One of the truths of our media environment is that everything can be faked. Fake accounts, fake Amazon reviews, fake Instagram likes, fake videos…It’s all possible, and usually available for a pretty low price.
Here’s a new form of digital deception to be aware of: fake music-streaming stats. The Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv published a yearlong investigation into Tidal, the streaming service owned by Jay-Z. It found that Tidal inflated streaming numbers for music from Beyoncé and Kanye West, among other artists. In an emailed statement to BuzzFeed News, Tidal CEO Richard Sanders said, “We reject and deny the claims that have been made by Dagens Næringsliv.” (You can read the full statement below.)
We reached out to one of the authors of the investigation, Markus Tobiassen, to learn more about the mysterious world of music streaming manipulation.
Streaming services are a relatively new way to listen to music and they’re not always forthcoming with their data. When did you first become suspicious of Tidal?
Markus Tobiassen: Back in March 2016, two things happened within 24 hours: First, Tidal put out a press release on the day of the first anniversary of its relaunch, saying the service had amassed 3 million “members” and that Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo had been streamed 250 million times in its first 10 days.
Then DN broke a story that Jay-Z’s lawyers had sent a legal notice to the former owners of Tidal saying they had a right to claim compensation. Among the reasons given by the lawyers was the claim that the subscription count was “greatly…