Kanye West album reaches Billboard No. 1 without CD sales

NEW YORK • Rapper Kanye West made history on Sunday as the creator of the first album to reach No. 1 in the United States mostly through streaming.

The feat is the latest turn in a highly unusual release for the album The Life Of Pablo, which the brash star debuted at a fashion show at New York's Madison Square Garden in February and initially distributed only through the Tidal streaming service.

But the album earlier this month became available on rival sites such as Spotify, bringing in so many streams that it appeared for the first time on the benchmark Billboard chart - nearly two months after its release - and opened at No. 1.

Tracking service Nielsen Service said The Life Of Pablo sold the equivalent of 94,000 copies in the week though last Thursday, 70 per cent through streaming - the fast-growing sector of unlimited, on-demand music online.

West far exceeds the previous record for the level of streaming behind a No. 1 album - set recently by Rihanna, with streaming accounting for nearly a third of the sales of her album Anti. Both West and Rihanna are partners of Tidal, the streaming service led by rap mogul Jay Z that has billed itself as aimed at artists and audiophiles.

But Tidal remains much smaller than its rivals and, for reasons that remain unclear, it did not report initial figures in February for The Life Of Pablo to Nielsen. In the week through last Thursday, Nielsen said songs off The Life Of Pablo were streamed in the US about 99 million times - more than 30 times the global subscriber base of Tidal.

While West has relented on releasing the album to other streaming sites, he still does not sell it on CD, vinyl or Apple's iTunes - a rare commercial move even amid the growth of streaming.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2016, with the headline 'Kanye West album reaches Billboard No. 1 without CD sales'. Subscribe