Did Meek Mill and TIDAL Just Scam the Billboard 200?

Did Meek Mill Just Steal the Billboard 200?

Tyler the Creator says that Meek Mill and TIDAL inflated streams and took advantage of Billboard’s verification problems.

Tyler The Creator has called out Meek Mill and TIDAL for scamming the Billboard 200. He has accused TIDAL of offering free streams to push Meek Mill’s latest album, Wins & Losses, to number 1. Once in the free tier, Tyler says the pair used bots and artificial streams to boost their numbers.

Tough accusations. But is there any substance to them?

This is certainly a tight race for number one. On Tuesday, Billboard reported that Meek Mill’s Wins & Losses album is projected to sell between 90,000 and 95,000 equivalent units. Tyler The Creator’s Flower Boy may move between 85,000 and 95,000 units.

Billboard estimates that Lana Del Rey’s Lust For Life will sell between 85,000 to 90,000 units.

A day later, TIDAL suddenly made Wins & Losses available to stream for free. The streaming platform placed the album ahead of their paywall less than a week after it came out. Previously, only subscribers could listen to the album.

So is TIDAL just playing dirty tricks? Maybe the past is prologue.

4:44: Sprint, Samsung and TIDAL game the RIAA

On June 30th, Jay Z released his latest album, 4:44, exclusively on TIDAL. Less than a week later, the RIAA certified the album platinum.

Jay Z’s streaming platform has roughly four million subscribers (or so they claim). So, how did the superstar manage to accomplish the impressive feat? Well, here’s how this game worked:

(1) Sprint scooped up digital copies of 4:44 and offered the album as a free download on TIDAL.

(2) Then they offered the pre-purchased albums to their subscribers. By visiting 444.tidal.com, users who entered the promotional code SPRINT would receive a copy of the album.

(3) The RIAA recognizes one equivalent album unit as one album sale, 10 tracks sold from an album, or 1,500 on-demand audio or video streams. Sprint owns a huge part of TIDAL. So, basically, to receive a platinum certification, TIDAL bought stuff from TIDAL and earned an award.

Jay Z successfully employed a similar feat with Samsung. Thanks to purchased copies from electronics giant, Magna Carta Holy Grail and Rihanna’s Anti album both went platinum in record time.

But unlike the RIAA, Billboard didn’t quite take the bait

It’s interesting to note that a week after 4:44’s release, TIDAL remained silent on how many people actually streamed the album. So, Billboard didn’t include the album on their charts.

Billboard maintained that TIDAL would have to report the numbers to Nielsen Music.

Jay Z subsequently released the album on Amazon and Apple Music. He noticeably snubbed Spotify, a move that has cost him $1 million a week. 4:44 didn’t show up on the Billboard 200 until two weeks after the album’s release.

Billboard clarifies their stance on free streams

A day after Jay Z’s streaming platform made Wins & Losses available for free, Billboard released a suspicious official statement.

Free streams — with “free” defined as streams a listener has accessed without having a paid subscription or as part of a trial period subscription — have counted towards the Billboard 200 since it changed to a consumption model in 2014. Billboard does not currently have in place any rule or rules dictating how an approved streaming chart contributor can present or promote content on their services.

They also added that their updated methodology was made in collaboration with record labels and distribution companies.

By the methodology now in place, which was arrived at in partnership with our industry constituents (record labels, distribution companies, etc.), on-demand audio streams from approved contributors, whether in front or behind a pay-wall, or via a free, discounted or paid trial, all count equally, provided the streams are consumer-initiated “on demand.’

On Twitter, Tyler The Creator immediately blasted the move. In a now-deleted tweet, he wrote,

“DAMN TIDAL GOT ALBUMS PLAYING BEFORE A PAYWALL WHICH MAKES ME THINK NIGGAS CAN HAVE BOTS SPIKING UP PLAYS FOR BILLBOARD ON FRIDAY HMM”

He admitted that he really wanted the top spot on the Billboard 200. He added,

“IM PETTY I WANT THAT TOP SPOT HAHAHA I WANT IT SO BAD MAN”

It{s unclear whether Billboard has a system in place to verify who’s listening to streams.  This speculation led Tyler The Creator to state that TIDAL could very well have placed bots to stream the album for free.

Meek Mill could reach the top spot on Billboard. But, will anyone believe it?


Featured image by Vimeo

5 Responses

  1. Lest it be overlooked...

    Having had an opportunity to read the official Billboard statement to which you refer yesterday, I have been doing some further research regarding the verification process set out in that statement utilized by Nielsen Music (hereinafter, “Nielsen”) to test the veracity of the streams which are “counted towards the Billboard 200[.]” Billboard states the following:

    “All of the above streaming variations are then put through an intense vetting process by Nielsen Music, which works closely with each streaming service to assure there are safeguards in place to guard against automated streams and/or excessive streaming from singular IP addresses.”

    Clearing Up ‘Free Streams’ on the Charts: http://www.billboard.com/biz/articles/7881874/clearing-up-free-streams-on-the-charts?

    What grabbed my attention in particular and further piqued my curiosity is, “provided the [‘on demand’] streams are consumer-initiated,” the so-called “intense” vetting process utilized by Nielsen to test the veracity of the “on-demand” streams is specifically directed towards the unique IP address of the consumer as well as an inquiry into the number of excessive streams, if any, consumed at each of those unique IP addresses.

    If in fact Nielsen, and each streaming service with which Nielsen worked, possesses those unique IP addresses and the precise number of streams emanating from each of those unique IP addresses as stated by Billboard, well, at first blush, it appears that it would not be a very difficult process to ascertain the identity or location of whatever or whomever is responsible, if anyone, for an excessively high number of streams, if any, at a particular IP address – just ask Nielsen.

    Again, having noted this in a previous post, though “SoundCloud Bots: The Truth Behind Fake Stats,” was written a few years ago, a series of events and reports culminating over the last week or so relating to Spotify and others have yet again revealed that the fake play problem still persists today. The article makes reference to SoundCloud; nevertheless, the article is aptly relevant to the issue of fake plays, the way by which fake plays are manifested and the bigger picture. The paragraph I had previously quoted in part, continues as follows:

    “Since plays on SoundCloud are tracked simply by the number of times a song is accessed by a unique IP ADDRESS, all it takes to generate plays is a list of public proxies and a bot will play the song once from each proxy.” [Bold in original.]

    SoundCloud Bots: The Truth Behind Fake Stats: http://runthetrap.com/2014/04/06/soundcloud-bots-truth/

    As noted by tech enthusiast Douglas Crawford, “There are estimated to be ‘hundreds of thousands’ of public proxies on the internet. To find one, just type ‘free proxies,’ ‘public proxy servers,’ ‘open proxy list,’ (or similar) into your search engine.”

    What is a Proxy Server?: https://www.bestvpn.com/proxy-server/

    As the two above-referenced articles attest, even if Nielsen and each streaming service with which Nielsen worked were possessed with those unique IP addresses and the precise number of excessive streams emanating from each of those unique IP addresses as stated by Billboard, it might nevertheless be impossible to ascertain the identity of whatever or whomever is responsible for an exceedingly high number of streams emanating from a particular IP address, if anyone; then again, if a public proxy had not been used – voila! Perhaps; unless of course it happens to be the IP address for UMPG/UMG corporate, for example, but I digress.

    All of which is to say, that there still remains a plethora of problems apparent in consequence of the fake accounts, fake plays, fake likes, fake comments and fake followers (fans). I will save the matter of fake e-mail generators for another day.

    Perhaps this will clear up any confusion that misinformation may have caused.

    • Lest it be overlooked...

      With all the recent controversy concerning fake whatever, perhaps Billboard and others will do their part “to assure there are safeguards in place” by securing their own websites and convert to https so that readers can be sure that what they are reading is in fact what was written.

  2. SANDAS

    Tyler didn’t accuse Meek of anything, click bait at it’s finest smh