Digital music service TIDAL climbed to the top of the App Store, thanks to scoring the exclusive rights to Kanye West’s new album, “The Life of Pablo” – but that release hasn’t exactly been going as planned. Twitter today is filled with complaints from consumers who claimed they paid for the album, but never received the download. TechCrunch staff has experienced the same problem, in fact. [Note: post has been updated with additional information.]
To catch you up, the new album went live over the weekend and was originally made available for streaming through TIDAL’s music service, as well as for download from the web through a link on Kanye West’s website.
However, soon after launch, the artist tweeted that he decided not to sell his album for another week, and pulled down the download page. A link, kanyewest.tidal.com, now redirects to kanyewest.com.
According to those complaining to TIDAL, however, the company charged their credit cards for the album’s purchase, but they never received an email from TIDAL or a download link.
In some cases, their credit card was charged more than once. In addition to double-billing for the album’s purchase itself (at $20 a pop), they were also double-billed a $1.00 fee which wasn’t explained, either.
This appears to be a pre-authorization fee to ensure the credit card submitted is valid, but typically a company explains this in advance – not after the fact, as TIDAL is doing. (The company’s Twitter says the $1.00 charge will be reversed quickly, but that could take “up to a few weeks” to process)
— Bigg P From 68th (@BiggPMusic) February 14, 2016
Tidal took folks $$ for the Kanye album but no download link? KSNAGAUSJSNHSB
— Blk Mixed With Blk (@MysticHue) February 14, 2016
After waking up to no email download of #TLOP I went back to bed. Now the purchase link for Tidal isn’t working either?
— Mark Davis (@themizarkshow) February 14, 2016
@kanyewest please don’t release new music to buy not with tidal, no one receives the download link after paying
— fscherer (@floryanscherer) February 14, 2016
The end result of the glitches users are experiencing is that some have now paid up to $42 for an album that has yet to arrive.
Others, including TechCrunch editor Matthew Panzarino, report that they were charged only for the album itself, along with a couple of $1.00 (pre-auth) fees, without receiving a download.
What’s worse is that TIDAL doesn’t seem to be responding to the flood of complaints hitting its Twitter, asking some users to “DM” (direct message) them with account information and support ticket numbers – as if the situation were a one-off that needed to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.
— mountaineer (@Trap_Meech) February 15, 2016
Other users seem to be ignored entirely by TIDAL’s Twitter – which, in all fairness, could be overwhelmed by the volume of requests.
That said, given that many are experiencing the same problem, it’s time for the company to make a statement.
— Yo!Hozay (@YoHozay) February 14, 2016
@TIDALHiFi Still waiting for a response…
— Emmet Purcell (@EmmetPurcell) February 14, 2016
In addition to the Twitter complaints, some who have entered formal support tickets say their requests are going unanswered, too.
Conspiracy theorists on Reddit speculate this is all a bit of marketing buzz meant to generate headlines regarding the new album. That seems less likely.
Update, 2/15/16, 3 PM ET:
TechCrunch has been informed by people familiar with the matter than “less than 4,000” consumers who purchased the album have not received their download.
This group includes two factions – those whose credit card transactions processed, but went through around the time Kanye actually stopped fulfilling downloads. The other group’s transactions didn’t fully process due to Kanye’s website crashing, but they are seeing “pending” credit card charges on their bank statements. These charges will be automatically reversed, we’re told.
Meanwhile, for those whose transactions actually did go through, TIDAL will be emailing them today with the option to wait a week for the album’s official release (which Kanye is controlling) or they can request a refund.
To muddy the waters further, there’s also a third group of around 20,000 consumers who bought tickets to Madison Square Garden to see the Yeezy Season 3 premiere, or who bought tickets to see the show live in one of over 700 theaters around the world. Those consumers were also told at the time of purchase they would receive an album download. Now, they’re seeing the download has been released, and are complaining they don’t have it. In this case, TIDAL is not involved. Universal is handling those transactions, and Kanye has decided not to fulfill those orders until he can fix the album to his liking.
Unfortunately for TIDAL, the situation is just one of what’s now many examples of serious concerns over its ability to operate a trustworthy music service. Even if the company was not involved with Kanye’s decision to pull downloads, his website’s crashing, and the subsequent fulfillment issues, its brand is associated with this release and its name is appearing on consumers’ bank statements, due to it serving as Kanye’s credit card processor for album downloads.
The damage, as they say, is done.
The company already accidentally leaked Rihanna’s album, attributing the problem to a “system error.” However, in that case, TIDAL pointed a finger at Universal Music Group, indicating the error was not on its side, but rather on Universal’s.
That may or may not be true, but the company has had problems of its own as well, before this latest issue. For example, TIDAL’s live video stream of Kanye’s Yeezy Season 3 fashion show and concert also suffered numerous glitches. The live stream went down, seemingly unable to handle the load of viewers.
Representatives for TIDAL have been asked for comment. We’ll update if one is provided.
UPDATE, 2/15/16, 5 PM ET:
An email from TIDAL is now arriving in users’ inboxes. It reads as follows:
Our records indicate you purchased Kanye West’s ‘THE LIFE OF PABLO’, and did not receive the album. A partial version of the album is available for streaming on TIDAL.com, but the download is currently not available.
The final version of the album will be released in the next several days. Upon the new release, we will send you a download of ‘THE LIFE OF PABLO’ to this email address. However, if you would like a refund, please respond directly to this email and our customer support team will assist you.