Kanye West's new album The Life of Pablo racked up 250 million streams in its first 10 days of availability on Tidal, according to a press release the service made available today. The album-specific reveal was tucked within the larger announcement that Tidal has cracked three million paid global subscribers, and it's a surprise given that West had instructed Tidal to withhold the album's streaming numbers when it was first released in February. If you use the conversion factor Billboard employs when putting together its weekly album charts — 1,500 individual streams equalling a single album sale — then The Life of Pablo moved approximately 167,000 equivalent album units in a week and a half.
If they're accurate, The Life of Pablo's streaming totals align nicely with another of Tidal's major exclusives, Rihanna's ANTI. While that album was downloaded over 1.4 million times in its first 24 hours available, the bulk of that figure stemmed from a Samsung-sponsored free giveaway. When ANTI was made widely available for a full week on iTunes and other streaming services, it moved roughly 170,000 equivalent album units.
It's never been harder to figure out whether or not an album is successful
A more interesting point of comparison is Justin Bieber's Purpose, which set a record for first-week streams on Spotify when it was released last fall. The tracks that make up Purpose were streamed 205 million times in their first week of availability, a rate that equates to just over 290 million streams over 10 days. That's a bigger number than The Life of Pablo achieved, but it's dependent on a little extrapolation and originates from a service with a much larger user base. (Spotify just reached 30 million paid subscribers last week, and it has tens of millions more free users.) There's bound to be some skepticism over The Life of Pablo's streaming figures, and with good reason: how does a service with only three million paid users rack up 250 million streams of a single album? Some fans likely used free trials to put the album on repeat, trials that may yet expire; the push Tidal gave the album may have helped to inflate its play counts. If anything, the revelation is just more proof that it's never been harder to figure out whether or not an album is a commercial success.
Why humans love bass