Is Streaming Service Tidal Dead?

Not-so-popular streaming service Tidal, once billed as the “high fidelity” alternative to Spotify, is months behind on payments to three major record labels.

According to a report from Dagens Næringsliv, multiple sources indicate that the struggling company is “behind with payments directly to the three major international record companies.” In addition, CEO of Phonofile (a distribution company wholly owned by Sony) Sveinung Rindal told the paper that “It is correct that there are delays in payments from Tidal,” while a second executive confirmed that “We have not been paid since October…People are talking about withdrawing [their music from Tidal]; I think there is a pretty upset mood.”

Unfortunately for the dying service, the same newspaper published another report in collaboration with the Norwegian university of Science and Technology’s Center for Cyber and Information Security (CCIS). The publication discovered that Tidal had massively inflated Beyoncé and Kanye West’s numbers, leading to artificially massive payouts for both of the artists. In response, Norwegian collection society Tono, which represents approximately 30,000 songwriters, recently filed a police complaint against Tidal to “look into claims of streaming manipulation.”

These payouts came at the expense of real, smaller artists on the streaming platform. The CCIS found that Tidal had manipulated 320 million fake listening sessions to inflate the total number of streaming plays.

Tidal has vehemently denied these claims. While not providing any contrary evidence, the company issue a statement,

This is a smear campaign from a publication that once referred to our employee as an “Israeli intelligence officer” and our owner [Jay-Z] as a “crack dealer.” We expect nothing less from them than this ridiculous story, lies, and falsehoods. The information was stolen and manipulated and we will fight these claims vigorously.

The latest numbers for Tidal’s parent company, Jay-Z-owned Project Panther Bidco Ltd, demonstrate losses of $42.9 million in 2016.

Tidal’s website describes the service as“[s]eamless listening across mobile, tablet, desktop and network players,” much like streaming behemoths Spotify and Apple Music. Its only main differentiator is “lossless music streaming…plus integration in a wide range of high fidelity network players.” Unfortunately, Tidal has discovered the hard way that most consumers of streaming music do not care about slightly higher audio fidelity.

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