IFPI and BVMI Tout Latest Streaming Manipulation Takedown in Germany: ‘The Practice Constitutes Fraud’

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Hamburg, Germany’s Oberhafen Bridge. Photo Credit: Marvin Radke

After successfully targeting the web-hosting provider of stream-ripping software YouTube-DL earlier in 2023, the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI) and Bundesverband Musikindustrie (BVMI) are touting the takedown of a Germany-based “streaming manipulation service.”

The IFPI and the German recorded music industry representative today detailed the result of their “successful legal action” against the service, SP-Onlinepromotion.com. Described by the involved entities as a supplier of artificial streams and other music interactions that “did not represent genuine listening,” the website has already ceased operating.

And moving forward, the site’s developers “are legally bound not to offer manipulation services,” according to the IFPI and BVMI, higher-ups from which addressed the news in statements.

“Streaming manipulation has no place in music,” summed up longtime IFPI CEO Frances Moore. “The practice constitutes fraud and the perpetrators and enablers of this illegal activity cannot be allowed to divert revenue away from the artists who create the music that is loved by fans and which drives legitimate engagement with streaming services.”

In separate comments, BVMI chairman and CEO Florian Drücke communicated in part: “The top priority for BVMI and its members is a properly functioning streaming market because distortion and manipulation harm artists as well as their partners. They jeopardise the accuracy of royalty payments and call the credibility of the charts into question.”

Of course, the major labels have for years been taking aim at streaming manipulation operations in nations including Germany, where a number of fake play providers have been decommissioned since 2020’s beginning amid rapid industry growth.

According to BVMI’s own H1 2023 report, the German recorded music industry generated over €1.05 billion (currently $1.11 billion) during the year’s first six months – with close to 76 percent of the sizable sum having come from audio streaming.

Notwithstanding the fake stream shutdowns as well as adjacent efforts to shutter the initially mentioned stream-rippers, evidence suggests that artificial plays remain relatively common today. It was only in May that Spotify, reportedly acting at the behest of the industry powers that be, pulled a multitude of songs created by AI music generator Boomy due to alleged fake streams.

Closer to 2023’s beginning, a study found that between one and three percent of France’s total music listening had derived from fake streams in 2021. More troublingly, September brought a bombshell investigative report from Sweden’s Svenska Dagbladet, which described criminals’ alleged use of fake Spotify streams as a means of laundering money.