Music streaming service Tidal is under criminal investigation for allegedly faking streams

Why it matters: Tidal’s owner, Jay-Z, is married to Beyoncé, and Kanye famously left Tidal after claiming it owed him several million dollars. Tidal offers some of the highest artist payouts in the industry, but is that really true?

Tidal, the high-quality music streaming service owned by Jay-Z, is under criminal investigation in Norway. This case stems from a report back in mid-2018 that shows Tidal artificially inflating streaming numbers for Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo album and Beyoncé’s Lemonade album.

The initial investigation was done by Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv and revealed some surprising findings. They allege that streams of the two albums in question were inflated by several hundred million plays to help boost royalty payments to the two artists.

The newspaper discovered the irregularities after they received a hard drive containing streaming data for the two albums. It showed numerous occasions where users supposedly listened to Beyoncé’s album 180 times in a single day even though that would take 144 hours. Analysis of the data also showed cases where Tidal allegedly accessed user accounts to play tracks from The Life of Pablo in the middle of the night. There were over 150 million plays that all started at the exact same time, down to the millisecond, at 2 a.m. and 5 a.m.

As a result of these irregularities, Norway’s economic crimes division, Økokrim, has begun an investigation. So far, they have interrogated four former employees in front of a judge. Three of them recognized signs of the data manipulation and contacted a lawyer before bringing up the concerns with management. These three resigned back in 2016 after signing a confidentiality contract.

Tidal has stated that they did not boost the streams in question and that the hard drive was actually stolen and manipulated to frame them. They released the following statement: “Tidal is at this time not a suspect nor has there been filed charges. We have an ongoing dialogue with Økokrim. It would not be right to share the contents of this discussion with the press.”

This is not Tidal’s first allegation of wrongdoing. They have previously been accused of faking subscriber numbers and failing to pay royalties to artists.

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