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Norway Authorities Investigating Tidal ‘Fake Streams’ Claims

Norway’s authority for investigation of economic and environmental crimes (Økokrim) has launched an investigation into claims that Tidal has falsified streaming numbers, the Norwegian publication Dagens Næringsliv (via Music Business Worldwide) reported this morning. Last year, the paper, which has aggressively investigated Tidal, accused the company of intentionally falsifying streaming numbers for Beyonce’s “Lemonade” and Kanye West’s “Life of Pablo” albums and consequently paying inflated royalties to the artists’ labels. The company, which is primarily owned by Beyonce’s husband Jay-Z, has steadfastly denied the reports.

Økokrim’s chief public prosecutor, Elisabeth Harbo-Lervik, confirmed that an investigation by Norwegian authorities was launched late last year and is “still in an early stage.” The paper claims that at least four former Tidal employees have been interviewed before a judge, with facing over 25 total hours of questioning.

Tidal issued a statement Monday morning that reflects its contentious relationship with Dagens Næringsliv. “Tidal is not a suspect in the investigation,” the statement reads. “We are communicating with Økokrim. From the very beginning, DN has quoted documents that they have not shared with us in spite of repeated requests. DN has repeatedly made claims based on information we believe may be falsified. We are aware that at least one person we suspected of theft has been questioned. We cannot comment further at this time and refer to our previous statement, which still stands.”

Tidal, which has rarely shared its data publicly, had a streaming exclusive on West’s album for its first six weeks of release and continues to be the exclusive streamer for Beyonce’s album. It claimed that West’s album had been streamed 250 million times in its first 10 days of release in February of 2016, while claiming it had just 3 million subscribers — a claim that would have meant every subscriber played the album an average of eight times per day; and that Beyonce’s album was streamed 306 million times in its first 15 days of release in April of 2016.

These claims led the Norwegian paper to investigate the service’s numbers and report that it was intentionally inflating its subscriber count, a report supported by research from British firm Midia, which estimated that Tidal’s total number of subscribers was closer to 1 million globally.

On Monday, Tidal referenced a statement from CEO Richard Sanders last May, which reads, “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.”

According to Dagens Næringsliv, the three former employees who were interviewed — two business analyst employees and the head of business intelligence, responsible for analyzing streaming numbers — left Tidal at the same time in the second half of 2016. The paper says the three executives “recognized signs of manipulation regarding the relevant Kanye West and Beyoncé albums” and then contacted a lawyer before informing the company’s management about their findings. The three subsequently resigned from the company.

Variety will have more on this story as it develops.

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