Is it a good strategy for a digital service provider to have a pop at a major label in public?
It’s not a conventional tactic, but then the buck has to stop at someone for the ‘system error’ that lead to one of the most anticipated albums of the year, Rihanna’s ANTI, leaking on TIDAL hours before it was supposed to arrive online.
The backstory: The Barbadian R&B superstar issued her much-anticipated eight studio album, ANTI, last Thursday (January 28) via Roc Nation and her own label, Westbury Road Entertainment.
The record (pictured) was released as something of a dual digital exclusive.
In terms of streaming services, it arrived first exclusively on TIDAL, in which Rihanna is believed to own a 3% stake.
And in terms of downloads, Rihanna did something unusual, but not unprecedented: she allowed fans access to free downloads of the record, paid for by Samsung, using a code she released on Twitter.
ANTI was downloaded 1.4m times after being available for just 15 hours, which was enough for the US recorded music body, the RIAA to certify it Platinum.
(Billboard/Nielsen are not counting the free downloads towards their Billboard 200 chart.)
“[It was] a system error caused by universal Music Group. The error was nothing tidal caused.”
However, not everything ran smooth: for whatever reason, ANTI appeared briefly on TIDAL before its official release, and was then taken down.
That was enough for one opportunistic user to rip the album and make it available illegally online, with some now suggesting the release of the record through Samsung was rushed.
TIDAL initially suggested the early release of ANTI on its service was down to a ‘system error’.
The firm’s Marketing Director Grace Kim told SPIN. “Look, we know what happened here, in the sense that unfortunately we still rely on systems, and there was a system error. But I don’t think it hurt it at all.”
However, subsequent to SPIN’s article, a TIDAL spokesperson got in touch with the publication to further clarify Kim’s comments.
They said that the executive was “referring to a system error caused by Universal Music Group” adding that “the error was not something TIDAL caused”.
Universal is the official distributor of ANTI through its partnership with Roc Nation.
So we have a situation where one Jay Z-owned company is blaming the biggest record company in the world for a blunder regarding a key artist for another Jay Z company… which just so happens to be an exclusive partner of Universal.
ANTI is scheduled to be released via physical retailers on February 5.
TIDAL claims that 400,000 copies of the record have been sold through its own marketplace – sales which will be counted by Billboard/Nielsen.Music Business Worldwide