How I Got 10,000 Spotify Plays For a Totally Fake Song

How effective are Spotify’s fraud detection measures?  Not very, according to two writers who put them to the test.

Several months ago, a playlist plugging service offered popular independent musician Ari Herstand $500 for 50,000 to 100,000 plays on Spotify.  Another offered him a four-month plugging campaign for $5,000.

A third offered him 50,000 streams for just $150.  Herstand chose that one.

Herstand’s songs were quickly added to a popular user-generated playlist on Spotify.  It had around 50,000 followers.

It didn’t take long for the streaming music platform giant to notice. The company quickly took down Herstand’s 2014 album, Brave Enough.  Through his distributor, he found out that the playlist plugging service, Streamify, had likely used click farms to generate plays.

Now, Vice News’ music channel, Noisey, decided to try out Streamify.  Despite Spotify’s promise to “stamp out play fraud,” two writers found that their fake song could easily generate plays using playlist plugging services.

Pay for plays.

Digital Music News has covered playlist plugging services before.

For as low as $7, you could score as many as 1,000 unique plays through Active Insta Followers (AIF).  Those willing to shell out close to $5,000 could easily score 500,000 unique plays on Spotify in just 12 days.

No such law exists against this practice.  In layman’s terms, artists could easily game Spotify’s system using these services.  More plays mean more validation.  This, in turn, leads to premium playlist positions.  The end result?  Artists who pay for plays could attract real listeners.

Simple, right?  Morally ethical?  Not likely.

Yet, with so many playlist plugging services readily available, can we truly trust streaming numbers?

Probably not.

Case in point.  Noisey’s Lasse Cato and Alfred Maddox decided to put Spotify to the test.

In a statement to Vice News’ music channel, the company said that it employs algorithms and moderators to look “for suspicious patterns.”

We take fraudulent streaming activity extremely seriously.  Spotify has multiple fraud detection measures in place monitoring consumption on the service to detect, investigate and deal with fraudulent activity.

Cato and Maddox created a  track dubbed ‘Cl1ckba1t.’  They added off-key bars and had people sing “cringey lines.”  As with Herstand, Maddox and Cato selected Streamify to earn quick plays.  The company promised the writers 10,000 plays for just $40, a much cheaper rate than it had offered Herstand.  Cato and Maddox would receive the plays across 60 days.  They chose to receive them in 10.

The problem with fake plays.

The legality of websites like Streamify and AIF remain murky at best.  According to Billboard and Nielsen Music, they work closely with data providers to “ensure both the accuracy and legitimacy of…streaming volumes.”  They reportedly have safeguards in place to “identify and exclude any irregular and excessive streaming patterns.”

Yet, the popularity of these services prove one thing: despite the cost, people are more than willing to pay to inflate their metrics.

Heading back to Cato and Maddox’s single, ten days had passed.  In total, ‘Cli1ckba1’t received 10,009 plays.  Unlike Herstand’s album, Spotify hadn’t detected the purchased streams.  You can still readily stream the song on the platform here.


Featured image by Chris Potter (CC by 2.0)

15 Responses

  1. lmao

    It’s cuz of the freemium accounts.
    The guy at streamify doesn’t reply emails. So many artists said removal due to streamify. Apparently new tactic is, don’t reply to emails, but I still want the money.
    You’re not going to make any profit with them and the plays will make you related to all the other artists who used streamify, which are 99% of times someone with 0 listens. So whatever you built on your own for having related artists will be gone to spammers lmao. Absolutely useless and much worse, you gonna get removed son.
    Stay away.

  2. hateon

    again, you know the major labels, indies too, do this in some form — especially by owning the companies that employ teams of people full time to put together playlists, promote them 24/7 across all channels, etc

    would be great to have a story from an insider as to how the labels do it, and how they generate lots of plays for a new artist they are trying to break (payola to playlists? every computer at Warner around the world playing the playlist 24/7? click farms, more sophisticated than streamify re: detection?

    when BILLIONS can be harvested, you bet they are gaming the system

  3. Popular?

    ‘popular independent musician Ari Herstand’
    top tracks play count on spotify
    6.6k monthly listeners

    no wonder he’s moaning about how little money he makes. shame he’s not looking at his output, but instead blaming the vendors

    • Ari Herstand

      Hi there, I usually don’t engage anonymous commenters taking cracks at me. But I feel this is a teaching moment.

      First, to set the record straight, I have never once complained about how much money I make. You must be confusing me with someone else. I make a very good 6 figure living from my creative talents. And I have spent the past 5 years of my career passing along everything I have learned from my own experiences and from interviewing hundreds of industry experts. I am launching a new band and releasing the debut record next year. The past couple years I’ve been working on the project (making the record) – and writing a book – (why my Spotify page is relatively light – by most standards).


      Spotify is just one tiny piece of the broad picture. Yes it’s extremely hot right now and how many acts are breaking (and getting paid!). But getting millions of streams does not mean you have millions of fans. It might mean you got one person at Spotify to put one song on a popular playlist. So you have 1 very important fan.

      I know artists with 50 million Spotify plays and can’t bring 50 people out to their local shows, have 0 licenses, never toured, can’t raise $5,000 through crowdfunding and have a day job. So what really is popularity? I have sold tens of thousands of tickets and have played over 600 shows. I’ve sold out 800 cap venues and opened for giant stars in arenas. I’ve gotten a ton of great licenses on film/TV. I’ve been able to tour the world with my music. I’ve had people I don’t know dance to my music at their weddings and used my music to console them after a passing of a loved one. That might not mean much in your book, but that’s pretty rad in mine. Pretty damn fulfilling. Honestly, I don’t care that I don’t have millions of fans or am making millions of dollars. I’m very comfortable with my success.

      How do you define success? Because, I define it as living the kind of lifestyle I’d like to live, making a living from doing what love. And am fulfilled. Success is extremely personal.

      You cannot define someone’s success by your own metrics. Unhappy people like to bring others down and belittle their success by using whatever metrics they can to do it. My friends with 1M YouTube subscribers are upset they only have 10,000 Spotify followers. Some friends with 100,000 Instagram followers have day jobs and are unhappy because they don’t have any listeners to their music.

      I’m very happy with my career. Don’t love getting shit on on comment boards, but I continue to research, investigate and pass on everything I learn to help the indie music community. I could just hoard all the information and run my own music career quietly, but it’s more fulfilling to me to help other musicians succeed as well.


      • William

        Couldn’t agree with you more Ari. It seems clear that Spotify numbers are gamed. So the difference between 1,000 plays and 2 million doesn’t mean anything.

        Success is personal and the numbers don’t really mean anything anymore. In fact the more time someone spends trying to garner more “likes” “listens” “views” the less time they have to do the real important work.

        Letting you know I respect what you’re doing Ari. Thanks for sharing.

      • hateon

        well said, and thanks for all the info you’ve provided.

        (negative commentators like Popular are 1% of the populace overall but 99% of all the people who like to comment on the internet)

      • Kbzzy

        I’m rocking with you G. Some people like holding the cat while letting others skin that MF. Instead of trying to skin the cat than hold it….. Keep pushing

  4. William

    Couldn’t agree with you more Ari. It seems clear that Spotify numbers are gamed. So the difference between 1,000 plays and 2 million doesn’t mean anything.

    Success is personal and the numbers don’t really mean anything anymore. In fact the more time someone spends trying to garner more “likes” “listens” “views” the less time they have to do the real important work.

    Letting you know I respect what you’re doing Ari. Thanks for sharing.

  5. Annie

    Another twist to this is those people who are loading computer generated riffs as spotify tracks and then streaming the music on loop under duplicate accounts they’ve made. Spotify and alike are getting totally ripped off and scammers are raking in thousands to fund God knows what. The whole business is open to flaws and any artist or scammer who can find the loop hole could potentially get a top 40 hit with no real listeners.

  6. James Williams

    Удивительные статьи! Я пробовал ваши советы и давайте посмотрим, можем ли мы взаимодействовать с пользователями. Тем не менее, я также купил Spotify Plays от Alwaysviral, и он работает как шарм, они обеспечивают 24 * 7 онлайн-поддержку, однако мне никогда не нужна эта поддержка 24 * 7, потому что их услуги слишком хороши.
    Я рекомендую всем использовать сайт Alwaysviral для повышения их профилей. Я купил 2k Spotify Play от них и получил довольно хорошую оценку.

  7. Silvan Caminetti

    This can be indeed a powerful tool for emerging musicians, but need to keep in mind that even if the metrics on Spotify look good, this is only the top of the iceberg. You still need to do all the 1-to-1 promotion, email lists, radio interviews, etc. and although to buy Spotify plays can help your other promotion strategies, I believe it doesn’t really do much on its own. I’ve been using for a long time with some small campaigns and it does the job.

    I’ve been using some of these services for a while