Over the last few months TIDAL has been the North Korea of streaming services. They've refused to release stats on their streaming numbers and similarly refused to tell people if the album they paid for is every dropping, but today they dropped their veil of silence to declare that Kanye West's The Life of Pablo album drew in a record-shattering 250 million streams in the first ten days.
250 million in ten days! That's amazing, so amazing that number defies any rational, objective sense. Or to be more blunt, I just can't take those numbers at face value. They're the North Korean grocery store of streaming numbers.
All you need to do to raise some doubts is zoom out a little for some perspective.
- Before these numbers were released, the streaming record belonged to Justin Bieber, whose recent Purpose album garnered 205 million global streams on Spotify in a week.
- Spotify has a base of 100 million active users (approximately 30 million of whom are paid subscribers). Let me be annoying and write that again in all caps. SPOTIFY HAS 100 MILLION ACTIVE USERS.
- Before the release of TLOP, TIDAL had 1 million subscribers, which it claimed jumped up to 3 million after Kanye's release.
So you're trying to tell me that The Life of Pablo brought in approximately 50 million more streams than Justin Bieber's album on a service with literally 1/97th the number of users? It took two weeks for Adele to rack up 250 million views of "Hello" on YouTube, a free service anyone has immediate access to, but Kanye did the same in less time on a service people had to complete a sign up form to get to?
This isn't about doubting Kanye as an artist or trying to downplay his accomplishments, it's about using some basic critical thinking skills and not just swallowing everything companies try to spoon feed us.
So far TIDAL's refused to release TLOP's numbers (and only TLOP's numbers, they've released stats on every other release) to a third party that can verify them like Billboard, and so if that happens I'll have the distinction of being publicly wrong forever. I'll gladly eat a heaping slice of humble pie. But in the meantime I just don't recognize the picture TIDAL's trying to paint as anything resembling real life, not when we get so many "fuck TIDAL" messages every day.
I'm just not buying TIDAL, literally or figuratively. You need more people.
* Credit to Brendan Varan for the TIDAL = N. Korea joke.