Streaming Fraud or Misunderstanding? More Bands Caught Up in Spotify Accusations & Takedowns

Spotify streaming fraud allegations
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Spotify streaming fraud allegations
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Photo Credit: Secret_Brilliant7317 / Reddit

Spotify’s recent changes to its royalty payout scheme were aimed at reducing bot-driven streaming fraud. But some bands are finding themselves dolphins caught in Spotify’s tuna nets.

A recent report from Boing Boing details how Boston rockers Hallelujah the Hills have been caught up in streaming fraud allegations. The song in question is “Play It As it Loops,” a track from their 2016 album A Band Is Something To Figure Out. The track was never released as a single, but eight years after its release it has become a target for Spotify.

The band shared an image of an alert it received from Spotify stating it had “detected listener activity on the tracks below that are the result of artificial streaming.” Spotify suggested the notification was an ‘early warning’ and no action has been made, but that if it continues to detect artificial streaming the track may be removed from the streaming service.

Spotify says Hallelujah the Hills or someone they work with has either hired a third-party Spotify promotion or ad placement service, paid for streams on a playlist placement service, or had music added to a playlist that engages in artificial streaming. The only problem? The band says they’ve done none of these things. What’s really questionable about Spotify’s reasoning here is the last one— “added to a playlist that engages in artificial streaming.”

While there are plenty of services online that will scam musicians by offering them Spotify playlist placement services, being added to a playlist is also a completely voluntary activity. In fact, Ryan Walsh of Hallelujah the Hills speculated about the potential for playlist abuse to happen between competitors all the way back in 2016 when VICE picked up on a Digital Music News report.

“If I wanted to seek revenge on a relatively unknown artist that I had a personal vendetta against, couldn’t I simply repeatedly stream one of their songs in an effort to get their work removed from the service? If Spotify is going to be in the business of censoring songs based on listening habits, shouldn’t it publicly announce the criteria for such action so that users can decide if they want to continue supporting the service?”

A cursory glance at some communities on reddit shows that streaming fraud is still rampant. A post from r/passive_income sees one person asking about how to avoid this very detection to keep perpetuating streaming fraud because they “make money from it.”

In a post from six months ago, a reddit user details his scheme. “I have 60 mobile phones connected to two different WiFi, six artist accounts through DistroKid, 80 instrumental beats which I bought from Fiverr (no copyright issues). I pay for premium family plans on Spotify and create new gmail accounts, all mobile phones are connected to premium family plans, however recently some of the accounts which I add to family plan have been getting removed.”

“I’ve made some money from it and wish to continue to do so, only problem is that the accounts which I add to the family plan accounts get taken down—does anyone have a solution?”

Luckily most responses to this guy are deriding him for perpetuating streaming fraud, but it’s worth pointing out that this is someone who is gaming Spotify’s system to steal from the royalty pool of legitimate artists. They are not a musician, they are an engagement farmer that steals revenue from actual musicians—to the tune of around $2 billion a year by certain estimates.