Jay-Z’s Tidal Says ‘Potential Data Breach’ May Have Inflated Streams for Kanye West, Beyoncé

Streaming service investigates accusations it artificially boosted play counts

Tidal is investigating a “potential data breach” that could have led to heavily inflated play counts for Kanye West and Beyoncé — resulting in higher royalty payments — the streaming service said on Friday.

The announcement comes weeks after Norwegian publication Dagens Næringsliv reported Tidal had boosted their streaming numbers by “several hundred million.” Tidal fired back, saying it was a “smear campaign” based on stolen company data. It’s worth mentioning Tidal’s principal owner, Jay-Z, is married to Beyoncé and has a longstanding on-again, off-again musical relationship with West.

“When we learned of a potential data breach we immediately, and aggressively, began pursuing multiple avenues available to uncover what occurred,” Tidal CEO Richard Sanders said in a statement shared with TheWrap.  “This included reporting it to proper authorities, pursuing legal action, and proactively taking steps to further strengthen our stringent security measures that are already in place.”

Sanders added Tidal had “engaged an independent, third party cyber-security firm to conduct a review of what happened and help us further protect the security and integrity of our data.”

DN enlisted a Norwegian university to review Tidal’s data for its report. The publication determined the numbers were internally inflated, rather than altered by an outside hacker, with Tidal manipulating user data to increase streams.

DN contacted three Tidal users to ask about their listening habits. One user had listened to West’s “The Life of Pablo” 54 times during one night — something the user said was “physically impossible.” A different user also said data showing they’d listened to “Lemonade” by Beyoncé 180 times in one day was incorrect.

Altogether, Tidal claimed “Pablo” racked up 250 million streams in its first 10 days of release in February 2016, while “Lemonade” was streamed more than 300 million times in the two weeks following its April 2016 release. Tidal reported about 3 million subscribers during that time.

Those big streaming numbers led to big payouts for each artist’s record label. Tidal paid Sony, Beyoncé’s label, about $2.5 million between April and May 2016 for “Lemonade,” and paid about $2.4 million to Universal for West’s “TLOP,” according to DN.

Jay-Z launched Tidal in 2015 with a star-studded affair, promising to give artists a better cut than streaming giants like Spotify and Apple Music.

Read Tidal’s full statement below:

We reject and deny the claims that have been made by Dagens Næringsliv. Although we do not typically comment on stories we believe to be false, we feel it is important to make sure that our artists, employees, and subscribers know that we are not taking the security and integrity of our data lightly, and we will not back down from our commitment to them.

When we learned of a potential data breach we immediately, and aggressively, began pursuing multiple avenues available to uncover what occurred. This included reporting it to proper authorities, pursuing legal action, and proactively taking steps to further strengthen our stringent security measures that are already in place.

Additionally, we have engaged an independent, third party cyber-security firm to conduct a review of what happened and help us further protect the security and integrity of our data.  We are proud of the hard work, devotion to our artist driven mission, and tremendous accomplishments of our over one hundred employees in Norway and fifty more in the United States. We look forward to sharing with them, and all of our partners, the results of the review once completed.