Streaming numbers of Beyonce and Kanye West's respective albums on rap mogul Jay Z's music platform Tidal have been manipulated, allowing the stars excessive royalty payouts, a Norwegian newspaper said on Wednesday.
In its investigative report, the financial daily Dagens Naeringsliv (DN) claimed the streaming numbers for Kanye West's "The Life of Pablo" and Beyonce's "Lemonade" were inflated through manipulated user play counts on Tidal.
Jay Z bought the online service, which has its roots and significant activities in Oslo, through his holding Project Panther for $56 million in March 2015.
His wife Beyonce and his former protege West both launched their albums exclusively on the streaming platform in 2016.
DN's revelations suggest that West and Beyonce, along with their record companies, received a disproportionate share of royalty payouts at the expense of other artists on Tidal.
This could put the service in a tricky situation, as it has promised to pay rights holders more money than its other streaming rivals including Spotify, Apple Music, and Deezer.
Based on an analysis provided by the Norwegian Center for Cyber and Information Security (CCIS), DN reported more than 320 million false plays of songs from the two albums over short periods, a manipulation which affected more than 1.7 million users.
User accounts and play counts obtained by the newspaper revealed suspicious listening patterns, such as simultaneous playbacks of multiple songs by the same user or repeated playbacks of the same song at regular intervals.
For example, the tracks were restarted every six minutes at the same second and millisecond.
Two of the Tidal users contacted by DN appeared to have listened to tracks in "Lemonade" 180 and 251 times, respectively, during 24 hours. They both denied doing so to the paper.
Tidal's lawyer Jordan Siev told DN that it denies any manipulation and claims its data has been stolen and that the media report is false.
Contacted by AFP, the platform was not immediately available for comment.
Beyonce, seen here at Coachella, has launched an album exclusively on streaming platform Tidal