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Has Jay-Z Been Manipulating TIDAL Numbers to Boost Beyoncé’s Success?

It looks like Jay-Z is adding a few more problems to his list of 99 this week! The music mogul—who purchased his streaming service, TIDAL, from a Scandinavian company back in 2015—has been accused of using his business to benefit his bestie and his wife: Kanye West and Beyoncé. According to a (now viral) report from Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv, there have been over 320 million false plays of songs off Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Kanye’s The Life of Pablo albums, both of which were released exclusively on TIDAL. The benefit of this alleged manipulation is simple: exaggerating streaming numbers lands artists and new streaming platforms congratulatory New York Time‘s articles, and they line record label’s pockets with inflated royalty payouts.

But what exactly do falsified streaming plays look like, and how does one go about investigating them? According to the report, the newspaper received a hard drive containing “billions of rows of [internal TIDAL data]: times and song titles, user IDs and country codes.” Suspect numbers led Dagens Næringsliv to follow-up with subscribers in-person to reconcile the discrepancies. Like, for example, one user who played TLOP tracks 96 times within one day, with 54 of them coming in the middle of the night. Or, a subscriber who streamed songs off Beyoncé’s album 180 times in just 24 hours. (And yes, these are real examples from the report.)

Some might say it’s unrealistic to listen to Lemonade all day, or to sleep through the night to the sweet sounds of Kanye West. But not I! I have listened to Beyoncé on repeat for hours on end—and if someone appeared at my door to confront me about these abnormal streaming habits, I can’t confidently say I would tell the truth.

Should we buy into these shady accusations about music’s Mom and Dad? DN’s findings have been confirmed through a digital forensic investigation by Norwegian Centre for Cyber and Information Security—which sounds awfully official. But, rest assured, TIDAL representatives have strongly denied the entire report, calling it “a smear campaign from a publication” that they will “fight vigorously.” The drama isn’t over yet!