Kanye West's 'Life of Pablo' scores streaming success on Billboard

Mon Apr 11, 2016 3:44pm EDT
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By Piya Sinha-Roy

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Taylor Swift and Adele may have boycotted streaming platforms when releasing their latest albums, but rapper Kanye West proved the power of online consumption as "The Life of Pablo" debuted at the top of the U.S. Billboard 200 album chart on the strength of streaming numbers.

"The Life of Pablo," West's seventh studio album and his seventh No. 1 record on Billboard 200, sold 28,000 physical albums and was streamed 99 million times in the U.S., accounting for 66,000 album units, according to figures from Nielsen SoundScan. The chart equates 1,500 streams as one album unit.

West first released "Pablo" on premium streaming service Tidal in February, which offered new subscribers a free trial before paying between $9.99 and $19.99 a month.

The rapper kept tweaking tracks and titles before making "Pablo" available on platforms such as Apple Music and Spotify last week. Spotify said "Pablo" was streamed 50 million times in the U.S. last week, accounting for half of the overall streams.

It is also available to purchase for $20 via West's own website.

West's success follows that of R&B singer Rihanna, whose "Anti" album topped the Billboard 200 chart in March with 17,000 physical album sales and 36 million streams, which accounted for 24,000 album units.

Rihanna released "Anti" exclusively on Tidal in February before making it available on other streaming platforms.

The commercial value of streaming has been questioned by artists such as pop singer Swift, who withheld her "1989" album from streaming platforms in 2014, saying music should be paid for. "1989" became one of the top-selling records last year.   Continued...

Kanye West dances during his Yeezy Season 3 Collection presentation and listening party for the "The Life of Pablo" album during New York Fashion Week February 11, 2016. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly