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Kanye West, Tidal sued over exclusivity claim for 'Life of Pablo'

Kanye West, Tidal sued over exclusivity claim for 'Life of Pablo'
Hip-hop artist Kanye West, shown during his appearance over the weekend at the 2016 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, is being sued by a fan for his claim that his new album "Life of Pablo" would only be available on the Tidal music streaming service. (Frazer Harrison)

A fan of Kanye West has sued the rapper over his original claim that his new album, "The Life of Pablo," would be available only on Tidal, the struggling streaming service in which West is a partner with Jay Z, Beyonce, Rihanna, Madonna and several other high-profile musicians.

Instead, the album was soon released on West's own web site as well as on iTunes, Spotify and other streaming services. The lawsuit claims that 2 million subscribers signed up for Tidal after West tweeted in February that "My album will never never be on Apple. And it will never be for sale... You can only get it on Tidal."

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The lawyer for fan Justin Baker-Rhett said, in a statement: "We fully support the right of artists to express themselves freely and creatively, however creative freedom is not a license to mislead the public. We believe that we will be able to prove to a jury that Mr. West and Tidal tricked millions of people into subscribing to their services and that they will ultimately be held accountable for what they did."

The suit names "S. Carter Enterprises LLC, a Delaware limited liability company, and Kanye West, an individual, together [doing business as] Tidal" as the defendants.

Representatives for West did not respond immediately to The Times' request for comment.

The proposed class-action suit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court in San Francisco. Baker-Rehatt's lawyer, Jay Edelson, told The Times on Monday that "we've heard from a lot of class members who are supportive of the lawsuit, fans who felt they were tricked and that they are happy we have filed the suit. We haven't heard from [West's] camp."

Spotify reported earlier this month that the album had been streamed 50 million times during its first week it was available on the service, helping push it to No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.

"Mr. West's unequivocal declaration of Tidal's exclusive access to his album had a profound impact on Tidal's business," the suit states. "New subscriptions to the streaming platform skyrocketed, tripling its consumer base from 1 million to 3 million subscribers in just over a month. According to Tidal, 'The Life of Pablo' was streamed 250 million times in the first 10 days.

"Using [publicly] available acquisitions as a comparable metric, the two million new users acquired as a result of its purportedly exclusive access to 'The Life of Pablo' are worth as much as $84 million to Tidal," the suit states.

It also alleges that following the superstar-studded introduction of Tidal, a service of Jay Z's company and purchased the previous year from Aspiro, "By early 2016, Tidal was quietly teetering on the brink of collapse. Many industry experts predicted its imminent demise absent a significant swell in users and a new round of publicity."

Baker-Rhett's suit charges that "neither Mr. West nor SCE [S. Carter Enterprises] ever intended 'The Life of Pablo' to run exclusively on the Tidal platform. To the contrary, they—knowing that Tidal was in trouble but not wanting to invest their own money to save the company—chose to fraudulently induce millions of American consumers into paying for Tidal's rescue."

The suit also cited other comments West tweeted in February stating, "Yes I am personally rich and I can buy furs and houses for my family…but I need access to more money in order to bring more beautiful ideas to the world…If I spent my money on my ideas I could not afford to take care of my family. I am in a place that so many artist end up…Also for anyone that has money they know the first rule is to use other people's money."

The suit asks that Tidal be required to "delete the private information of Plaintiff and the Class members that it collected, cancel all outstanding negative options of any free trials created during the class period, and cease any monetization efforts relying on the illegally obtained information."

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