NEW YORK: A judge cleared the way Friday for Kanye West to face trial for allegedly duping fans into subscribing to the Tidal streaming service to hear the rap superstar’s album “The Life of Pablo.”
A fan is seeking a class-action case — in which other disgruntled fans could join and win damages — after West tweeted that the 2016 album would only be available on Tidal, the platform spearheaded by fellow rapper Jay-Z.
West tweeted that his album “will never never never be on Apple” — but, with Tidal trailing in subscriber numbers, his album became available six weeks later on the tech giant’s streaming service Apple Music as well as largest streaming platform Spotify.
The rapper’s lawyers argued that his statement was true when made and that, as he was repeatedly fine-tuning “The Life of Pablo” on Tidal, the album was effectively a new, remastered version when it went live on other platforms.
Gregory Woods, a federal judge in New York, called West’s argument “tenuous.”
“Regardless of whether or not Mr West’s argument will persuade a jury at a later stage in the case, the court has little difficulty concluding that the (plaintiff) plausibly pleads that Mr West’s statement that his album would never never never be on Apple Music or for sale was false,” Woods wrote.
He largely cleared Tidal’s parent company Aspiro, saying that its tweet about “The Life of Pablo” — saying “it’s streaming exclusively on Tidal.com” — was indeed correct at the time.
But complicating the case, the judge said there was no reason for it to move forward in New York as both the plaintiff, Justin Baker-Rhett, and West live in California. Aspiro had requested moving the trial from California to New York.
Baker-Rhett enjoyed a one-month free subscription to Tidal and then paid $9.99 for a second month before he cancelled. A self-described fan of West, he said he would never have signed up had he known it would be available elsewhere.
The chaos over “The Life of Pablo” has led to a feud, fought through song lyrics, between onetime collaborators West and Jay-Z.
Despite the star power behind it, Tidal has struggled to catch up with Spotify and Apple Music. Tidal saw a burst of new app downloads last weekend when Jay-Z and his wife Beyonce released a surprise joint album, “Everything is Love,” exclusively on the platform.
But in a telling sign, the couple kept it as a Tidal exclusive for barely a day before distributing it widely.