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How Tidal may have juiced streaming numbers for albums by Kanye and Beyoncé

An alleged whistle-blower leaked data to the Norwegian paper Dagens Naeringsliv, which appears to show that numbers were inflated by 320 million listens.

Jay Z’s music streaming service, Tidal, is dodging accusations that it manipulated its streaming numbers after an alleged whistle-blower leaked data to the Norwegian paper Dagens Naeringsliv suggesting that numbers for Beyoncé's “Lemonade” and Kanye West's "The Life of Pablo" were inflated by 320 million listens.

Most music streaming services pay their artists from a shared pool of money, and if Beyoncé and Kanye’s numbers were manipulated, they may have taken away royalty payments from other artists on the platform. Tidal has disputed these claims.


Dagens Naeringsliv grew interested in Tidal in 2016 after the platform released stats on its listeners. In a statement, Tidal said it had more than 3 million users, and that Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo” had been streamed more than 250 million times in just ten days. That prompted the newspaper to begin an investigation, which yielded what appeared to be Tidal’s internal streaming data.

Professor Katrin Franke at the Norwegian University for Science and Technology analyzed the data and found some very unusual listening behavior for “The Life of Pablo” and “Lemonade”. It looked as if some users were listening to the same song up to 122 times at exactly the same time, on the hour, down to the very millisecond.

Other data appeared to show users listening to tracks in the same patterns over and over again throughout the same day. In total, Franke and her team found around 1.7 million accounts had been affected.

Four music associations in Norway — TONO, Gramart, Fono and MFO — have launched criminal complaints against Tidal with the Norwegian police. Tidal denied the claims, telling VICE News that the information on the hard drive was stolen and manipulated, and that it intends to “vigorously” fight the allegations.

This segment originally aired August 2, 2018 on VICE News Tonight on HBO.