Tidal being sued for non-payment of artist royalties?

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Tidal Jay Z

Is anything going right over there?

I rode hard for Tidal. When the social mediasphere was clowning their self-important press conference and #TidalForAll hashtag, I extoled the virtues of the “for artists, by artists” ethos they were championing. $300 million later, then they’d understand it, I thought.

I gave Jay a lot of leeway. When I tried to sign up and it took two days and twenty-eleven attempts for the Tidal App to simply accept my registration without a vague “error message,” I attributed it them being a new service still working out the kinks. Then they charged me $19.99 two weeks into my 30-day trial period, and I’m like “OK, what’s going on with this service?”

Apparently, that’s the same thing indie band The American Dollar and Yesh Music, LLC would like to know. The two entities filed a $5 million class-action lawsuit against the streaming service over the weekend, alleging that Tidal streamed 116 of the band’s songs “without a license,” and without paying any royalties. Additionally, the lawsuit—uploaded to scribd.com—alleges that Tidal is underpaying other artists by as much as 35%.

Tidal responded to the allegations to Complex, denouncing the claims in pretty direct fashion, citing “the entire catalogue in question streamed fewer than 13,000 times on TIDAL.”

The full statement reads:

TIDAL is up to date on all royalties for the rights to the music stated in Yesh Music, LLC and John Emanuele’s claim and they are misinformed as to who, if anyone, owes royalty payments to them. As Yesh Music, LLC admits in their claim, TIDAL has the rights to the Master Recordings through its distributor Tunecore and have paid Tunecore in full for such exploitations. Their dispute appears to be over the mechanical licenses, which we are also up to date on payments via Harry Fox Agency our administrator of mechanical royalties.

The entire catalogue in question streamed fewer than 13,000 times on TIDAL and its predecessor over the past year. We have now removed all music associated with Yesh Music, LLC and John Emanuele from the service. This is the first we have heard of this dispute and Yesh Music, LLC should be engaging Harry Fox Agency if they believe they are owed the royalties claimed. They especially should not be naming S Carter Enterprises, LLC, which has nothing to do with Tidal. This claim serves as nothing other than a perfect example of why America needs Tort reform.

For their part, The American Dollar is reporting that they haven’t even received the monthly earnings reports about their own music.

While this could all be a publishing misunderstanding, if Tidal is not keeping it solid with indie artists, it’s failing to serve those it seeks to entitle. It’s bad enough that all video content is in one big “videos” section on the App, every major event seems to end up available to non-subscribers, and they’re prematurely charging people. The last thing the service needs is an exodus of independent artists.