Spotify Removed My Album Because Of Seemingly Fake Streams

A few people have noted recently that I haven’t released a song in two years and how it can seem hypocritical as I instruct musicians to regularly release music.

We’re in a fast food society where people’s attention spans are shorter than ever.  You can’t just release an album every three years and expect your fans will stay engaged with you when other musicians are feeding them content on a daily basis.

It’s best to have a constant stream of content to satiate your fans.  That content could be songs, videos, photos, Snaps, tweets, emails, texts, shows and live streams.  A combination of them all is typical — utilizing the social platforms where your fans exist.

I’ve been in a weird place in my career lately.  And the main reason why I haven’t released music under my own name in two years is because, well, for one I was hired to write a 450 page book — which took over a year to write.  And then I spent a year promoting it.  But moreover it’s because I’ve been in and out of the studio the past two years working on a brand new funk project set to be released at the start of 2018.

After 600 shows (performing in venues from living rooms to arenas), 3 full length albums, an EP, 2 live albums, about 10 singles and nearly 60 TV, film and commercial synch placements, I’m taking a hiatus on my singer/songwriter project as I prepare to launch this new funk band.

Why am I telling you all of this?  I rarely discuss my own music because I never want my column to be about me or my music, but rather about relaying everything I’ve learned so you have the info to help your career.

Well, I learned a valuable lesson this week.

Spotify playlists have been the hottest item of the past couple years or so. Everyone wants to get included on the biggest and the best ones.  I wrote an extensive piece a couple months ago on approaches you can take to get included in Spotify playlists.

+How To Get Music In Spotify Playlists

I’ve been investigating Playlist Plugging companies for the past few months and just started to try some and relay my findings.

From my How To Get Music In Spotify Playlists article I discovered a company whose founder told me that he was able to nearly guarantee 50,000 – 150,000 streams based on their playlist network.  They charged $500 for a one month campaign. That company was acquired by a label and no longer offers their services publicly.  I also heard of other playlist plugging companies that charged double or triple that and didn’t have very good success rates.

A manager friend of mine who works at very prominent management company with bands you have heard of (hiding his name to protect the innocent), recommended a few playlist plugging companies he’s used that have worked for them.  I decided I would try them out and write about my experience — if I could afford it.  One of them quoted me $5,000 for a 4 month campaign.  So that one was out.  But one of them claimed they could get me about 50,000 streams for $150.  Doable.

That company was Streamify.

I was a little concerned when they didn’t ask to hear my music, which seemed odd, but this company, I thought, was a hidden gem considering it was referred by such a trusted source.  I read their brief FAQ and it seemed legit — very similar to the other playlist plugging company I interviewed (that got acquired by a label).

I ponied up the $150 for an estimated 50,000 streams.

Sure enough, within a few days I noticed the song had been added to a fairly popular user generated playlist (of about 50,000 followers).

“Great!” I thought. “It’s working!”

Before I started this campaign, I had had about 300,000 total streams on my songs on Spotify.  Now, this doesn’t seem like a lot in the streaming world, but considering I was on relatively few playlists (no gigantic ones), it’s a number I was satisfied with.  These are “fan streams” — versus just streams from people who follow a playlist containing a song of mine.

It’s important to note that tons of streams doesn’t mean tons of fans.

Just because an artist has 1 million streams doesn’t mean they have 1 million fans.  Most of the time it’s because their song got included in a popular playlist and they have 1 million or so people who listen to that playlist and heard the song.

But back to the matter at hand.  My song “Keep Fighting” which had been released as a single and as an album cut on my 2014 album Brave Enough, was included on a popular playlist of 50,000 followers.  I figured it had gotten included on a few more as well that just hadn’t registered in my SpotifyArtists account — as oftentimes (I’ve noticed) the information isn’t super up to date or reliable.  But then on Tuesday, I received an email from CD Baby (who I used to distribute Brave Enough) explaining that Spotify removed my album because they thought there was abuse happening.

I wrote CD Baby back and explained that I used the playlist plugging company Streamify and they must have been employing some shady business.

After some more digging, CD Baby said it looks like Streamify is using click farms or something. The song did, in fact, get included on a popular playlist and Streamify’s FAQ states:

“Spotify track plays are sent to our huge partner list that includes music promoters, DJs, online radio stations, playlists and various other parties. We provide them only the Spotify URI of the tracks you give us.”

How Streamify is getting the streams must not be legitimate, though.

And the playlist(s) my song got included on, similarly, must not be legitimate either.  But I’m confused how they are able to forge 52,000 user accounts as Followers on the playlist.  I wish I could get some clarity.  I also noticed that one of the playlists listed in my Spotify Artists account is the algorithmically generated, Discover Weekly — which could be why there is an additional spike in plays.  This also just happened this week.

The lesson learned (I think) is if you’re going to work with a playlist plugging company, of any kind, make sure to talk to a person there and make sure they are pitching your songs to legitimate playlists — either user generated or official Spotify created.  I would also say only use companies referred by trusted sources, but that’s what I did and it’s why I ended up in this horrible position.

It’s the Wild West out here in the music industry — especially on the streaming front.

So it’s hard to know what is legit and what is not.  Some people swear by playlist plugging companies, some call them outright scams.  Some people swear by SubmitHub, some call it thievery.  It’s very hard to distinguish what is legitimate these days.  But I’m doing my best to figure this out and pass on what I learn.  If this happened to me — someone who investigates this stuff for a living — it can absolutely happen to anyone.

I wish Spotify would make a policy we all could follow.  Like, if they just came out and said “We don’t allow Playlist Plugging companies” then, boom, easy, we would know not to use any.  But as of today, Spotify does allow this.  So it’s really hard to know what Spotify is in support of or not.

Here’s hoping this gets figured out soon.

I’ve emailed Streamify 3 times to ask what happened and to stop doing whatever they’re doing that is triggering this. As of now my album is still down. I’ve appealed to Spotify, but no luck just yet.

If you have had good or bad experiences with streaming promotion or playlist plugging services please share them in the comments.

And if you’d like to trash talk me and say how much my music sucks and how I’m a complete and utter fraud, go ahead and do that in the comments as well (however, if past articles are any indication, you need no prompting). Go team!

 


Ari Herstand is the author of the best selling book, How To Make It in the New Music Business, a Los Angeles based musician and the creator of the music biz advice blog Ari’s Take. Follow him on Twitter: @aristake and Instagram: @ariherstand

48 Responses

  1. Avatar
    Andrew

    Snap. Sorry to hear that…thanks for the head’s up. That said, not *too* surprised – since they’re guaranteeing a certain number of streams, it must mean that they’re able to generate them on demand, right? Do you have any recourse? Will your album eventually be allowed back on Spotify?

  2. Avatar
    The fool

    Bummer! Keep forging ahead Ari, more good things are on the horizon!

  3. Avatar
    Humanityondemand

    Well, actually this is from streamify FAQ:

    “How are you distributing plays?
    Spotify track plays are sent to our huge partner list that includes music promoters, DJ’s, online radio stations, playslists and various other parties. We provide them only the Spotify URI of the tracks you give us. We do not provide partners with any information about who has requested those plays.”

    • Avatar
      Simpy

      Nice comment Ari.
      Im sorry but why is this an article? This isnt news.
      The only reason it would be printed is if you were trying to cover your tracks.
      Everyone knows that Streamify is where you buy fake streams, its on the front of their website. You did a blog on fake streams mentioning Streamify.

      You were perfectly happy people thinking your music was popular. Until yesterday when someone called you out on it. Then suddenly, in a few hours you write a blog blaming a fake stream site for misleading you.

  4. Avatar
    Strong Sauce

    Ari, the Streamify site doesn’t mention playlist placement anywhere. Only stream count boosts. So I’m wondering why you thought this was a ‘playlist plugger’?

    • Avatar
      Lester Bangs

      From the FAQ:
      “How are you distributing plays?
      Spotify track plays are sent to our huge partner list that includes music promoters, DJ’s, online radio stations, playlists and various other parties. We provide them only the Spotify URI of the tracks you give us. We do not provide partners with any information about who has requested those plays.”

      • Avatar
        Kyle

        So you skipped the front page where it says buy fake Spotify streams and someone managed to make it to the tiny FAQ somewhere?
        Well done, that must have been pretty difficult

    • Avatar
      Kyle

      Exactly. There are playlist plugger websites. They definitely don’t look like Streamify.
      Ive just seen the other thread and it looks like this blog has been rushed out because someone was about to out him for buying the fake plays.

  5. Avatar
    MC

    I would stay away from sites that promise 50,000 streams but charge only $150.

    From DMN and many other publications, we’ve learned Spotify pays around $50 per 10,000 streams. This would mean an Artist could earn around $250 from 50,000 streams, for neat profit of $100.

    For only $150, a stream-plugger probably does not screen songs before plugging them. If this service were legit, every Artist would play this game all day.

    • Avatar
      John doe

      It is different, us plays pay more, premium plays pay more, indonesia free account plays pay way less, it depends on a lot of factors

  6. Avatar
    trolltown

    trolllllllll. you need to get laid verrrrnnnn. y u so angry bro?

  7. Avatar
    Kyle

    Everyone knows that Streamify is fake plays. And so do you. I can’t believe you tried to blame CDbay for this.

    I checked out your profile. You have also bought fake followers. How do you explain that one?
    And you aren’t one proper Spotify playlist. Most artist have at least managed that.
    In reality It looks like you have around 50 listeners a month and possibly the same amount of followers.
    In what way are you in a position to give musicians advice or have I missed something?

    • Avatar
      Ari Herstand

      Hi Kyle, I’ve never bought followers. That’s a very bad practice on any platform: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Spotify as it messes up your real analytics. No use in buying fake followers, Likes, streams, etc. That wont build a real, authentic fan base. All my followers are real. And I should clarify, my songs have been included in a few hundred playlists (accordingly to my SpotifyArists) but not many of note that would really move the needle other than one song which was included in a New Music Monday (which brought 20,000 streams in a week). I’d be happy to make all my backend analytics public to display this and encourage transparency across the board.

      Other songs of mine have gotten good synch placements though (about 60 total). Happy to show you my ASCAP cue sheets. Not sure where the animosity is coming from though.

      Definitely not blaming CD Baby. They are being awesome about this and helping me resolve it.

      And, again, Streamify was recommended by a trusted manager friend who has huge clients. I had not heard of them before his recommendation.

      Peace

      • Avatar
        Morris Mills

        Since your Manager Friend Recommend them, has any other artist been Flagged or removed from Spotify them as you?

      • Avatar
        MG

        Ari, you’re a money making genius and i’ve learned many helpful hints from you…. this will all blow over and will probably make you even more popular.. keep doing what you’re doing. There’s a huge group of us rooting for you……

      • Avatar
        anon2

        It does not matter in Spotify because it´s already a fake service build up by liberal and greedy globalists minds selling advertising and using indie artists only as a tools and slaves and paying out too little. Why now give them back what they deserve.

  8. Avatar
    hateon

    spotify is gamed by EVERYBODY. especially labels. they tell their thousands of global staff to make playlists. and play it 24/7 on all devices at the office. and they BUY not streams, but entire PLAYLIST COMPANIES. I read on somewhere (DMN?) that they make a playlist w/30% artists other than just their own label to not trigger Spotify as to their gaming. Even indie bands with lots of plays likely have paid PR or playlisting deals.

    Hundreds of millions are at stake. You don’t think all bands, especially the big ones, are paying for playlists and plays? Why hate on Ari?

    Sure there are some random artists (say, a kid song writer) who get included on a list… because some major label playlist needs to prove to Spotify they are ‘real’ playlists, not just their own artists (or paid for plays)

    • Avatar
      Jules

      This is spot on. Thanks for saying what I was already thinking.

  9. Avatar
    A Thought..

    I wonder if they took down Ari’s album specifically – knowing it would get attention of the DIY community – so as to discourage other DIY artists from similar practice.

  10. Avatar
    Sol'e

    Good thing I rode this. I have tested streamify and they delivered me 1000streams. I was planning to use their service again; now I won’t anymore.

  11. Avatar
    Mouse

    It’s because you’re independent, and looking strong. Can’t have that.

  12. Avatar
    anon

    Indie pays fiver to get 1000 plays. Major record company pays 1000 to get banner for artist. If you are indie nobody knows you then it´s better to pay for play than wait for 10 years to get 1000 spotify plays. In Spofify you are swamped into service of millions of artists for listener to choose from.

  13. Avatar
    Mista D

    Sorry to heard that Ari.
    But what about other music service, tidal deezer and other, is your album removed from there too ?

  14. Avatar
    luis

    spotify took my album down iand i dont have click farm

  15. Avatar
    Peter

    Hi,

    did Spotify at least tell you, why your work was taken down? Or did you find that out by sursprise?

    Really curious.

    Thanks and good luck!
    Peter

  16. Avatar
    Tyler

    This spotify game is a real bite man, I’m sorry hear that. I had a friend and fellow musician who claimed for 100 bucks, he could get me 10k streams on my EP single. Said he knew how to hack the advertising and get more streams. Well, turns out the the streams were shady as well and I had no knowledge of this because he was a friend and I trusted him, until Amuse Inc, my distributor told me that Spotify had reported me for fake streams and that if i was caught doing it again, my EP would be removed. On the other hand, those 10k streams did launch the track into a discover weekly playlist that got us 20k more real streams and my band got a few thousand streams worth of attention on a couple other tracks too. So it wasn’t all bad, but I learned my lesson.

  17. Avatar
    Eric Blair

    Ari is a genius. A guy with no real success in the music business giving advice on how to be successful in the music business. Absolutely brilliant.

  18. Avatar
    Sts

    Were you able to get your album back on Spotify? This just happened to someone I know. They used a record label’s service to promote their album on Spotify and it was just flagged for fraud. This label told the artist the album would be placed on real playlists, generate real plays by real people. What can he do to remedy this situation and get his album back on Spotify?

  19. Avatar
    Leon

    Ari thanks for your post.

    I started a campaign today on Playlist Push, and noticed that on Spotify for Artists my play count on all tracks is at zero. Yet on Spotify it still reads the previous play count. I read some good reviews about Playlist Push so I’m confused.

  20. Avatar
    Thomas

    Sorry to hear about this Ari. (in 2019) … can you entertain a “WHAT IF”…
    What if …we abandoned the support of steaming and most digital services…do you really think the world would miss you??

    What if….we kept our day jobs, wrote great music that we liked to hear and performed it locally …creating new movements and a local following and had fun.

    What if…we returned to vinyl for limited signed copies of those special albums that deserve “classic” status in OUR minds..(500 MAX) for dedicated fans.

    What if…we acted like this was 1971 and no record company or major radio station will be interested unless they see successful numbers in our audience and on our accounting books

    Wouldn’t that reduce the stress of trying to achieve a lottery pick style approach to music stardom.

    Note: if there are a BILLION stars…you can:
    1) spend all your time trying to chase them …and really go nowhere!
    or
    2) lay back on the grass…watch the sky in preparation …and catch the one that falls from the sky.
    Metaphorically of course….

    Great music and talent does not make success ……Only huge marketing dollars that paint a picture of success or perception. Most businesses have loss leaders. Those that can hang in there long enough MAY see profits. Do you know ofr every ONE hit album..there used to be 20 to 30 musical acts that failed (tax write offs). If a company invest 3 million in the success of an artist …and you sound very much like and are perceived as monetary competition for the label’s artist…a label will sign you for 3 years give you 50,000 and put your album on the shelf, and nt allow you to record under your NAME for the duration of the contract in order to get you out of the way. (Its actually good business strategy) …..In short…try to enjoy being an artist without losing yourself to a fantasy world of TV and RADIO.

    If it is meant to come…it will …
    If it is not…you still had a great time and have great memories!

    IMHO,
    T

  21. Avatar
    Benjamiin

    you don’t need to do fake promotion…just use the legit ways like submithub, youtube, reddit, and facebook. It will take awhile but before you know it, your are making money. I am making $500 a month. it is awesome!!!

  22. Avatar
    AJones

    Ari, sorry to hear this. It just happened to me. They will not tell me how to get it back up. Were you successful?

  23. Avatar
    Billionaire Dollaz

    Did u at least get paid for the streams u gained organically ?

  24. Avatar
    REALITY BITES

    PAYOLA in the Music Industry has never disappeared…it simply wears a new HAT. When SPOTIFY posted a million songs without getting permission and thousands of lawsuits appeared backed by the BIG THREE LABELS all Hell broke loose….but NOW….those same THREE LABELS have cut DEALS with Daniel Ek who is a glorified version of Shawn Fanning…and after getting significant BONUSES to SIGN OFF on those DEALS the 3 LABELS are now BED-MATES with SPOTIFY…..the Artists and Songwriters are the lease concern of all four companies…

  25. Avatar
    Anonymous

    Having said THAT….my 21 yr old nephew quit Music College in Canada when he learned that after 30 sec of PLAY TIME you get PAID by SPOTIFY…..he uploaded 2 or 3 EPs with tracks shorter than a minute, bought 200,000 plays from STREAMIFY in MARCH 2017 and managed to convince the SPOTIFY bot that something significant was happening….and got on their TOP PLAYLISTS….since SEPT 2018 his royalties are hitting $ 3,000 USD per MONTH…he is RETIRED at 21 and just travels the world on SPOTIFY returns……the tracks are just re-hashed LOOPS with FULL PRODUCTION…he does NOTHING….he cannot SING and barely plays any instrument….but he knows how to HACK SOCIAL MEDIA to HELL….welcome to the New World Order folks !

  26. Avatar
    Oh man

    ‘I’d be happy to make all my backend analytics public to display this and encourage transparency across the board.’

    Dear God I’d love to see this. Please, bless us all with these analytics, oh wise one. Can’t fake analytics, or can ya?!?

  27. Avatar
    Kruger

    When did you add your track to Streamify playlist? How much time passed before you were banned?

  28. Avatar
    Justin

    This just happened to me I bought a playlist campaign and blog campaign for 50$ and 25$ respectfully and gained 5k streams in a few days and 500 followers. I was confused as I thought it would take a little longer than 4 days to gain the streams organically. But I was put on 12 playlists. I was using Landr for distribution and the flagged me for suspicious streaming activity. Then they removed my release. I spoke to the company I used and they told me that someone must have flagged my account because they didn’t think I was capable of gaining so much traction so fast. They said I would be the first to get removed because of their playlist plugging, and said it was Landr acting too quickly. It was all over a span of one week that this happened. They also said I should find a new distributor. Because being flagged for 5k streams is kind of ridiculous.
    I’m not sure what to do. Should I rerelease my EP through someone else? Should I use the same upc codes so I get credit for the streams? Because Spotify didn’t flag it, a user did and Landr is the one who took it down and downgraded my account so I can’t distribute through them anymore… What do I do here?

    • Avatar
      Rich

      What did you end up doing here Justin? We were told the same. Find another distributor. But if we use the same UPC will it just automatically be pulled of?

  29. Avatar
    Envinite

    Just happened to me a week ago lol. I was promised by some “promoter” that they’ll submit my track to popular personal playlist’s curators that they are going to review if its eligible. But it turns out that my music was added to a personal playlist that have 15 followers and got a whopping 10K streams from 7K streamer in a day. Interestingly, all the music on that playlist was recently added, meaning it is some kind of BOT farm. I also got 100+ followers within a minute and then no more traction.

    As a result, my distributor (LANDR) now permanently ban me from releasing my music to all platforms and said I can only use LANDR for mastering only. The most interesting thing I notice here is that a HELL LOT of other artist that use the promoter service are repeat customer, meaning that they don’t get the same ban treatment as I do.

    Which makes me think that it is not only just “promoters” being deceptive to us rookie music marketeer; but some distributor either doesn’t care with whatever traction their artist get as long it brings $$$ from the artist, while some other overly protective but only for their own side and does fucks all to help artist that fell into the trap. Interestingly I keep hearing that big labels does this shit as well but don’t get caught. What a shitshow, but I guess I’m just unlucky on this case.

    • Avatar
      Dysgeusia Records

      I bet they have a secret agreement with Spotify who encourages them to fish for people trying to buy plays and then after they get your money they report you to Spotify whom gives you the boot. They set the trap first knowing that it is best to get you first before you meet someone who isn’t in league with them. It makes sense and really it’s the only way to combat such a thing in which they had been burned many times before by fake plays which has cost them millions of dollars in payouts for plays which were never actually heard.