Kanye West's The Life of Pablo is a mystery: it's not for sale, it is constantly changing, and until today, it was impossible to grasp how many people had even played the thing. Barring an abruptly canceled day one digital sale, the only way you could hear the album legally was to stream it on Tidal, and they didn't seem keen on sharing the play count. Tidal has finally released the streaming figures for Pablo's first week, initially embargoed by West—you only have to share these numbers if you want—and it looks like the album pulled in a hefty 250 million streams in its first ten days. By the new Billboard album chart, which counts 1,500 streams as one equivalent album sale, that means Pablo probably "sold" a ballpark 100-150k equivalent units week one.
That figure is profoundly effected by the jarring lack of physical and digital copies for sale and fact that Tidal is the smallest of the Big Three music streaming services, boasting 3 million subscribers to Apple Music's 11 million and Spotify's 30 million. Pablo's Tidal exclusivity still puzzles many; one wonders what Kanye gained in return for his loyalty and advocacy. (Note that the Tidal push is broken this week as West released the Rihanna collaboration "Famous" as a single available on Apple Music and Spotify.)
This week marks the one year anniversary of Tidal's star-studded spring 2015 launch event, and the service has finally begun to cash in on its megawatt star power, releasing the surprise Beyoncé single "Formation" and long-awaited Rihanna album Anti just a few weeks apart and then capping off the winter with The Life of Pablo. It's exciting to watch the fascinating methods Tidal's talented shareholders are using to leverage their fame to push their fledgling service into the stratosphere.