Tidal is pushing back on an explosive investigative report out of Norway that alleges the streaming service manipulated listener data for a pair of albums by Beyonce and Kanye West, calling it a “smear campaign” based on stolen information.
Dagens Næringsliv, a Norwegian newspaper, published a report on Wednesday claiming to be based on information found in a hard drive containing “billions” of rows of song data.
The newspaper claims that the data shows that play counts for both Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Kanye West’s The Life Of Pablo “have been manipulated to the tune of several hundred million false plays… which has generated massive royalty payouts at the expense of other artists.”
“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,'” a Tidal rep told Billboard when reached for comment. “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.”
To coincide with its report, Dagens Næringsliv worked with researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, which examined the illicit hard drive data and found “various methods” used to beef up track plays on the albums.
“We have through advanced statistical analysis determined that there has in fact been a manipulation of the [TIDAL] data at particular times,” the report stated. “The manipulation appears targeted towards a very specific set of track IDs, related to two distinct albums.”
Following their respective releases, Tidal claimed Pablo was streamed 250 million times in its first 10 days, while Lemonade was streamed 306 million in 15 days.
For roughly two months following its Feb. 13, 2017 release, Pablo‘s streaming numbers were not reported by Tidal to Nielsen Music, meaning it could not register on the Billboard charts. When West’s album became available on other digital services on April 1, the album was able to chart and “debuted” at No. 1 on the Billboard 200. Lemonade was (and remains) a Tidal exclusive streaming-wise but was made available in physical format the week of its April 23, 2016 release, and also debuted atop the Billboard 200 chart.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates…