Music streaming service Tidal made waves this weekend after it leapt to number one on the iTunes App Store, only to face a tsunami of negative publicity when thousands of paying customers found they were not able to download the music platform’s much-touted early exclusive — Kanye West’s new album, "The Life of Pablo."
Compounding the issue is West himself, who decided on Sunday to withdraw the album he had released three days earlier, announcing on Twitter that he intended to re-release it next week as a Tidal exclusive, and that it would no longer also be offered to Apple, as previously stated.
“My album will never never never be on Apple. And it will never be for sale… You can only get it on Tidal,” West tweeted.
Enraged fans took to Twitter to make their feelings known, and many who had been able to download the album have since posted it on pirate music sites, taunting Tidal and West on social media and rapidly making "TLOP" the most pirated album ever.
“After the first day an estimated 500,000 people have already grabbed a copy,” reported TorrentFreak. “At the time of writing, close to 10,000 people were sharing a copy of the most popular torrent simultaneously, something we haven’t seen with a music release before. Aside from torrent sites, the album is also being widely distributed on various direct download services and hosting sites, increasing the overall piracy numbers even further.”
The sabotage of his own album sales and the Tidal brand is an interesting step for West, who, in addition to being one of the big-name investors in Tidal, is known for his outlandish lifestyle and extravagant purchases: He maintains homes in New York City and Los Angeles and also owns a $20 million Californian vineyard in Hidden Hills; commissioned a hand-painted Hermes Birkin handbag for his wife, Kim Kardashian; and reportedly spent $62,000 on a “dress-up” tiara for his daughter North last year.
But this weekend he announced he was $53 million in debt, and publicly begged for an influx of cash to continue his creative pursuits, asking Mark Zuckerberg bluntly on Twitter to “invest 1 billion dollars into Kanye West ideas.” He also reached out to Google co-founder Larry Page and even encouraged his own Twitter followers to do the begging for him, posting “World, please tweet, FaceTime, Facebook, instagram, whatever you gotta do to get Mark to support me…”
This isn’t the first time that West has indicated that the world should provide him with a patron, telling Sway in an interview last year, “I am Warhol. I am the number one most impactful artist of our generation. I am Shakespeare in the flesh. Walt Disney. Nike. Google. Now who’s gonna be the Medici family and stand up and let me create more; or do you wanna marginalize me 'til I’m out of my moment.”
The most obvious collaboration might be with fellow Twitter ranter and "pharma bro" Martin Shkreli, who already offered $10 million for the exclusive rights to "The Life of Pablo."
West could even look a little closer to his own industry for some business advice. Fellow Tidal investor and multi-hyphenate Beyoncé has been the subject of a “strategic marketing” course at Harvard Business School, and West's favorite frenemy Taylor Swift continues to demonstrate her chops as a businesswoman, negotiating with Apple and Spotify to successfully dictate her own conditions for the rights to her music, and surrounding herself with a team of advisers who tightly control her brand and image.