On Monday, Kanye West fan Justin Baker-Rhett sued (PDF) West and S.
Carter Enterprises (SCE), the company that owns music streaming service Tidal.
Baker-Rhett alleges that the rapper and the streaming platform falsely promised that West’s most recent album, The Life of Pablo, would be exclusive to Tidal and would never show up on any other competing streaming service, nor would it be sold for download or in any physical media format.
But just a month and a half after the release of Life of Pablo on Tidal, the album showed up on Apple Music and Spotify.
Baker-Rhett is asking the court to certify a class action against West and SCE, which is owned by rapper Jay-Z.
The plaintiff claims that West and Tidal defrauded customers, engaged in false advertising, practiced unfair competition, and enjoyed unjust enrichment from the millions of subscribers who handed over their personal information to the company to sign up for the service because they believed Life of Pablo wouldn’t be available anywhere else.
The complaint claims that Tidal found itself struggling to gain subscribers after its launch.
But when West, who is an investor in Tidal and has a financial interest in the platform’s success, tweeted, “My album will never never never be on Apple.
And it will never be for sale… You can only get it on Tidal,” the platform’s subscription numbers allegedly jumped from 1 million to 3 million.
Those 2 million subscribers were given a free trial period in exchange for submitting their credit card information, which was automatically charged if they did not cancel the subscription before the free period was over.In addition to the album’s release on Apple Music and Spotify less than two months later, West also began selling the album on his own website.
“Mr. West’s promise of exclusivity also had a grave impact on consumer privacy,” the complaint adds. “For each new Tidal subscriber who signed up as a result of Mr. West’s claims, Tidal obtained that consumer’s e-mail address, social media account information, and other personally identifiable information.” The plaintiff’s lawyers allege that this information is worth up to $84 million to the streaming service.
Ars contacted Tidal for comment, but we have not yet received a response.
West has claimed that his debts exceed $50 million, and the complaint notes that “during this time of financial difficulty for Mr. West (and concurrent with Tidal’s fiscal failings) he announced that his album would be available on Tidal in early 2016.” In the subsequent time, news outlets echoed West’s assertions that Life of Pablo would be permanently exclusive to Tidal.
Baker-Rhett’s complaint mentions that Tidal needed to boost its subscriber numbers badly, noting that SCE “is preparing to sue the two entities it purchased the Tidal platform from” because the sellers allegedly over-inflated subscriber numbers to the company. “Defendant SCE knows the value of subscribers all too well,” the complaint alleges.
In a statement, Baker-Rhett’s attorney asserted “We fully support the right of artists to express themselves freely and creatively, however creative freedom is not a license to mislead the public.”
This isn’t Tidal’s first lawsuit.
Earlier this year, a musician sued Tidal along with Slacker Radio and Google Play for allegedly stiffing him on royalties.
And in February, West reportedly considered suing The Pirate Bay for illegally copying Life of Pablo while it was still exclusive to Tidal.