Following its initial release in February, Kanye West claimed that The Life of Pablo would remain exclusive to TIDAL. “My album will never never never be on Apple,” he wrote on Twitter. “And it will never be for sale… You can only get it on Tidal.” As we all know, however, The Life of Pablo has since been uploaded to most major streaming services; it officially hit Spotify and Apple Music on March 31st. Additionally, Kanye put the album up for sale on his own website.
Now, as Pitchfork points out, a fan named Justin Baker-Rhett has filed a class-action lawsuit against Kanye and TIDAL. In the suit, filed in US District Court in San Francisco, he alleges that the rapper-producer tricked fans into signing up for TIDAL, which charges its subscribers at least $10/month, using the promise of exclusivity as an incentive.
It’s believed that the streaming service gained two million additional subscribers because of The Life of Pablo. The album was reportedly streamed 250 million times within just 10 days of its release and eventually became the first Billboard chart-topper to reach No. 1 on the back of streaming numbers alone. As The Associated Press reports, the lawsuit argues that the value of the new subscribers, as well as their personal information (music preferences, credit card numbers), amounts to about $84 million for TIDAL. Kanye is a stakeholder in the company, alongside Jay Z, Rihanna, and Beyoncé.
“We fully support the right of artists to express themselves freely and creatively, however creative freedom is not a license to mislead the public,” Baker-Rhett’s attorney Jay Edelson said in an official statement. “We believe that we will be able to prove to a jury that Mr. West and Tidal tricked millions of people into subscribing to their services and that they will ultimately be held accountable for what they did.”
Speaking to Pitchfork, Edelson added, “Mr. Baker-Rhett believes that superstars are required to follow the same rules as everyone else. Even if their streaming service is struggling, they can’t trick millions of people into paying money (and giving up personal information) just to boost valuation numbers.”
(For what it’s worth, I’m one of those fans who signed up for TIDAL just to hear the album; I’ve since forgotten to cancel my subscription.)
Below, revisit The Life of Pablo on