Has TIDAL gone back on its most central promise?
It certainly looks that way, if the latest report by Norwegian newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv (DN) is to be believed. DN is the same newspaper that uncovered evidence last week that TIDAL faked hundreds of millions of plays on Beyoncé's Lemonade and Kanye West's The Life of Pablo.
DN discovered the juiced-up play counts after it was covertly given a hard drive containing internal TIDAL data. That data was then analysed by Norwegian University of Science and Technology, and DN then interviewed individual users who'd had their play counts manipulated, corroborating the findings.
It's solid reporting, and lends credibility to the newspaper's latest revelation: that TIDAL lowered payments to labels from 62.5 percent to 55 percent without renegotiating terms.
In case you're wondering, that's no different than Spotify and Apple Music.
Not only is TIDAL's secret decision to lowball creators "a complete breach of trust," as the Norwegian musicians' association chairman called it. It's a complete reversal of TIDALs entire core philosophy, which was paying creators more than any other streaming platform.
It somehow makes even more of a mockery of TIDAL's cringe-inducing launch video. Which is really hard!
You remember the one. As the most monied musicians on earth sipped champaign and exchanged platitudes about changing streaming, TIDAL owner Jay Z proudly proclaimed "this is really musicians making music, and it's about music—there's no end game," before Madonna gushed about putting "artists first."
Right. Until your subscriber count is so low you have to fake plays and lower payouts, I guess?
For its part, TIDAL has dismissed the report as a "smear campaign." Though several Scandinavian organizations are taking legal action, demanding an independent audit of TIDAL's numbers.
It looks like low subscribers might now be the least of TIDAL's woes.