Streaming Scam Exposed: Musicians Charged $4,000 For 1M (Fake) Streams


A couple weeks ago I was forwarded an email from my friend Arwen who just started a lounge act, The Mega Reset, out of Denver. They put 3 songs on BandCamp, but hadn’t released anything anywhere else yet. She was hit up via the BandCamp contact form from a woman named “Charlene” with an AOL email address.

The email read:

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Is her last name Artfield or is that her company? 818 is the area code of the Valley of Los Angeles – where most scams in the entertainment industry live. But you wouldn’t know that unless you lived in LA.

My friend responded to this email requesting more info. “Charlene” obliged with:

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Dear Arwen

Here is information on us an what we been doing
We can set a call to go over your questions
Thank you

More info on us

This was how the email read verbatim. Red flag number one. This feels like a Nigerian Prince wanting to deposit money in my bank account.

But what was below the “More info on us” was interesting:

We  are the A&R head for Interact-TVs Music subsidiaries. Basically they sub-contract me to do all of their A&R for them and put together their labels. We also are the business manager for Dead Sara and Rome Will Burn.

We do things for Interact-Tv’s labels and We do things outside of Interact-Tv when it is not appropriate for them:

Here is some info on all the types of services we can deliver.

Yes she had 2 spaces after We and before are. What Interact-TV is, nobody knows. Clicking through from the link brings up a site with an auto-video player, playing classic movies and TV shows. Not exactly sure what she’s trying to show with this.

She continued with:

Pocket Kid is chugging right along with Dead Sara’s second album, Pleasure To Meet You, released March 31st of this year. “Mona Lisa” from Dead Sara’ second album just got included in Rock Band 4, and “Weatherman” their radio hit from the first album just got included in the next release of “Guitar Hero”.

They are working on their third album as well as doing some headlining touring this year. The third album will be released through Elektra with a Pocket Kid Records imprint. Catch up on the news at .

Blue Mask Records And ROME WILL BURN

ITVI has just last month formed a new label, which will be our Pop music division. We signed Beck’s sister, Alyssa Suede’s act -Rome Will Burn – as our first act on the new label. Rome Will Burn also features DJ Manifesto as the other member of the group.

In their first two months after release on Oct 20, 2015, they rose to #1 worldwide pop genre on, got quite of bit of radio airplay – enough to chart at #54 on National Digital Radio Charts Top 80 Indie Artists Chart and #37 on the Top 50 R&B / Hip-Hop Artists Chart and #11 on the National Top Charts had over 1,000,000 plays on Spotify and other streaming channels (we don’t know the counts on others as they don’t publish them.

Setting aside the fact that looks like a Geocities site from 1999 with a logo designed by a 1st year graphic design student, their artist Dead Sara is legit. They have a great record. They get blog recognition and tour. I’d discuss their numbers, but those can’t be taken at face value (especially from this label). Their Spotify profile is a bit alarming though, more on this in a bit. But Dead Sara, if you’re reading this, I highly recommend you audit Pocket Kid. Something tells me, you’ll find some interesting results.

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So, what about the other act they just signed, “Beck‘s sister, Alyssa Suede’s act Rome Will Burn?” Seems they’re doing well with all of their chart placements and Reverberation recognition right? Not so fast. Note, she didn’t say Billboard charts. What charts are these? We’ll get to this.

If you thought Pocket Kid Records’ website with atrocious, you’ll need to lower the bar for Blue Mask Records.

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In 2016, there is absolutely no excuse to have a crappy looking website when drag and drop, website creation platforms like Squarespace and Bandzoogle exist.

But moving on.

They claim Rome Will Burn got over 1,000,000 plays on Spotify. Well, that sure is interesting. So I checked it out. Sure enough, their top 10 songs equaled to be around 1M plays. So on face value, this seems legit, but clicking over to the About page is where the red flags started waving ferociously. Their #1 listener city is Ashburn with 10,355 Listeners and their #2 city is Boardman with 8,738 Listeners.

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Why is this important? Well, Ashburn, VA has a population of 43,511 and Boardman, OH has a population of 35,376.

What Rome Will Burn’s Spotify profile indicates is that not only is 25% of the entire population of these cities Spotify users, but they all listen to Rome Will Burn. Let’s just say this is highly unlikely. Oh, and they only have 64 followers. Meaning, of their million+ plays, only 64 people liked them enough to click Follow. Hmm.

I contacted Spotify just to see if maybe Rome Will Burn was the Beatles of these sleepy towns. What happened the next day was most telling. Rome Will Burn’s entire Spotify presence was deleted off of the platform.

So, I guess Rome Will Burn aren’t superstars of Ashburn after all.

Arwen and “Charlene” went back and forth a few times over email, but Charlene pushed for a phone call. I decided to take the call as their manager.

I was on the phone for about an hour with Charlene and her “business associate” Stan Medley who is a consultant to Pocket Kid Records. Turns out Charlene Kay is part of Artfield Investments and Stan Medley is an investment banker. Neither seem to be actually working in the music industry – other than this Shady McShaderson endeavor.

Stan was quite the talker. Initially he sounded annoyed and tired. He begrudgingly pitched me on their services and began to explain to me how streaming, radio and charting worked. I played dumb. He clearly has learned what gets (naive) musicians exited. He kept hitting “we get artists charting on 10,000+ radio stations.” I asked him what charts. Billboard? “Uh no, Digital Radio Charts.” Whatever that means. He said for $3,000 a month he could get us charting on CMJ though. Mind you, these promises came without knowing my artist’s sound (he said as much in our conversation).

About 20 minutes in he finally dove into how their streaming promotions work. He explained that Spotify pays $6,000 – $12,000 per million streams (it’s actually closer to $5,000). And if we paid him $4,000 he could get us 1M Spotify streams.

He also explained that he had a bunch more services they offered and depending on our budget, he could put together a solid release plan for us. I wanted to see how far he would go. I told him we got an investment of $75,000 and were looking for the best way to go about the release.

He went from his low-tone, unenthused, slightly annoyed persona to an ecstatic kid on a candy high. He didn’t stop talking for the next 30 minutes. I tried to interrupt him multiple times. But he didn’t hear me. He Energizer Bunny-ed through. At one point Charlene (who was still on the call), and I were both just saying “Stan, Hey Stan, Stan, he has a question. Stan! Stan! Stan!” It was pretty hilarious.

He explained we could pay $5,000 for market research. His market research consisted of running ads or something and seeing how many emails or Facebook Likes we got. I still wasn’t quite sure what he was talking about or why it cost $5,000 for simple market research, when AudioKite, Tunecore Track Smarts, ReverbNation Crowd Review, SoundOut and MusicXray all offer quality forms of targeted market research with very extensive break down results for a fraction of this price tag. His market research solely tracked email signups or Facebook Likes based on a genre we selected. Or something like that. He was quite vague with the specifics and repeadedly told me he can’t reveal all of his secrets. Ok.

+How To Objectively Pick Your Best Songs (Or Find Out If You Suck)

I see these kinds of scams all the time. They are nothing new. I used to get hit up on Myspace all the time back in the day. Then it was ReverbNation. And now I guess these scammers are using Bandcamp.

This kind of scam isn’t as bad as the Nigerian Princes’ draining your bank account, though it is in the same category as pay-to-play promoters. These washed up has-beens or never weres attempt to convince young, naive musicians to pay them lots of money for services they have no right charging for. But unfortunately, these kinds of promoters know the key words that get musicians to drool: radio spins, charting, 1M plays, Sunset Strip, record labels, A&R, and so on.

+You Can Play This Festival If You PAY $1,200

Good rule of thumb for all you musicians out there, if someone hits you up and asks you for money, you probably shouldn’t give it to them – no many what they promise you or how many fancy titles they claim to have. And always do your research.


Ari Herstand is a Los Angeles based singer/songwriter and the creator of the music biz advice blog, Ari’s Take. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake

26 Responses

  1. Anon

    So sorry I read some of this, never get that 30 seconds back.

    One sentence saying something like ‘beware of internet scam’ might have been more than enough

  2. Mike Shupp

    I know that excessive Internet traffic hits from Ashburn, VA are very common, and are (I believe) related to Internet infrastructure in the region (Network Solutions registrar, and data centers for Amazon, AOL, Time Warner, etc.)

  3. evan

    ashburn, va is home to a few large datacenters. lots of apps and sites route traffic through there.

    • GGG

      Yea, I don’t think this is as much of a scam in terms of cheating, just overpriced and something bands can do themselves with a little education on SEO/ad placements/etc.

      The label for one of the acts I worked with did some heavy traffic-driving to Spotify, and Ashburn/Boardman were two of our early “Where People Listen” cities, as well. After a week or so they were pushed down as the BKs, LAs, Londons, etc took over. But 1) the label wasn’t charging us a thing for this since it was in their interest and 2) they are certainly not getting fake clicks, as they also run a VERY successful digital marketing firm. So they know what they are doing and large corporations pay them a fuckload of money to do so.

      Now, having said that, just like you can run ads and get real clicks on YouTube/Facebook, etc OR buy fake views/likes, whatever, I’m sure the same is true for Spotify plays. So I think the bottom line is you need to do your due diligence about the company, the real vs stated ROI, HOW they are getting these plays, etc.

  4. Digg

    “spotify went and deleted a TON of scammers from the site a week or so ago.”

    Well, Spotify should go all the way and delete itself, because it’s the biggest scam of all.

  5. R.P.

    Very poor reporting, if it can be called that. I don’t disagree with not giving money to people out there full of bullshit promises, but without all the information, this is just an opinion piece, at best.

  6. Dead Sara's Wikipedia Page

    The irony uncoils further: “But Dead Sara, if you’re reading this, I highly recommend you audit Pocket Kid. Something tells me, you’ll find some interesting results.”

    I recommend we glance at Dead Sara’s Wikipedia, that states “Pocket Kid Records is the label that the band started themselves.” They probably won’t be auditing themselves anytime soon.

    However, I congratulate the band on getting signed to a label, for the record label Pocket Kid Records announced “DEAD SARA (signed February 3, 2010).” Congrats on signing yourselves!

    PS: There is nothing wrong with starting one’s own record label; however, this smoke and mirrors game is another example of the music industry being a snake, eating its own tail.

  7. Rick Shaw

    Let’s get this straight – the artist was not “charged” the money. The artist willfully paid the money. Area code aside, wouldn’t the AOL email address and generic email throw up red flags? This is one of the most inane stories on DMN yet. Please post a follow-up when the artist gets her money from the African prince.

    • Bob

      Who in their right mind would reply to a business offer/proposal that originates with an email address? What legitimate business in the music industry or otherwise uses an email address?

  8. Dutch

    Looks like they’re trying to be an aggregator of public domain content and then sell ad impressions. So at worst, and unlike googletube, they’re trying to do things legally and make a few pennies while building infrastructure. Yes, the skins of their sites aren’t remotely of the moment and the fonts are pretty hilariously 1997, but that’s just a matter of hiring out for one-offs when it’s time to press go. There isn’t enough content yet to merit trying to impress end-users and they clearly state they’re not trying to find new bands. Just need easy navigation to attract investment.
    And the above posts are correct about Ashburn and web traffic.
    By your own math, the guy was offering you a way to pay him 4K and ROI 5K. He’s done some thinking and has possibly figured out a little formula to make himself some money and you some money, using Spotify.
    How is that actually a bad thing? Rather than lying about having $75K, why not give him the opportunity to prove his formula with $400 on a trial basis and expense it to If it’s a total failure, then you’ve got a good, solid article to write. If if works, even better.
    PS. the ads for Sparespace that pop up in this article make it seem like this article is a scam to get ad impressions from sponsored content that you openly plug within the article itself.
    PPS. the music industry is a fucking joke.

    • not so fast

      If Spotify catches this and deletes your profile (as they did with Rome Will Burn), they also won’t pay you and block you from the service. So the artists that pay this company for the streams will be out $4,000. Not up $1,000.

  9. Sam

    Lol, so most music scammers live in the Valley? A majority of all music execs I know live in the valley, and while it can be discussed if the whole music industry is really a scam, at least toward artists, don’t just point out one area and say that everyone there is a scammer. Bad reporting, or what?

    Also, how is this news? In case you didn’t know, major labels are some of the biggest buyers of fake views, streams, likes and followers. I know, because I have facilitated them with ALL major labels for years. Get real. It’s like a bodybuilder wanting to win Mr Olympia without taking steroids. It won’t happen. Labels have been manipulating charts before the internet, but back then they bought thousands of records themselves and had scams going on to break artists… Get real, man…

  10. DurkD

    Ari, I have to admit you have some good articles but you also write some dumbass stupid ones. This is one of your dumbass stupid articles. You are suppose to be a digital music expert but, like the first few commenters pointed out, you didn’t even know that Ashburn and Boardman are major internet data centers and hence gateways where internet advertising traffic is routed through.

    This isn’t fraud as others have pointed out. This is legitimate advertising. Anyone who is actually involved in digital music knows Ashburn and Boardman are internet/advertising gateways, and they also know that advertising, unlike viral and social media promotion, does not result in huge followers or likes because you are getting random general public to play your music and pick up a much lower percentage of fans – most of the time fractions of a percent, hence the 64 followers for RWB. The point about advertising is if you can do this at a “breakeven” or “slight loss”, then you have a way to run a continual exposure program and pick up fans at low or no cost.

    This is actually a very smart move that a lot of people in the know are doing right now and only a dumbass would call this fraud. Advertising isn’t “playola”. It’s honest exposure, and it is one of the more ethical ways there is to promote a band.

    By the way RWB songs and play counts are back up. So your dumbass phone call may have triggered an investigation that resulted in pulling their songs down but in the end it was nothing more than legitimate advertising and Spotify put the counts back up.

    And on another point someone else mentioned – sensational (but wrong) headlines like this combined with the insane number of ads you guys have on your site and throughout the articles make it look like this article was nothing more than a “click-bait” scam to get ad impressions, which is more unethical than what these guys you accuse are doing.

  11. Alex

    Bottom line is no one has been able to verify that RadioAirplay listeners are not bots. Musicians are under the false impression that they are getting FANS! The fact that tunecore, CDBaby and bandcamp have links to RadioAirplay incorporated into their sites draws question marks over their legitimacy as well. Especially interesting are the scam like marketting tactics of the companies that RadioAirplay refer you to. That’s when you realise that they are part of a network of rip off scammers. You’re basically paying RadioAirplay for nothing. Poor musicians.

  12. Keith

    I’ve been getting these emails for my site and just got another one today:

    Hi Party Favorz,
    I’m Filipa, head of the Tradiio artist team. As you can see at, we are enabling artists to make thousands of dollars per month.
    We are changing the music industry and we want you to be involved.
    Upload your songs and once you join us you’ll be introduced to a campaign manager who will draw up a dedicated proposal for you.
    Register now at
    Any questions, I’m right here.
    Best wishes

    Notice the part about “upload your songs” i.e first and only then will a campaign manager draw a dedicated proposal for you.

    This ha s got scam written all over it.

  13. Party Favorz

    Oh please. I get these emails all the time. Here is my favorite; this company has been trying to rope me in for months:

    Hi Party Favorz,

    I’m Filipa, head of the Tradiio artist team. As you can see at, we are enabling artists to make thousands of dollars per month.

    We are changing the music industry and we want you to be involved.
    Upload your songs and once you join us you’ll be introduced to a campaign manager who will draw up a dedicated proposal for you.

    Register now at

    Any questions, I’m right here.

    Best wishes


    email was sent from

    Notice the part where they say “upload your song” i.e. first and only then will a “campaign manager” draw up a dedicated proposal for you.

    I have a manager and a lawyer and we’re already drawing up our on plans. Thanks, but not thanks.


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