By: Kristin Helf, Columnist
Kanye West tweeted, “My album will never never never be on Apple. And it will never be for sale… You can only get it on Tidal,” Feb. 15.
Judging by the number of times Kanye’s new album “The Life of Pablo” has already been pirated, and the ever-dwindling number of new subscribers to music-streaming service Tidal, this decision could end up costing Kanye millions.
Fans of Kanye and Rihanna, whose album “Anti” also recently debuted, have been doing what one can only expect of broke teens and young adults: subscribing to Tidal, streaming those two new Tidal-exclusive albums, and unsubscribing before they can be charged. There’s either that or trading the Tidal registration all together for the much more convenient option of pirating the albums.
According to the popular music-pirating website TorrentFreak, “The Life of Pablo” has already been illegally downloaded over 500,000 times. On another website, The Pirate Bay, Kanye’s album is currently the most-shared torrent, seconded by Rihanna’s “Anti,” which, of course, are only otherwise accessible through Tidal.
This month, Kanye also tweeted that he’s $53 million in debt. So, maybe a Tidal-exclusive deal wasn’t the best decision. “Time” estimates that this album alone could cost West up to 1.5 million in album sales income.
Yet another mistake Kanye made was charging his fans $20 for album download codes before its release. He then changed his mind, deciding that “Pablo” will never be available for download, only streaming, and supposedly refunded the 20 dollars back to everyone who paid for it. Supposedly.
One Twitter user, @gilovesjanedoe, tweeted, “I unsubscribed from @TIDALHiFi cause you didn’t refund my money. Imma now download the new @kanyewest album ILLEGALLY. Thank you.”
Of course, if fans suddenly have a change of heart and end up subscribing to Tidal in large numbers, Kanye would be considered an economic genius. From his stock in Tidal, he would make an exorbitant amount of money through the $10 or $20 users pay per month, which well exceeds the price of a one-time buy of an album. But from the way things are looking like right now, this outcome is unlikely.
If Kanye wants my advice (and why wouldn’t he want the advice from a 20-year-old undergrad who knows little about the economics of the music industry), he should bite the bullet and sell “Pablo” at large-scale retailers, including Apple, and dig his way out of that $53 million debt. As a bonus, those of us who don’t pirate music or subscribe to Tidal will be able to witness the art he cares about so much.