Kanye West’s ‘The Life of Pablo’ Will Never Chart on Billboard 200

On February 15 Kanye West took to Twitter to announce that his latest album, The Life of Pablo, would be made available exclusively on Tidal.

This was seen as disappointing to many fans who were either not comfortable with the idea of a monthly subscription, or more simply, because they prefer the feel of a hardcopy.

However the announcement has some interesting and unforeseen implications. Because the The Life of Pablo can only be streamed via Tidal, it’s impossible to determine where it would chart on the Billboard 200. This is due to a lack of determinable data, rather than a rule that makes albums released through streaming services ineligible.

Billboard’s vice president of charts and data development Silvio Pietroloungo revealed that Billboard had “been informed that Tidal is not currently reporting streams for tracks on Kanye’s album to Nielsen Music. Therefore streams from Tidal for this title will not contribute to Billboard’s chart rankings at this time.”

This effect has been observed before, when Rihanna released her latest album ANTIFor it’s first week, ANTI was available only on Tidal. It was only when ANTI was released on more conventional platforms that it began to climb up the Billboard charts. This led to a weak polling and a lack of industry confidence in the new Rihanna album.

Unlike Rihanna, Kanye West is simply choosing not to share his streaming stats with Nielsen Music. Some doubters believe this is because Kanye refuses to post less than amazing numbers. Given the total overhaul in the way music is made available in the past few years, polling has become increasingly unpredictable. It is entirely possible for a mainstream proven entity to poll poorly. On the other hand, you can have a “viral” phenomenon like Drake’s If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late selling 500,000 copies in it’s first week, without any kind of marketing.

This is not to say that Kanye’s album is not in high demand. It’s has been downloaded illegally an estimated 500,000 times. Of course, this number has been drummed up, because of the fact that it is not actually possible to buy the album. So even the meek and gentle are forced into a life of piracy.

Further, it has boosted the power and profile of Tidal enormously. In a tweet West urged fans and “music lovers” to sign up for Tidal.

West promised that a Tidal subscription would yield more than just access to the exclusive TLOP. West boasted of much more music from the G.O.O.D Friday series, including an alleged 40 new collaborations with Kendrick Lamar and Young Thug.

Thanks to the success of TLOP, Tidal shot to the top of the app charts, a fact Kanye was quick to point out.

There’s been heavy speculation as to why Kanye has chosen to launch TLOP exclusively through Tidal. Of course, Kanye has a close working relationship with owner Jay-Z, and it’s likely that Kanye hoped to boost the profile of the smallest commercial streaming service. But perhaps the better answer is that Kanye West is an equity owner in Tidal. It’s possible he would make more money by taking a bigger slice of Tidal’s smaller profits, then he would taking a tiny royalty from Apple or Spotify’s countless downloads.

This recent success has come at a good time for Tidal. In 2015 an anonymous survey of 50 music executives showed that 71 precent of respondents thought that Tidal would be dead in less than a year. Another 17 precent said it would only last two more years. Only 12 precent thought that Tidal would be here to stay.


Image: The Independent