Kanye West’s troubled release of his latest album, “The Life of Pablo,” has already cost the hip-hop star at least $10 million in sales, a review of estimated pirated downloads on Tuesday revealed.
TorrentFreak, which tracks music piracy and file-sharing, reported that West’s album was illegally downloaded more than 500,000 times in the first 24 hours of its Feb. 14 release.
That made it the most ripped-off album by far on The Pirate Bay and other file-sharing sites.
By comparison, the top-selling album on the Billboard charts the previous week — Rihanna’s “Anti” — rang up legitimate first-week sales of 124,000 units.
Tidal, the subscription music-streaming owned by Jay Z, handled the rollout of “Anti” for streaming and downloads.
Tidal was supposed to do the same for “TLOP.”
West also planned to offer album downloads for $20 on his kanyewest.com site.
If each of the 500,000 persons illegally downloading the album would have bought it for the $20 selling price, Kanye would have pocketed $10 million in revenue.
But West changed his mind 24 hours after releasing “TLOP,” and the album was not offered for downloads — even though thousands of fans had ponied up cash for the long-awaited work.
By then, social media outlets were ablaze with complaints from customers who had paid Tidal for a download of “TLOP” but never received it.
Many frustrated fans also claimed to have been double-billed and, adding insult to injury, hit with inexplicable $1 surcharges.
On Monday, Tidal sent emails to those frustrated fans, according to TechCrunch, which saw one of the messages. In it, Tidal admitted the download was currently unavailable yet promised a final version of “TLOP” would become available “in the next several days.”
Tidal also offered customers a refund if they wanted one.
But West, in an apparent contradiction of Tidal, tweeted on Monday: “My album will never never never be on Apple AAPL, -1.47% And it will never be for sale. … You can only get it on Tidal.”
Adding to the confusion was a series of Twitter bursts by West, in which he claimed to be $53 million in debt, called himself “this generation’s Disney” and asked for financial assistance from Silicon Valley billionaires Mark Zuckerberg, of Facebook, and Larry Page, of Google parent company Alphabet.
But the tweets also had a positive effect by sending West’s fans to Apple’s app store to download Tidal.
Enough responded to such requests from the artist as his Feb. 14 plea — “Please subscribe to tidal!!!” — to make the Tidal app the No. 1 download on iTunes.
But even that bit of good news for West was likely tempered.
New subscribers to Tidal — which costs $10 or $20 a month, depending on the type of service — can get a 30-day free trial of the service, meaning West likely would not receive revenue from those fans for a month.
Over time, some believe “TLOP” could be just the catalyst Jay Z’s struggling streaming service needs to catch up with industry leaders Pandora, Apple and Spotify.