The Norwegian economic and environmental crimes unit known as ØOKOKRIM has confirmed a report by financial newspaper Dagens Næringsliv that it is investigating multiple allegations that some streaming numbers on Tidal had been manipulated.
ØOKOKRIM said it is looking into four complaints about the music streaming service's numbers, including from the collection society Tono, recording artist association GramArt and the indie label org Fono. "It has been made known through media coverage that the reviews relate to... a suspicion that someone has manipulated the number of plays of some songs," the authorities said, via translation.
In May 2018, DN reported that the JAY-Z-owned service had been manipulating its streaming data to grossly inflate the number of times that Kanye West's The Life of Pablo and Beyoncé's Lemonade albums were played. Tidal strongly denied the allegations, calling them "a smear campaign" made up of "lies and falsehoods," which it will fight vigorously.
DN's original report was based on data provided by an anonymous source and purported to show that Tidal used genuine user accounts to beef up the number of streams of both albums by more than 320 million false plays.
Following the publication of the report, Tono filed its complaint to ØOKOKRIM, officially called the Norwegian National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime. At the time, the agency did not hint at whether it would investigate the claims.
In a statement Monday, Tidal acknowledged being in communication with ØOKOKRIM but flatly denied it is a "suspect" in the government's investigation. As it has done in the past, Tidal takes issue with DN's reporting tactics, saying its claims are based on possibly falsified information.
"Tidal is not a suspect in the investigation," a rep said in a statement. "We are communicating with Økokrim. From the very beginning, DN has quoted documents that they have not shared with us in spite of repeated requests. DN has repeatedly made claims based on information we believe may be falsified. We are aware that at least one person we suspected of theft has been questioned. We cannot comment further at this time."
When reports first surfaced back in May, Tidal CEO Richard Sanders released a statement himself, saying the company "reject[s] and den[ies] the claims" and referred to the story as false.
"When we learned of a potential data breach we immediately, and aggressively, began pursuing multiple avenues available to uncover what occurred," Sanders continued. "This included reporting it to proper authorities, pursuing legal action, and proactively taking steps to further strengthen our stringent security measures that are already in place. Additionally, we have engaged an independent, third party cyber-security firm to conduct a review of what happened and help us further protect the security and integrity of our data. We are proud of the hard work, devotion to our artist driven mission, and tremendous accomplishments of our over 100 employees in Norway and 50 more in the United States. We look forward to sharing with them, and all of our partners, the results of the review once completed."