1-3% of France’s Total Music Listening Resulted From Fake Streams In 2021, Study Finds: ‘These Practices Have Become Widespread’

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Paris, France. Photo Credit: Isaiah Bekkers

Citing data from Spotify and others, a new report has suggested that at least one to three percent of France’s on-demand music streams – or roughly one to three billion plays – were fake in 2021.

The European nation’s National Music Center (Centre national de la musique/CNM) just recently disclosed this and other noteworthy figures in what’s billed as “the first documented and concerted study in the world on” streaming manipulation. North of 18 months of work went into the analysis, which focuses chiefly on the prevalence of fake streams as opposed to the practices behind them, according to a translation of the three-year-old government agency’s French-language findings.

After describing fake streams as “theft,” in that they further dilute leading platforms’ abysmal per-stream payouts and prove particularly devastating to independent artists, the CNM report indicates that Spotify as well as French streaming services Qobuz and Deezer provided data for the study.

The mentioned platforms specifically identified the total volume of fake streams detected in France during 2021 as well as more detailed figures pertaining to the market’s 10,000 most popular tracks. Organizers likewise took the opportunity to confirm that Amazon Music, Apple Music, and YouTube had been unwilling or “unable” to share the sought information.

Lastly, in terms of pertinent background details, the CNM made clear that its analysis reflects only “fraudulent streams detected by platforms and eliminated from rights sharing” – not artificial streams that went undetected and racked up compensation. And the aforesaid streaming-service data, having “been supplemented by data from certain distributors,” is said to be representative of “the majority of the French market overall.”

Digging into the study’s results, the CNM pinpointed “irregularities” involving the streams generated by major and indie labels as well as music from both French and international acts, across an array of genres.

During 2021, “between 1 and 3 billion streams” in France were fake, per the analysis, representing “between 1 and 3% of total listening” in the nation of about 68 million residents. Moreover, a miniscule portion of these allegedly non-organic streams reached new releases, the CNM communicated, skewing instead towards catalog works that debuted at least 36 months back.

On Spotify, hip-hop and rap songs are said to have received 84.5 percent of the fake streams at hand, compared to a still-substantial 27.7 percent on Deezer.

Notwithstanding the latter percentages, the text emphasizes that rap and hip-hop’s fake streams accounted for a small portion of overall listening. Meanwhile, Deezer has stated that fake streams continued to climb during 2022, and as a result of this and the above-described points, the CNM is calling for stakeholders to take additional steps to curb the prevalence of bots and other non-listeners.

To gauge the effectiveness of these steps’ gradual rollout, the CNM communicated that it will conduct another fake-stream inquiry in 2024. For indie artists, white noise, the relative inaccessibility of first-party playlists, streaming profiles for fake artists, coordinated listening campaigns fueled by rabid fans, and expensive promotional options are making the trying situation more difficult yet.