Kanye West’s ‘The Life of Pablo’ is a great example of how dominant music streaming is and where our tastes lie as consumers.
‘The Life of Pablo’ has definitely had its fair share of criticism due to its hectic rollout. The Tidal exclusive project was torrented more that 500,000 times within the first three days according to BBC. In an era where singles even struggle to go gold, the hype behind Kanye West’s 7th studio album was definitely coming through. The RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) has likely had a heyday trying to shutdown all illegal file sharing sites hosting the album.
Tidal claimed that ‘The Life of Pablo’ had been streamed more than 250 million times within the first ten days of release. According to the New York Times, ‘The Life of Pablo’ had accumulated over 400 million streams within the six week it was exclusive to Tidal. However, since Kanye West refused to release the official data to Nielson SoundScan, the official association that monitors streaming data, there was no way to verify these claims. Reports claim that Kanye lost roughly 10 million in revenue due to not reporting these figures. Despite claiming that TLOP would never be available on anything other than Tidal, the lead single Famous feat. Rihanna became available on Apple and Spotify after a couple weeks and the entire album soon followed suit. When streaming numbers were finally revealed, it was definitely mind blowing.
After the first official week of sales, Nielson reported that ‘The Life of Pablo’ sold 94,000 equivalent units, with only 28,000 coming from pure album sales. Since 1,500 streams is equated to 1 unit, this means that the project had been streamed 99 million times in addition to the massive numbers reported earlier by Tidal. This is the first time in history that an album has gone number one with more that 50% of the units moved coming from streaming. The industry has long suspected that music streaming was going to be the new dominant source of income for artists and the music industry due to declining physical CD sales, but Kanye’s newest album just about proved it to be completely true.
.@kanyewest's The Life of Pablo becomes the 1st #1 album in the US with its units generated predominantly by streaming (70%+).
— Chart News (@chartnews) April 8, 2016
The future looks ripe for the streaming industry to dominate music. However, with vinyl recently making a small comeback, it is anybody’s guess as to what the scene will look like in 10 maybe 20 years. Another form of music consumption might even be invented in a couple years that could make streaming obsolete. But for now, ‘The Life of Pablo’ is a great example of how dominant music streaming is and where our tastes lie as consumers.