After a feverish buildup, Kanye West's Yeezy 3 fashion show/world premiere of his new album The Life of Pablo kicked off Thursday (Feb. 11) shortly after 4 p.m. at Madison Square Garden, with a simultaneous broadcast at hundreds of movie theaters around the world. And for those who couldn't get a ticket -- either to the Garden or to a theater -- Tidal announced Wednesday that the show would stream in its entirety for both members and non-members on its website. A win-win for everybody who wanted to tune in, right?
Not quite. As it went live right before 4 p.m., many people who pressed play on Tidal's hi-def stream were met with extremely long loading times, frequent interruptions or a stream that simply refused to work. Twitter users were predictably vocal, with a series of increasingly vitriolic tweets aimed at the subscription service until information began spreading from frustrated Kanye fans that lowering the video quality to 240p -- the fourth-highest-quality video out of five options, with 720p being the highest definition -- allowed the stream to function.
THERE ARE 2 KINDS OF PEOPLE IN THE WORLD RIGHT NOW
1. THE PPL WHO ARE AT MSG
2. THE PPL WHO ARE FAILING AT LIVE STREAMING MSG#YeezySeason3
— 300 Entertainment (@300) February 11, 2016
At 5:20 p.m., a Tidal rep sent out a statement acknowledging the difficulties: "With over 20 million people logging in at once to stream the show there were tech issues from AMV, the provider with service from Akamai. Any viewers still having issues can refresh their browsers or set it to a lower streaming level."
Perhaps it's an understandable issue; 20 million people is certainly a high volume for any server to handle at once, and the lower-quality streaming level did solve the problem for most users. But to not recognize that as an issue seems a short-sighted approach for a company that launched last March with as much star power as it could muster on one stage: 16 of the most famous musicians on the planet, all who received a reported 3 percent stake in the company (Kanye among them).
It's the second time in 10 days that Tidal was called out for dropping the ball on an important issue before laying the blame at the feet of another company. Feb. 2, following the chaotic rollout of Rihanna's ANTI -- which was briefly posted live on Tidal hours before its release and unsurprisingly leaked as a result -- Tidal's marketing director Grace Kim told SPIN the leak was a "system error," and a rep followed up with the publication to clarify Kim was "referring to a system error caused by Universal Music Group. The error was not something Tidal caused." In response, a UMG exec was scathing. "This whole thing is absurd. We would have taken responsibility if it were our error," the executive, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Billboard. "Instead of having their flack flail around trying to revise their own media spin, maybe they should just focus on serving Rihanna -- that's what we're focused on."
Tidal was founded on an artist-first principle, emphasizing high-quality streaming and artist-friendly royalty rates as an alternative to the low-fi MP3 quality and controversially low streaming rates set out by its competitors. Now arguably its two most high-profile events to date have been stung by issues directly related to those founding principles -- and within a two-week period -- with the company deferring responsibility both times.
As for TLOP, the new Kanye West album exists somewhere in the world but currently is being finished, as 'Ye himself admitted during the show (for those able to watch). Upon first listen, it features Rihanna, Future, Frank Ocean, Ty Dolla $ign, Swizz Beatz, Chance the Rapper, The Weeknd and Young Thug, among others. And so we wait.