Fake Streams Are Costing Artists $300 Million a Year, Indie Label Estimates

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The music industry has been revolutionized by the advent of streaming platforms. With the likes of Spotify, Apple Music, and TIDAL leading the way, the shift from physical album sales to streaming has been swift and decisive. However, as with any new technology, there are always concerns around its legitimacy and the potential for abuse.

Indie labels, in particular, are becoming increasingly worried about the legitimacy of their streaming numbers. Louis Posen, founder of Hopeless Records, spoke at Indie Week about his concern that his company’s streaming numbers were subject to illegitimate streams. One particular track was earning around 3,000 streams per day, but then that number jumped up to 35,000 streams for a day for three days before abruptly returning to its previous numbers.

The unusual jump prompted an investigation into the numbers, which revealed that all the unusual plays came from six playlists on Spotify. Upon further inspection, Posen discovered that all of the playlists were created relatively recently, gained hundreds of followers in one week, and then no more followers were added. All the plays happened within the 3-day period, suggesting that stream manipulation was at play.

Stream manipulation like this is almost surely the work of bots, which is against Spotify’s terms of service. Posen believes that at least 4% of global streams are illegitimate streams, which translates to over $300 million in lost revenue from actual listeners to files being played on a computer by bots.

Posen was joined at Indie Week by Angel Gambino, Chief Commercial Officer at Napster, and Markus Tobiassen, who investigated TIDAL’s stream manipulation scandal. Gambino’s definition of stream manipulation is anything that isn’t a fan listening to music. Artists and marketers often operate under a pay-for-play model where they can add tracks to popular playlists to boost exposure. The owner of the playlist charges a modest sum and features the track for an agreed-upon number of days.

People who operate these playlists advertise themselves as having access to millions of monthly listeners. They make these listeners available to artists for a fee, and many artists are willing to pay for exposure. However, this practice is entirely against the terms of service of Spotify and other streaming platforms. It is also not an organic way to gain exposure, which could lead to ethical concerns.

It’s important to note that while some playlists are created with the intention of manipulating streams, many playlists are legitimate and created by fans who want to share their favorite music with others. These playlists can be a great way for independent artists to get their music heard by a wider audience.

However, the issue of stream manipulation is a significant concern for the music industry, particularly for independent labels. It is essential for streaming platforms to take measures to detect and prevent bots and other forms of stream manipulation. It is also important for artists and marketers to focus on organic growth and exposure rather than resorting to illegitimate methods.

In conclusion, stream manipulation is a real problem in the music industry and one that must be addressed. As streaming continues to grow in popularity, it is critical that the industry takes steps to ensure the legitimacy of streaming numbers. The focus should be on organic growth and exposure, rather than paying for plays or using bots to manipulate numbers. By doing so, the industry can ensure a fair and legitimate system for all artists and labels.

One Response

  1. Hhhhhhaaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!!!

    All the numbers they let you see
    One stream 5¢ sure Apple sure
    They are STEALING FROM INDI ARTISTS
    None of u ever report it EVER
    GREATEST ART THEFT IN HISTORY
    Get all the customers off owning music to streaming platforms
    Next New Tec
    Then no streaming
    Customers buy all there music again
    This will be my 5th time to buy stuff on a new platform,
    I want off the ride