Fan sues Kanye West, Jay Z's Tidal streaming service over Life of Pablo album

Kanye West and Jay-Z (right) accept the award for best group at the BET Awards in Los Angeles in 2012.
Kanye West and Jay-Z (right) accept the award for best group at the BET Awards in Los Angeles in 2012.PHOTO: REUTERS

SAN FRANCISCO (REUTERS) - A Kanye West fan sued the rapper and a company owned by Jay Z on Monday, saying they tricked people into subscribing to the music streaming service Tidal by fraudulently claiming it was the only way to buy West's album The Life of Pablo.

In a proposed class action lawsuit filed in San Francisco federal court, Justin Baker-Rhett said he signed up for the US$9.99 (S$13.51) a month Tidal service after West tweeted on Feb 15 that Pablo would never be sold anywhere else.

But the California resident called the exclusivity promise a ploy to add millions of subscribers to a struggling Tidal, which Jay Z controls, and that West released the album 1-1/2 months later on Apple Music and Spotify, and on his own website.

Baker-Rhett said the scheme tripled Tidal's subscriber base to 3 million, boosted its value by US$60 million to US$84 million, and threatened fans' privacy by forcing them to turn over credit card and other personal information.

"You can't trick people into paying money and giving up personal information just because the company is struggling,"Baker-Rhett's lawyer Jay Edelson said in a phone interview.

Tidal and West did not immediately respond to email requests for comment. Pablo was streamed more than 250 million times within 10 days of release, the lawsuit said.

West's tweet, included in the complaint, said: "My album will never never never be on Apple. And it will never be for sale... You can only get it on Tidal."

Jay Z took control of Tidal in a roughly US$56 million acquisition in March 2015.

According to media reports, one of his businesses threatened last month to sue Tidal's former owners for inflating subscriber numbers, suggesting the price tag may have been too high.

Tidal calls itself an "artist-owned" service backed by West, Jay Z's wife Beyonce, Deadmau5, Alicia Keys, Madonna, Chris Martin, Nicki Minaj, Rihanna, Jack White and many other artists.

Monday's lawsuit seeks class action status for people who subscribed to Tidal from Feb. 15 to April 1 and streamed Pablo tracks within 24 hours. It seeks actual and punitive damages, and the deleting of subscribers' personal data.