Spotify Issues Stern Warning on Fake Streams — Promises to Withhold Royalties and Remove Content

what are fake streams Spotify
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what are fake streams Spotify
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Photo Credit: Nadine Shaabana

Spotify is cracking down on fake streams with promises to withhold royalties and remove content.

Fake streams are plays of music by bots, hijacked accounts, or other inauthentic listening methods. It’s become such a problem that J Cole rapped about it in the 2018 song, “A Lot.”

“Getting they plays from machines /
I can see behind the smoke and mirrors /
N**gas ain’t really big as they seem.”

Fake streaming has plagued the platform for years, and a quick Google search shows why. Any enterprising artist who wants to boost their numbers on Spotify are offered a myriad of services. “I will help you buy real play from all over the world at an affordable price,” one site reads. Emerging artists might be attracted to these illegitimate offers despite being against Spotify’s terms of service.

That’s because of the way royalties are divided from a massive pool. You earn more royalties the more monthly listeners you have. These fake streams offered by companies are intended to mimic a song or album going viral on Spotify. Once the song is popular enough to get noticed by the algorithms, they’ll pick it up and put it in a playlist – hopefully snowballing its popularity.

Artificial streams from bots and hijacked accounts are fake streams and they hurt the music industry as a whole.

Spotify tracks unusual listening patterns and flags streams that are potentially suspicious. “We have a huge team of engineers and researchers working on detecting, mitigating, and removing artificial streaming activity across Spotify so we can protect artists and their legitimate streams,” says Sarah Childs.

Legitimate streams are exactly what it sounds like – someone clicked on your music in Spotify to listen out of interest. Spotify says its only fair that every artist has a chance to earn income and fake streams take royalties away from hard-working artists on the platform.

“Don’t do artificial streaming, that’s my big message!,” says Dee Childs of Reach Records. “If you have money that you’re able to reinvest into your career, then reinvest it into channels that are going to actually provide a return that is long-term. Advertising, creating visual content, music videos to grow your channels instead of putting all of your budget into something that isn’t going to give you the fanbase that you ultimately need.”

“Anyone who says they get you on any Spotify playlist for a fee is not telling you the truth and is not affiliated with Spotify in any way,” Spofity says. “You can’t buy your way onto any Spotify editorial playlist. The only way to pitch music to our editors for editorial playlist consideration is by submitting your track on Spotify for Artists.”

To combat artificial streaming, Spotify is taking action against fake streams. They remove user-generated playlists that offer paid placement and violate Spotify’s terms of service. Spotify may withhold royalties, correct stream numbers, and chart positions. Your music may even be removed from Spotify.

8 Responses

  1. SZ

    All the more reason to implement a user-centric system so each account governs itself and doesn’t possess the power to sway the pool.

  2. john

    Is this article talking about sites like tonecore or distrokid as being fake?

    • Harold Spencer

      ZZZZ. Your comment is fake. And, it’s TuneCore. Get it right.

  3. Know Your Worth Within

    Spotify need stop displaying song spin stats publicly; it should be private info for the artist and label only. Who knows if they are accurate? Spotify can make or break an artist if they wanted, for no one is policing their system, but them. The stat display is used to intimidate indie artists–to make them feel as if their songs are sub par, which is absurd. People should listen to music because they like the song, or because it resonates with them, not because Spotify says it’s had a billions spins. You know how many songs I’ve ran across with billions of streams that didn’t measure up to what I personal like? Many. Point is: Artists don’t need Spotify and high numbers to feel validated. It’s a bit of a bullying game Spotify is subconsciously playing, whether they know it or not.

    • Janie

      Soooooo true!!! Fairest way is just what you described!! I hope Spotify listens!!!!

  4. Things may not be as they seem

    This has potential to be abused by Spotify to further reduce royalty payments (title quote “Promises to Withhold Royalties and Remove Content”). Of course there is no stated appeal process. Think about it. If I want to spike another musician or label I just sign up for fake streams for my competition and voila they loose money or get that content taken down. What are the odds the fake stream company checks to see if you are who you say you are?

    Also what are the odds Spotify improves their bottom line by using the software to reduce royalties under false pretense? What are the chances that Spotify submits its software for detection to outside independent audit?

  5. Sure... Spotify is Fair

    LOL. Spotify doesn’t care about fairness. If they did then they would pay artists more for their streams. They’re trying to find another way to profit off artist’s work by giving themselves an arbitrary method of taking money from artists. “Your streams look fake guess I can have your money.” I’ll believe it when they start paying artists better until then they can stuff it.

    • Herman

      Fairness doesn’t mean payment. It also has to do with placement, promotion and more. Being so stuck on payment, limits your thinking.