Minutes ago I clicked on a story from Pigeons and Planes reporting that anonymous sources within TIDAL have revealed that Kanye's new album, The Life Of Pablo, has so far been streamed 100 million times exclusively on TIDAL in the two weeks since its (quasi)release; we can assume that means at least 50 million times in its first week. 100 million? 100 MILLI?!?!?!?!?!?! Sweet baby Jesus, that number's incredible.
For comparison, Drake's IYRTITL album held a previous streaming record by racking up approximately 17 million streams of If You're Reading This It's Too Late in its first week, and those official numbers came via Spotify, a service with approximately 25 million paid subscribers and an additional 40 million free users for 65 million total users. So that would mean that Kanye accumulated roughtly three times more streams than Drake in his first week on a streaming service 1/26th the size of Spotify. (TIDAL is currently reporting 2.5 million subscribers, about one million of those new subscribers driven there by Kanye's album.)
If those kind of stats seem too good to be true, it's because they likely aren't true.
Unfortunately, Pigeons & Planes seems to have simply made a mistake in their reporting. According to the original TMZ story they cited, the TIDAL source told TMZ that the album has been streamed "millions" of times, not "100 million times." "Millions" could indeed mean 100 million, or it could mean two million, which would be a mere 98 million off.
"Sources connected to Tidal tell TMZ ... "The Life of Pablo" and its debut at MSG has already been streamed millions of times in less than two weeks, which is a record for the service." - TMZ
Regardless of who reported what number from where, the confusion around TLOP gets at a deeper story. As fate would have it, I didn't see P&P's story when it first went up because at the time I was on the phone with Billboard's VP of Charts & Data Development, Silvio Pietroluongo. Among the many topics we discussed (full interview coming later), Pietroluongo confirmed that while TIDAL has shared streaming and sales numbers for other artists and releases, they've so far refused to divulge any stats around The Life Of Pablo.
"In respect to TIDAL and Kanye, for whatever reason they're not reporting that title [The Life of Pablo] to us...I don't know the reason behind it, I just know that they're not." - Silvio Pietroluongo, Billboard VP, Charts & Data Development
Great, so now we're in full blown conspiracy theory territory. Why would TIDAL refuse to release official numbers, knowing that would keep the album off any Billboard charts, but leak unofficial numbers to TMZ? Is the album performing so poorly they want to keep it hidden to avoid the public relations disaster? If it had indeed been streamed something like 100 million times, wouldn't they want the world to know about their record-shattering success? Wouldn't they be shouting it from every mountaintop instead of anonymously "leaking" vague info to TMZ? Or has the album indeed been absolutely crushing and Jay Z is currently executing some strategic chess move so complex and genius my peon brain can't even comprehend it?
Frankly, I have no idea what the truth is, but it's another fascinating chapter in the story of what's quite literally been the strangest, most confusing and twisting album release in music history. At this point the only thing I do know for sure is Kanye himself thinks that eveyone loves TIDAL and that "Ultralight Beams" is a wonder and a joy. Maybe it's time to forget about all this business and just go back to the music. Amen.
UPDATE: We've been told that TMZ also originally reported the "100 million streams" number and then sneakily went back and revised the text without making it clear they had updated. Hard to believe such an upstanding journalistic enterprise would hide a correction like that. So why would TMZ change their original story? Did TIDAL get angry? Levels on levels on levels.