Admittedly, the music industry has a major problem – fake streams.
Three years ago, for example, Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) found that Jay-Z’s music streaming service, TIDAL, flat-out lied about its total streaming numbers for two popular albums – Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo and Beyoncé’s Lemonade.
Despite just having under 3 million subscribers at the time, TIDAL reported that The Life of Pablo had magically achieved 250 million streams in 10 days. Lemonade had also reached an astonishing 306 million streams in just 15 days
In a published extensive Digital Forensics report by CCIS, the newspaper found that the company manipulated the data. CCIS first started its investigation on February 7th, 2017.
Now facing a federal investigation in Norway, TIDAL executives deny any wrongdoing, despite authorities receiving a manipulated hard drive as evidence. An unspecified number of artists and labels have since pulled their music from Jay-Z’s service.
At around the same time, reports came to light Spotify had also gamed the industry to avoid paying top artists like Kendrick Lamar.
In a lengthy piece, Vulture’s Adam K. Raymond claimed Spotify has purposefully filled its service with fake accounts. The Swedish streamer had yet to tackle “the coverbots and ripoff artists who vomit… inferior versions of popular songs.” These ‘fake artists’ allegedly manufactured by the company received up to six-figure salaries for ripping off popular songs.
Spotify has since denied any wrongdoing, stating it wouldn’t “pay itself” for fake streams.
Yet, not everyone is convinced.
Dealing with the issue earlier this week, Louis Poen, founder of indie record label Hopeless, explained the real cost of fake streams for labels – $300 million a year.
One particular track, for example, earned around 3,000 streams per day. Then, that number jumped up to 35,000 streams each day for three days straight. Then it abruptly returned to its previous numbers.
Poen explained where the fake streams came from – Spotify.
“When we looked at where those streams came from, 100% of them came from six playlists on Spotify. It couldn’t be more suspicious. The playlists were created recently. They gained a bunch of followers in one week. They’ve never gained another follower since then.”
Now, top organizations and major labels have declared war on platforms which readily allow this form of manipulation.
Clamping down on gaming streaming.
Top tech and music industry companies have signed a new code of conduct. IMPALA and the International Confederation of Music Publishers (ICMP) are among the signatories of the ‘Anti-Stream Manipulation Code of Best Practice.’
The signatories have agreed on 22 codes to tackle “stream manipulation.” These include identifying dishonest manipulation and artificial creation “by human or non-human means,” and stating music streaming services and other digital platforms must play “a valuable role” in tackling fake streams.
Main topics of the code include the definition of fake streaming – now dubbed “streaming manipulation” – ways to identify legitimate versus illegitimate music consumption, practice and reasonable measures against streaming manipulation, compliance with existing national and EU laws, and the legal status of the code of conduct.
Each signatory has agreed that the code of conduct will not “affect” existing private agreements with and streaming service providers.
The complete list of signatories include Amazon, the American Association of Independent Music, Artist Rights Alliance, Deezer, IMPALA, the International Artist Organization, ICMP, the International Federation of Musicians, IFPI, the Independent Music Publishers International Forum, Merlin Network, the NMPA, Recording Academy, the RIAA, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Sony Music Entertainment, Spotify, Universal Music Group, and the Worldwide Independent Network.
In total, the signatories represent hundreds of different companies and a range of different music industry sectors.
You can view the complete code of conduct below.
Featured image by Spotify.