On Wednesday, TIDAL made Meek Mill's Wins & Losses album available to stream for free in front of the streaming service's subscriber paywall. The Philadelphia rapper's third studio album, released on July 21, is currently competing against Lana Del Rey's Lust For Life and Tyler, The Creator's Flower Boy for the top spot on the Billboard 200 albums chart. As Billboard reported on Wednesday, Meek is projected to sell 90,000 to 95,000 equivalent units, Tyler is expected to move 85,000 to 95,000, and Lana is estimated at 85,000 to 90,000.
Tyler, The Creator noted on Wednesday that the placement of Meek Mill's Wins & Losses in front of the TIDAL paywall may affect the chart results. "DAMN TIDAL GOT ALBUMS PLAYING BEFORE A PAYWALL WHICH MAKES ME THINK NIGGAS CAN HAVE BOTS SPIKING UP PLAYS FOR BILLBOARD ON FRIDAY HMM," he wrote on Twitter. "IM PETTY I WANT THAT TOP SPOT."
DAMN TIDAL GOT ALBUMS PLAYING BEFORE A PAYWALL WHICH MAKES ME THINK NIGGAS CAN HAVE BOTS SPIKING UP PLAYS FOR BILLBOARD ON FRIDAY HMM— Tyler, The Creator (@tylerthecreator) July 27, 2017
IM PETTY I WANT THAT TOP SPOT HAHAHA I WANT IT SO BAD MAN— Tyler, The Creator (@tylerthecreator) July 27, 2017
In a statement released Thursday, Billboard confirmed that free streams of Meek Mill's album in front of the paywall will count towards the albums chart position.
"Free streams — with “free” defined as streams a listener has accessed without having a paid subscription or as part of a trial period subscription — have counted towards the Billboard 200 since it changed to a consumption model in 2014," the post read. "Billboard does not currently have in place any rule or rules dictating how an approved streaming chart contributor can present or promote content on their services."
The statement continued: "By the methodology now in place, which was arrived at in partnership with our industry constituents (record labels, distribution companies, etc.), on-demand audio streams from approved contributors, whether in front or behind a pay-wall, or via a free, discounted or paid trial, all count equally, provided the streams are consumer-initiated “on demand.'”
JAY-Z's recent 4:44 album was certified platinum by the RIAA less than a week after its release, based solely on free downloads of the album that were purchased by Sprint. RIAA allowed the downloads to contribute to platinum certification because the copies had technically been purchased and required those downloading the album to take "affirmative steps" by entering a promotional code. Still, Billboard did not let those free downloads count towards the album's chart position. The album was not made eligible for chart inclusion until the week after its release, when it charted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, after it hit multiple streaming services.
JAY-Z employed a similar tactic surrounding the releases of his Magna Carta Holy Grail album in 2013 and Rihanna's Anti album in 2016. Both albums were certified platinum upon their release, thanks to purchased downloads from Samsung, but the free downloads were not counted towards the chart position of either album. (In its first week of release, TIDAL withheld the album's streaming numbers, likely to ensure a number one debut for the album.)
Representatives for Meek Mill, Roc Nation, Tyler, The Creator, and TIDAL were not immediately available for comment.