In the past few weeks, both Kanye West and Rihanna have released their albums exclusively on Tidal, Jay-Z’s music streaming service. Both releases were great for Tidal in terms of publicity, but both spawned hundreds of thousands of illegal downloads.
Rihanna’s Anti came out on Tidal to very positive reviews and brought Tidal some much-needed exposure to the masses. In fact, reports Engadget, the service’s exclusive hosting of Rihanna’s work helped the previously little-known Tidal mobile app rocket up to the twelfth most downloaded app in the iOS app store.
Tidal is not free, but it does offer a one-week free trial. So much of Rihanna’s huge fan base, in order to hear her album before it was released on other media, signed up for the trial with the intention of listening to Rihanna’s new project a few times and then cancelling their accounts. And it worked.
The same type of Tidal-centric release happened with Kanye West two weeks later. Kanye unveiled his album, The Life of Pablo, as a Tidal exclusive — a decision that TIME estimates will cost West at least $1.5 million in album sales income.
My album will never never never be on Apple. And it will never be for sale… You can only get it on Tidal.
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 15, 2016
Just like in Rihanna’s case, Tidal’s app shot up the charts, this time taking the #1 spot on the app store.
Man thank you so so so much everyone for signing up to Tidal. Tidal is now the number one app in the world!!! pic.twitter.com/O3r9DkX03R
— KANYE WEST (@kanyewest) February 15, 2016
This time, though, many music fans could not pull off the same plan of signing up for Tidal’s free trial in order to listen to West’s album because they had already used their free trials on Anti.
They did not want to pay the $9.99/month for a basic Tidal streaming subscription, and so they turned to other methods. And this being 2016, that meant pirating – the term used to refer to illegally downloading music online. More specifically, torrenting, which is the modern-day pirate’s method of choice for plundering audio files.
Those who had used up their free trial of Tidal already were not the only ones who jumped aboard the Kanye West-Rihanna pirate train (or should I say ship?). Many people out there just found it quicker and simpler to torrent the albums than to sign up for Tidal’s free trial.
All-in-all, estimates torrenting authority site Torrent Freak, Kanye West’s Tidal-released album alone has already been illegally downloaded well over 500,000 times.
The Life of Pablo is the most-shared torrent on huge torrent resource The Pirate Bay, while the #2 spot goes to Rihanna’s Anti. Both Tidal “exclusives.”
Obviously, judging by the fact that its exclusives are getting pirated at an incredible rate, Jay Z’s Tidal music streaming service needs to work on locking down what should be its most prized possessions. Doing so is easier said than done, though. Even if the site administrators were identified, they are not technically committing any crimes; they are simply indexing shared files. It is the individual file sharers’ faults if the content being shared is being done so illegally, and going after individuals is a bit out of Tidal’s jurisdiction.
You might be thinking the obvious answer is that Tidal should not make the audio tracks from these exclusive albums available for download. That was a mistake both Rihanna and Kanye made with their Tidal releases, and if no one has files for the album tracks, they cannot be uploaded onto a torrenting site, right?
Well, yes, but Tidal restricting downloads of the audio does not mean people will not be able to get MP3 files of the tracks. There are many programs that record whatever is playing through a computer’s sound card and imprint it onto its own file, which means as long as the song can be listened to on a computer, via Tidal streaming or any other method, it can be downloaded.
Some sources predict that the next major artist to release an album exclusively on Tidal will be Beyonce, who is slated to unveil something later this year.
Rihanna released her album exclusively on Tidal, Kanye released his album exclusively on Tidal, Beyoncé is next… pic.twitter.com/z6i14G3agK
— Beysus † Godga (@GagaLovesBey) February 14, 2016
Keeping their releases pirate-proof has proven to be a major issue for Jay Z’s Tidal music streaming service in the past, and only time will tell if Tidal can do better next time around.
What do you think Tidal could do to prevent this kind of thing from happening again and make its exclusives actually exclusive to Tidal users? Let us know in the comments section.
[Photo by Victor Boyko/Getty Images for Vogue]