Jay-Z has sued the original owners of his Tidal streaming service for allegedly inflating subscriber figures, in the latest twist to the company’s uneven relaunch. After just 6 weeks — Kanye West put his full album on Spotify, Apple Music, Google Play, and even SoundCloud
Jay-Z last year bought Tidal from Aspiro, a tech company based in Norway and listed in Sweden, for 464 million Swedish kronor ($56 million) as he sought to enter the fast-growing streaming sector and challenge leader Spotify.
“It became clear after taking control of Tidal and conducting our own audit that the total number of subscribers was actually well below the 540,000 reported to us by the prior owners,” Tidal said in a statement Thursday.
“As a result, we have now served legal notice to parties involved in the sale,” it said, declining further details due to the litigation.
The lawsuit was first reported by the Norwegian business newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv, which said that Jay-Z’s business arm Project Panther Bidco sent a notice to several Aspiro board members.
It quoted a representative for one of the stakeholders, Norwegian media group Schibsted, as denying the allegations and saying that Aspiro presented accurate and transparent data.
In February, just a few days after releasing his new album “Life of Pablo” exclusively on the streaming service Tidal, Kanye West said on Twitter, “My album will never never never be on Apple… You can only get it on Tidal.”
In the past, on the issue of exclusivity and when periods of exclusivity end, Tidal has said that it supports whatever way its artists want to distribute their content—exclusive to Tidal or not.
That sounds supportive indeed, but make no mistake: this is not a good look for Tidal, which scored mega buzz (and 400 million streams, 250 million of them in the first 10 days) by holding the album exclusively—buoyed by the artist’s insistence it would never be heard anywhere but Tidal. If there were West fans who had signed up for Tidal specifically to hear “The Life of Pablo,” they’d be justified in being aggravated.
West’s change of tune is unfortunate timing for Tidal, which otherwise had a big week of positive news.