Kanye West's The Life of Pablo is the first album to top the Billboard charts with the majority of its "sales" derived from streaming, an achievement you can chalk up to the album's unorthodox release. According to Billboard, West's new album earned 94,000 equivalent album units in the week ending April 7th, enough to beat out Chris Stapleton's Traveller for the top spot. 66,000 of those units — or just over 70 percent of West's total — came from streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, and the remainder came from sales on West's personal website and Tidal, its exclusive streaming home for its first six weeks of availability. The Life of Pablo still isn't available through conventional digital retailers like iTunes or brick-and-mortar stores, so there were no sales to count in that regard.
It's a surprising achievement when you consider West once tweeted his album would remain a Tidal exclusive in perpetuity, writing, "My album will never never never be on Apple. And it will never be for sale... You can only get it on Tidal." The dam started to break in late March when "Famous" and "I Love Kanye" were released to other major streaming services as singles, and it burst for good on April 1st.
Will the album hit another streaming peak?
Despite the insane anticipation regarding The Life of Pablo's widespread availability, it couldn't break the record for the total number of US streams earned in a single week. Justin Bieber's Purpose was streamed just over 100 million times during its debut week late last year; The Life of Pablo was streamed just over 99 million times last week. And while Tidal stated that The Life of Pablo was streamed 250 million times in its first 10 days available back in February, those totals weren't reported to Nielsen or Billboard at West's behest, so it's tough to confirm their legitimacy. (West's decision also explains why the album didn't chart when it was first released.) It may seem like The Life of Pablo's streaming peak has finally passed, but nothing about this album is normal. West is still tinkering with it, after all — if a big change comes down the pipeline, listeners could return to Spotify and its competitors in droves.