Over the holiday season, Beyonce appeared to have dropped two new albums for fans to enjoy on Spotify and Apple Music.
But the two albums were released under a different name and quickly disappeared from both services less than a day later.
Using the ‘Queen Carter’ moniker on both Spotify and Apple Music, the unauthorized albums quickly disappeared. R&B star SZA had the same thing happen. Stolen material appeared on streaming services using the fake name Sister Solana. Again, the music was quickly removed, but the damage was done.
Of course, nothing is truly gone once it’s on the internet. Including details that are leading back to the perpetrator(s) behind the fraudulent release.
The independent distribution service used to release the albums is investigating the two accounts used for the fraudulent releases. Soundrop is working with authorities to prosecute the perpetrator of the intellectual property theft.
“We’ve identified who it is and how they abused our system to get through,” Soundrop brand manager Zach Domer told Rolling Stone.
Although the perpetrator has been found, though Domer says the company can’t share any other specifics about the identity of the leaker because of the ongoing investigation.
“We don’t know how the content was obtained originally before it hit our system, but […] these weren’t official recordings,” Domer relayed.
“The user used fake metadata and obscured information.”
While the identity hasn’t been released publicly, industry figures believe the same person orchestrated both releases.
One reason why this happens is because of the messy way music is typically handled behind the scenes. There are lots of possible entry-points for a fraudulent attack.
Currently, Spotify gets music tracks from a range of distributors; the platform used to receive content from major labels and smaller indie labels exclusively. That opens up lots of exploitation loops. Now, with the service offering a limited beta for anyone to upload music to the Spotify for Artists program, this problem could explode.
These fraudulent high-profile releases can also impact royalties for artists. Since there’s no per-stream rate defined in royalties, a high-profile fake release could easily skew the royalties of other artists. Streaming royalties are handled based on the cumulative performance of total music releases, not a pre-defined rate.
It’s also a highly communal system, with artists often missing out on direct royalties from their fanbases.