Jay-Z’s Tidal Now Under Investigation By Norway For Economic Crimes Over Alleged Fake Streaming Numbers

Written by Dana Sanchez

Jay-Z’s streaming service, Tidal, is under investigation by Norway’s economic crimes unit for allegedly manipulating streaming volume.

In 2015, Jay-Z bought Aspiro, the Scandinavian parent company of a streaming service formerly known as Wimp, for $56 million. Jay-Z sold a third of his stake in the subscription-based music and video streaming service to Sprint in 2017 for $200 million, based on a $600 million valuation.

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Norwegian financial newspaper Dagens Næringsliv said in May 2018 that it had an internal Tidal company hard drive which proved the streaming service had artificially inflated play counts for two major 2016 albums – Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” and Kanye West’s “The Life Of Pablo.”

“Beyoncé’s and Kanye West’s listener numbers on Tidal have been manipulated to the tune of several hundred million false plays… which has generated massive royalty payouts at the expense of other artists,”
DN reported.

Elisabeth Harbo-Lervik, an attorney with Norway’s economic crimes authority, Økokrim, said in an email, “It has been made known through media coverage that the reports relate to Tidal’s streaming service and a suspicion that someone has manipulated the number of plays of some songs,” Bloomberg reported.

Jay-Z's Tidal
FILE – In this Nov. 26, 2017 file photo, Jay-Z performs on the 4:44 Tour at Barclays Center in New York. Jay-Z and Beyonce have released a joint album that touches on the rapper’s disgust at this year’s Grammy Awards and features a shout out from their daughter Blue Ivy to her siblings. The pair released the nine-track album “Everything Is Love” Saturday, June 16, 2018, on the Tidal music streaming service that Jay-Z partially owns. (Photo by Scott Roth/Invision/AP, File)

A Tidal spokeswoman said the streaming service is not a suspect in the underlying investigation. “We’re communicating with Økokrim. We are aware that at least one person we suspected of theft has been questioned.”

Økokrim said it initiated the investigation to confirm or deny the alleged manipulation, according to HarboLervi. Tidal has not been charged in the investigation, according to lawyer Fredrik Berg, New York Post reported.

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A year after buying Tidal, Jay-Z sent a letter to previous owner Schibsted ASA, a Norwegian media company, accusing the seller of overstating subscriber numbers at the time of the deal, Bloomberg reported.

When Tono, a Norwegian songwriter’s association,o filed a police complaint against Tidal, the service denied the accusations and launched a still-ongoing internal review conducted by a third-party cybersecurity company, according to Engadget.

At least four former Tidal employees including the former head of business intelligence (responsible for analyzing streams) have been interrogated before a judge as part of the investigation, Økokrim says.

Three of the four apparently recognized signs of meddling with the Beyoncé and Kanye West albums and contacted a lawyer before notifying Tidal. An internal meeting was held subsequently and all three employees resigned from Tidal in 2016. They what a DN source called “the gold standard of confidentiality contracts”.

Since 2016, Tidal has faced reports of failed royalty payments and faked subscriber counts. In 2017, Tidal lost one of its original artist-owners, Kanye West, who claimed that the company owed him $3 million.


About Dana Sanchez

Dana Sanchez was born in South Africa and is a U.S. citizen. After working in advertising, she went back to school and earned a master's degree in journalism from the University of South Florida. As a business writer, she won regional and national writing awards. As editor of a daily newspaper, she coordinated staff writers, freelancers and photographers in the fast-paced environment of daily news. Dana was an editor at Moguldom Media Group for four years, helping to build and manage a team of staff and freelance writers. She works now on Moguldom.com for Nubai Ventures. A long-distance hiker and cyclist, she writes about the business of technology.