Lil Wayne at Heart of $50M Suit Against Tidal

     MANHATTAN (CN) – By billing an “exclusive” on Lil Wayne’s new album, Tidal made a “desperate and illegal attempt to save its struggling streaming service,” Cash Money Records claims in court.
     When Jay-Z bought the Scandinavian company Tidal earlier this year, the rapper pitched it as an artist-run alternative to companies like Spotify that would fund musicians instead of the industry.
     With a subscription price double that of competitors, the enterprise has been panned by critics for appealing to listeners who are supposedly concerned about exploited celebrity millionaires.
     Though Tidal won endorsements from Beyonce, Kanye West, Rihanna and Usher since its launch this past March, the company’s app “crashed out of the top 700” iPhone downloads, the tech outlet BGR reported.
     Cash Money Records, a subsidiary of Universal Music, added to the struggling company’s woes on Thursday with a lawsuit in Manhattan Supreme Court against Tidal’s owners, Aspiro AB, WiMP Music AS and WIMP Inc.
     Pointing out that it has paid Dwayne Michael Carter, better known as Lil Wayne, “tens of millions of dollars over the years,” Cash Money says its exclusive contract with the rapper dates back to Nov. 1, 1998.
     Tidal nevertheless launched Lil Wayne’s single “Glory” from his new album “FWA” on June 3, touting that the rapper was “becoming a part owner of the Tidal brand,” according to the complaint.
     Tidal’s Facebook page shows a post dated Tuesday that says it has streamed Lil Wayne’s “FWA” 10 million times in the first week of its release. The album’s name is an abbreviation for “Free Weezy Album,” another of Lil Wayne’s nicknames.
     Knocking its own artist, Cash Money notes that the album received “tepid reviews.”
     “Spin Magazine called the album an ‘uneven grab bag that quickly goes awry and fails to cohere,'” the complaint states. “Vibe Magazine said of the album: ‘many of Wayne’s bars have devolved into a syrupy, random, uninspired mess that can range from uncreative to inept.'”
     Cash Money claims that “multiple entities” have hassled it about the “FWA” album, regarding payment and publishing rights, even though the label had nothing to do with it.
     “Further, … the publisher and copyright owner of the James Brown song I GOT YOU (I FEEL GOOD) contacted CMR regarding the allegedly unauthorized use of a sample of this song on the FWA album,” the complaint states.
     These incidents show there is “not just a likelihood of confusion, but, in fact, actual confusion in the marketplace” about Cash Money’s involvement in the album, the label says, adding that it is “wrongfully being associated with a product whose quality has been questioned.”
     Cash Money demands punitive damages and an injunction for tortious interference, unjust competition and conversion.
     It is represented by Alan Friedman of Fox Rothschild.
     Tidal did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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