Kanye West Is Being Called Out for Suspect ‘TLOP’ Stream Count — Do the Numbers Add Up?


No one can boast like Kanye West. Over the past few years, Chicago's former underdog has turned his stark white Twitter page into a curated exhibition of grandiose and extravagant claims. To hear West say it, his tweets are "a form of contemporary art," and his latest might be the biggest creative fantasy of them all.

He tweeted out a screenshot of a Hypebeast article Wednesday sharing news that Tidal streams of West's The Life of Pablo topped 250 million in 10 days.

"This is not regular!" West tweeted. 

In fact, for many, it seems far too irregular to be true.

After Tidal's news broke Tuesday, skeptics began airing their doubts across the web, pointing out how difficult it would be for West and Tidal to actually pull this kind of number. DJ Booth called them "the North Korean grocery store of streaming numbers," pointing out that Tidal only had 1 million subscribers before the release of TLOP and only 3 million after TLOP — a pretty slim community compared to the 100 million users that frequent Spotify. 

Yet few Spotify-released albums have even come close to 250 million streams. The current Billboard-certified record-holder is Justin Bieber's Purpose, which pulled 205 million global streams its first week. That extrapolates to "just over 290 million" in its first 10 days, according to the Verge, which also noted there was "good reason" for "skepticism."

DJ Booth tore apart the logic:

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 1/97 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?

Hits Daily Double dug into the math even more, calculating "that every single one of Tidal's paid subscribers have played Pablo in its entirety eight times a day everyday for 10 days."

Even casual number crunchers on Twitter were skeptical.

Tidal has yet to release these numbers to Billboard to have them confirmed, though they did release their numbers to Ticketmaster's Big Champagne Ultimate Chart, which currently has The Life of Pablo at no. 1. 

It's possible the flood of users with trial subscriptions, which Tidal hasn't shared in its figures, helped drive up the count. Their streams would have counted towards West's 250 million, an industry insider close to this issue said, but wouldn't necessesarily be reflected in Tidal's figure of 3 million paying subscribers. Another industry source also noted these stream counts have to be reported accurately to the labels in order to coordinate royalty payout.

If the numbers hold up, then perhaps the cruelest irony of all is imagining how astronomical the stream count would have been had West released the album across all streaming platforms. That would have been a number truly worth rubbing in the faces of any Yeezy nonbeliever.

March 30, 2016, 4:00 p.m.: This story has been updated.