An elbows-deep probe into Tidal and its allegedly inflated streaming numbers on a bunch of titles has entered the next phase as Norwegian authorities launch their own investigation into the digital platform.
The Norwegian Authority for Investigation of Economic and Environmental Crime (Okokrim), the Nordic territory’s central unit for tackling economic and environmental crimes, says it would explore whether “someone” had fudged Tidal’s data, and legal proceedings haven’t been ruled out.
The development stems from an investigation by Norwegian financial newspaper Dagens Næringsliv last year which alleged that Tidal was involved in a ruse where streaming numbers for Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo and Beyonce‘s Lemonade were falsely pumped by more than 300 million total plays, resulting in massive royalty payouts at the expense of other recording artists.
The DN’s investigation was sparked by a lucky find: a hard drive with dubious contents, which TIDAL strongly challenged. Along the way, reporters interviewed scores of subscribers and artists and got in touch with the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, which reportedly assembled some of the country’s “leading experts in data security and cybercrime prevention” to get on the case (its forensic analysis can be read here.)
The streaming service, which has been plagued by myriad issues and leadership spills since its headline-snatching launch in 2015, is owned by Beyonce’s husband and Kanye’s frequent collaborator Jay-Z (for a refresher, read Music Business Worldwide’s report.)
At the time of the expose, Tidal called the DN story “a smear campaign from a publication that once referred to our employee as an ‘Israeli Intelligence officer’ and our owner as a ‘crack dealer’” and downplayed the allegations as “lies and falsehoods.”
However, Tidal’s lawyer this week told the BBC that it is liaising with Okokrim on the investigation and that its company was “not under suspicion in this case”. A statement from Tidal reads, “From the very beginning, DN has quoted documents that they have not shared with us in spite of repeated requests. DN has repeatedly made claims based on information we believe may be falsified. We are aware that at least one person we suspected of theft has been questioned. We cannot comment further at this time.”
Reps for Tidal referred the Verge to an earlier statement in which it said it was investigating the initial breach that led to DN journalists getting their hands on its data. Tidal has also tapped a cyber-security company to review the security and integrity of its figures.
Gauging Tidal’s popularity is mostly guesswork, but it’s safe to say its user-base is significantly behind the likes of Spotify and Apple Music. In numbers shared with the Verge in July 2018, MusicWatch estimated the streamer had around 3 million subscribers globally, including trial accounts.