Norwegian collection society Tono, representing around 30,000 songwriters, lyricists and composers, as well as more 2.5 million songwriters worldwide, has filed an official police complaint against Tidal, following allegations denied by the streaming service that it deliberately faked its play counts.
Last week, Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv 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 were played. Tidal has strongly denied the newspaper’s allegations, calling them “a smear campaign” made up of “lies and falsehoods,” which it will fight vigorously.
The report, which was produced in conjunction with Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) — based on data passed to the newspaper by an anonymous source — claimed that Tidal used genuine user accounts to significantly beef up the number of streams of both albums with more than 320 million false plays, alleging that the false data had “generated massive royalty payouts at the expense of other artists.”
The investigation prompted Tono to report Tidal to the Norwegian National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime. The police body has confirmed it has received a complaint but is yet to announce if it will investigate the claims.
“We have to protect the interests of the rights holders for whom we work, but we also believe that a complaint is in the interest of Tidal, which says the data has been stolen and manipulated,” Tono director Cato Strom said in a statement.
Danish collection society Koda also announced today that it will be conducting an independent audit of Tidal data “so that we can come to terms with the matter and ensure that our members have received the money from Tidal that belongs to them.”
Other music organizations are considering filing complaints against Tidal based on the Norwegian newspaper story as well, Billboard has learned.
Dagens Næringsliv‘s investigation into Tidal’s streaming data isn’t the first time that Tidal’s business practices have come under scrutiny. Last year, the same newspaper said the service — which JAY-Z purchased for $56 million in 2015 — had falsely reported having 3 million subscribers in March 2016. That was the last time the company has released information about its subscriber numbers.
Quoting a London-based record executive, the paper claimed the real number was closer to 850,000. It also alleged that the company was losing up to $70,000 per day.
In 2016, JAY-Z himself issued legal papers to the former owners of Tidal’s previous parent, Aspiro AB, for allegedly inflating its subscriber base at the time of his purchase.
“It became clear after taking control of Tidal and conducting our own audit that the total number of subscribers was actually well below the 540,000 reported to us by the prior owners,” said a statement from JAY-Z’s Project Panther Bidco holding company at the time.
Last January, Sprint acquired a 33 percent stake in Tidal worth a reported $200 million with Sprint CEO Marcelo Claure joining its board as part of the acquisition.