The proposed class action lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco by Justin Baker-Rhett contends West fraudulently promised fans that his album, “The Life of Pablo,” would only be available on Tidal. The site charges users at least $9.99 a month, but West’s album has since been released for free on Apple Music and Spotify.
Millions of people flocked to Tidal in February because of West’s new album and the rapper’s promise of exclusivity, giving the struggling site a boost and also a trove of user information, the lawsuit states. Baker-Rhett is asking a judge to order Tidal to delete information collected on users who signed up for West’s album.
“Mr. West’s promise of exclusivity also had a grave impact on consumer privacy,” the lawsuit states, noting that users’ credit card information, music preferences and other personal information have been collected.
The lawsuit contends the value of new subscribers and their personal information could be as much as $84 million for Tidal.
Email messages sent to Tidal and West seeking comment were not immediately returned.
The lawsuit includes references to Twitter postings by West, including one from the rapper’s account that proclaimed, “My album will never never be on Apple. And it will never be for sale… You can only get it on Tidal.”
While the album isn’t for sale through many traditional outlets, West has sold it on his website. West is one of Tidal’s “owner-artists” who has a stake in the company.
“We fully support the right of artists to express themselves freely and creatively, however creative freedom is not a license to mislead the public,” Baker-Rhett’s attorney Jay Edelson wrote in a statement. “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 lawsuit also lists a company owned by rapper Jay Z, who controls Tidal and enlisted top musicians including West to promote the service, as a defendant. An email sent to Jay Z’s publicist on Monday was not immediately returned.
Releasing “The Life of Pablo” on Tidal gave it an additional 2 million subscribers, the lawsuit states. The company has said the album was streamed more than 250 million times within the first 10 days of its release.
Tidal launched in October 2014 but was given a splashy debut at a March 2015 event in New York attended by Jay Z, Rihanna, Madonna, West and other top artists. Since then, it has struggled to gain subscribers.
Tidal recently threatened legal action against the Scandinavian company Apsiro, which sold Tidal to the business controlled by Jay Z, stating Apsiro overinflated its subscriber figures.
-Anthony McCartney (AP)