the life of pablo's numbers are finally out and they're unbelievable
Kanye actually got people to ride the TIDAL wave.
A tonne of things about Kanye West's fifth album were mysteries until the day it dropped—even its title was an unknown. We were left to guess which tracks would make the final cut, who'd get the coveted feature spots and whether or not the album was really driving Kanye mad. One choice that left critics especially perplexed (though fans understood) was The Life of Pablo's TIDAL exclusivity. One of the Big Three music streaming services—a trio rounded out by Spotify and Apple Music—TIDAL struggled with numbers and public perception for most of 2015. The floundering service looked like an odd choice at first blush, though its sizeable artist royalties and owner (Jay-Z) aligned perfectly with Ye's professional and personal interests.
TIDAL is still the only way you can legally listen to Pablo, and it's been that way since it dropped in February (bar the Rihanna collab Famous, which appears on Apple Music and Spotify.) That exclusivity gave TIDAL a huge hand: in the 10 days following the Pablo release their subscribers more than doubled, shooting from 1 million to 2.5 million—they've just announced they've now clocked 3 mil. But that's not all: the latest figures from TIDAL reveal the album racked up 250 million streams in those first 10 days.
Those are massive streaming numbers, but they don't translate to chart success. Given we're still measuring sales by physical units sold, if a physical unit doesn't exist what are we left to measure? The Life of Pablo will never get a CD release—according to Kanye himself—making it an especially difficult case to calculate. It also might signal the need for a shift in the way we measure an album's sales success.
According to the Billboard album chart 1,500 streams count as just one physical album sale. That means Pablo "sold" around 170,000 times in those 10 days. That number doesn't look very big. For comparison, Adele's blockbuster 25 sold 3.38 million units in its first week. But given artists are increasingly choosing to drop their albums through a streaming service well before CDs hit stores, it might be time to rethink that metric. Three months into 2016, Rihanna's chosen to release ANTI through TIDAL, and Lil Wayne did the same for his record Free Weezy.
While Billboard and co. might need to change things, TIDAL ought to keep up the good work. As the service celebrates it's one year anniversary it's finally gaining significant traction, and might just prove itself as the real Spotify rival it set out to be. And Kanye? He's never really gonna slow down.