Kanye West’s Album Didn’t Even Make the Charts

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The music industry has been drastically changing over the years, and the rise of streaming platforms has played a significant role in this evolution. With musicians now having the option of releasing their music through digital platforms like Spotify, Apple Music, Tidal, and more, it is essential to choose the right platform that can give them the exposure and revenue they deserve.

In February 2016, Kanye West decided to release his album ‘The Life of Pablo’ exclusively on Tidal, the music streaming service that was co-owned by Jay-Z and a few other artists. The announcement came with a lot of hype, and West proclaimed that his album would “never never never be on Apple, and it will never be for sale… You can only get it on Tidal.” While this decision may have initially seemed like a smart move, it ultimately backfired for the rapper.

The first consequence of this decision was the surge of illegal downloads on torrent channels. According to TorrentFreak, over half a million people downloaded a pirated copy of ‘The Life of Pablo’ just a day after its release. Although this may not have affected West’s revenue directly, it did show that fans were willing to turn to piracy if they couldn’t access his music legally.

Another issue was that many of Kanye’s fans were already using other streaming platforms like Apple Music and Spotify. This meant that they couldn’t access the album on their preferred platforms, which resulted in them not listening to the album at all. This was a significant loss for the rapper, as he missed out on a large chunk of potential listeners.

However, the decision to keep ‘The Life of Pablo’ exclusive to Tidal did benefit the streaming service itself. The app suddenly ranked number one on the iOS App Store, which was the first time that had ever happened. The album’s exclusivity to Tidal also helped to attract new subscribers to the service, which was a significant win for the company.

But the biggest problem with the Tidal exclusive release was that the platform refused to release streaming data to Nielsen Music, the company that measures music sales data. This made it impossible for Kanye to rank anywhere on the charts, especially since streams count towards positions. This was a significant issue for the rapper, as he missed out on a chance to have his album recognized as a commercial success.

In hindsight, Kanye West’s decision to keep ‘The Life of Pablo’ exclusive to Tidal may not have been the best choice. The album’s success was limited due to the exclusivity, and the refusal to release streaming data made it impossible to track the album’s success accurately. If Kanye had released the album on multiple platforms, it would have been widely available to his fans, and he could have reached a much broader audience.

The music industry is constantly evolving, and the rise of streaming platforms has made it essential to choose the right platform to release your music. While exclusivity deals may seem like a smart move on paper, they can ultimately limit your audience and success. Kanye West’s experience with ‘The Life of Pablo’ is a valuable lesson for musicians everywhere, and it will be interesting to see how he goes about releasing his next album.

(Photo by Pieter-Jannick Dijkstra, Creative Commons, Attribution 2.0 Generic, cc by 2.0)

18 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    I am going to guess a lot of people are subscribing to a Tidal trial (hence the surge to being the most downloaded app) to listen to the album and will promptly cancel before it comes up for renewal. I can’t imagine many will stick around. Most of the people who are willing to listen to him on a streaming service probably already have a streaming service of their preference and statistics show that probably isn’t Tidal.

    • Paul Resnikoff

      The tricky question here is how many will stick around. Tidal has a lot of uniquely-curated content, particularly on the rap/r&b side, plus videos. Maybe the net is positive for Tidal.

      • Tone

        Exclusive content is def the name of the game these days (eg: Netflix, Amazon, etc). But yeah, the question is how many subscribers will stick around? Tidal might actually have a chance if enough high profile artists do exclusives through them. I hope that doesn’t happen though, as a I currently pay for and prefer Spotify.

  2. Vail, CO

    Strange that all the examples you mentioned are TV/video, not music. But we’re probably also looking at Kanye’s demise. Remember if someone like Taylor Swift or Adele had tried this, they’d still be charting.

      • hank@nv.net

        1. Humanity

        2. Maybe he would have charted if Tidal had allowed Neilsen access to the data.

        In this situation we don’t know if sales/whatevers would have amounted to charting. Maybe so/maybe not.

  3. Anonymous

    The album did chart. It was just so high up on the charts only god could see it.

  4. Music Specialist

    Are we looking at the demise of the Billboard / Nielsen charting system? I really don’t see what the charts ultimately create. having played the Billboard game for many years and charting singles, albums, videos and now Twitter Tweets (New emerging Artist Chart) I can’t see what good it is doing our company. Bragging rights don’t mean a thing against sales and sales is why I’m in the business. Kanye possibly doesn’t care about what the charts may say as long as his money and fame continue. I applaud Jay Z and the other Tidal stake holders for NOT sending any information on their streaming data to Nielsen. Why should they?

  5. I like Kim's sister!

    If Tidal’s end game is to sell it, Kanye just got a piece of the Tidal action so he’s set up to make more $ then if he got paid to put out a commercial record…and UMG just got f-d because this record won’t earn anything. The label keeps Kanye close to get all the other stars including J. One may wonder if he really is about artistry or just about attempting to grab headlines. I think a great debate (and great payout for both parties) would be Trump vs. West.

  6. West for prez..of a label, that is!

    I think Kayne is awesome! He’s brilliant!

    • Anonymous

      Brilliant? Maybe you and I have different ideas of what “brilliance” involves. I personally wouldn’t say Kanye, who had a net worth of 143M$ in 2013 but currently is in debt 53M$, would be considered brilliant. I would think a brilliant individual would either know how to handle their money or find a financial planner to handle my money. President of a music label? What business would trust their company to someone who blew threw 143M$ in less than 3 years to become millions of bucks in debt? Not one that I can think of! What a joke.

  7. Nicky Knight

    Boring and a publicity seeker.. self obsessed like all the celebrity bunch.. Tidal is so up itself it stinks… Apple iTunes and Apple Music is where most variety and choice is. A lot of artists and label music is only released on iTunes because labels can’t see the point of streaming when the revenue is so minuscule. iTunes is still where most artists, producers and labels make their living.