Universal unhappy about TIDAL’s ‘ridiculous’ Rihanna leak accusation

How often, in any industry, does a retailer publicly throw their biggest supplier under a bus?

That’s exactly what happened in the music business this week, when a TIDAL spokesperson pinned the blame on UMG for the early leak of Rihanna’s ANTI album on its service.

ANTI was released last Thursday (January 28), initially as a streaming exclusive on TIDAL, in which Rihanna is believed to own a 3% stake.

A million free downloads of the album were also made available through a link tweeted by the star, paid for by Samsung.

However, ahead of the LP’s official arrival, it momentarily popped up on TIDAL earlier that day. It was subsequently taken down, but not before it was ripped and leaked onto torrent sites.

“This accusation is both ridiculous and false… they are trying to pass the blame for their own incompetence.”

UMG Source

TIDAL’s Marketing Director Grace Kim told SPIN that the early ANTI leak was due to a ‘system error’ on TIDAL.

Then things got ugly: a spokesperson for the platform followed up with SPIN, pointing out that Kim was “referring to a system error caused by Universal Music Group”.

As you can imagine, this hasn’t gone down like a strawberry dreamboat at Universal towers.

A senior exec at the major’s US HQ, speaking under the condition of anonymity, told MBW yesterday: “This accusation is both ridiculous and false.

“We delivered the content exactly to their specs. It’s something we do every day on a global basis.

“They are trying to pass blame for their own incompetence.”

Oof. So TIDAL says it’s UMG’s fault and UMG says it’s TIDAL’s fault.

Someone, somewhere has to carry the can for the error – particularly when Samsung, Rihanna, Jay Z and the whole Roc Nation team will be demanding answers.

Then again, perhaps it doesn’t matter all that much… depending on who you believe.

As the New York Times elegantly points out, ANTI’s uncommon release strategy means that Nielsen had only counted less than 1,000 of its US sales in its latest chart yesterday.

Yet in a less traditional context, some still see the album as a hit: TIDAL says it enjoyed 13m streams in its first 14 hours of availability – a time period in which all of those million free downloads also ‘sold out’.Music Business Worldwide

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