Tidal denies manipulating its data, claiming the Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv lied to the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, which did the analysis. "The CCIS report finds that "various methods" were used to alter streaming totals, noting, "Given how targeted and comprehensive the manipulation is, it is highly improbable that the manipulation could exclusively be the result of a code-based bug or other anomaly", and concluding, "[It] is highly likely that the manipulation happened from within the streaming service itself". "The information was stolen and manipulated and we will fight these claims vigorously", said the Tidal spokesperson.
Back in 2016 Kanye launched his divisive but explosive album The Life of Pablo, with an exclusive release on TIDAL for 6 weeks. Although TIDAL has contested the authenticity of the data on the hard drive, the numbers match exactly with information received by record labels during the dates in question.
Kanye's The Life of Pablo brought in 250 million streams in its first 10 days, TIDAL reported at the time of its release. Manipulation seems to target a very specific set of songs associated with two distinct albums, ' the paper reports the CCIS concluding, later adding: 'Given targeted and extensive manipulation, it is highly unlikely that manipulation can only be a result of a code-based bug or other nonconformity'.
There is also nothing to indicate a data breach from the outside leaving us to conclude that the manipulation happened within TIDAL itself.
A spokesperson told Dagens Næringsliv the article and report were a "smear campaign". But things certainly don't look good for the streaming service. In addition to Jay-Z, its owners include both Beyoncé and Kanye West, as well as 13 other acts, including some of the biggest names in music. At the time, Tidal was promoted as being the first artist-owned streaming service. Similarly, Tidal reportedly paid $2.5 million to Beyoncé's label Sony in April and May of 2016, of a total royalty payment in excess of $4 million.
If the accusations are true it will create a giant firestorm of controversy and lawsuits in the already struggling music industry, but if it is proven to in fact just be a smear campaign, Dagens Næringsliv should expect Tidal and its team to come down on them legally with excessive force. The newspaper has also accused Tidal of inflating its subscriber numbers in the past, claims (which were supported by research from British firm Midia) that the streaming service has also denied.