reported to make the platform seem more successful and popular than it actually is, according to Reuters.
Claims that Tidal was fabricating its numbers were first leveled against the platform last year by a Norwegian newspaper, but an official criminal investigation was launched Monday, Reuters reports. The newspaper, Dagens Naeringsliv, concluded after a year-long investigation that the listener numbers Tidal reported were “manipulated to the tune of several hundred million false plays.”
Specifically, the publication found the biggest discrepancies in Tidal’s reported numbers for two particular albums: Beyonce’s “Lemonade” and Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo.”
The albums, which were both released in 2016, premiered exclusively on Tidal. In its reported numbers, which are the same given to record labels and investors, Tidal said the albums had racked up hundreds of millions of streams within the first 15 days of release — 306 million for Beyonce and 205 million for West.
But the Norwegian paper worked with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and concluded the data didn’t add up. By over-reporting numbers, Tidal could garner “massive royalty payouts at the expense of other artists,” the newspaper said.
Tidal has called the allegations false, and slammed the Norwegian newspaper for launching a targeted “smear campaign.” In a statement provided to Business Insider, Tidal said Monday it was “not a suspect” in the Norwegian police’s investigation.
Norwegian authorities confirmed to Reuters they had opened an investigation into “whether someone has manipulated the number of times certain songs have been played.” No one has been charged, but at least four former Tidal employees have already been questioned, Engadget reported.
Tidal has struggled, despite its impressive roster of well-known celebrity backers (including Madonna and Coldplay frontman Chris Martin). The streaming service was originally known as WiMP, but was acquired by Jay Z in 2015 and launched as Tidal to rival music streaming services from Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, and Apple Music.
Allegations of problems at Tidal were reported by Norway’s Dagens Næringsliv newspaper first in 2016. The publication reported Tidal was behind on paying more than 100 outstanding bills to record labels, ad agencies, and banks. The newspaper then reported in 2017 that Tidal inflated the number of how many subscribers the service had.
Tidal grew in popularity by brokering deals with artists to exclusively release their music on the streaming platform. However, West cut ties with Tidal is 2017, and alleged the service owed him more than $3 million. West turned to a small streaming app called WAV when it was time to release his next album, “Ye,”in 2018.