Fake Artists and Fake Streams: Fact or Fiction?
Imagine being a young artist trying to find an entrance into the music industry, dreaming of developing a successful career. Think it’s hard to execute? Well, that may be the understatement of the year. For many new talents, the initial complexities and frustrations involved in trying to build a fanbase and attempting to get noticed by the industry are more than enough to make them give up before their career even starts. Yet some new artists come out of the gate with a first recording that almost immediately kicks into high gear, reaching tens of thousands or even millions of streams within a short amount of time.
Why do some talented artists find success right away, while others linger in obscurity for years (or forever)?
Sometimes this occurs for the purest and most beautiful of reasons, when an incredible artist releases the right song at the right time, striking a nerve with a massive demographic and snowballing quickly into a smash hit. But this is not always the case. Unfortunately, there are many allegations about “fake artists” and “fake streams” that are causing even the most seasoned industry veterans to question the validity of many actions within the digital music world.
It was industry blog Music Business Worldwide, which first suggested ‘fake’ artists on Spotify. It appeared the streaming platform was paying producers a flat fee to create tracks for its playlists, while retaining control of the master copyright with the potential for publishing to be negotiable, instead of legitimately licensing the content and paying out royalties to the music owners. It’s important to note that Spotify has recently issued an absolute denial of these allegations, issuing a statement saying: “We do not and have never created ‘fake’ artists and put them on Spotify playlists. Categorically untrue, full stop.”
But wait, there’s more. Many irreputable entrepreneurs are now “selling streams” on services such as Spotify, allowing either new or established artists to ramp up their number of plays through the fraudulent use of bots. And at a relatively small cost. You want 1,000 Spotify plays? Just pay $5. And if you want to register 2 million Spotify plays, simply fork over $2,250. And sadly, this rampant problem isn’t isolated to Spotify. A quick Google search will bring up options to purchase “fake YouTube streams”, “fake SoundCloud streams”, and others.
So, how can anyone trust the statistics around streaming plays for new artists?
The unfortunate reality is that these scammers have created an entirely new market by selling fake markers of success in the modern music industry, and the ramifications are massive. For one, services such as Spotify pay royalties. And even though per-play streaming revenue for rights owners is infamously low, it’s still important to run the numbers. Spotify’s blended per-stream payout rate is approximately $0.005 to $0.006. Therefore, 10,000 streams would garner about $50-$60. Considering the fact that 10,000 fake streams can be purchased for about $50, a person who utilizes these spurious tools would actually be able to earn a $10 profit while increasing the profile of an artist at the same time.
Additionally, artists with falsely-boosted profiles will still gain the attention of record labels and the rest of the music industry, even though the data is fake. When an artist who has reached millions of Spotify streams contacts a label, management company or publisher, they’re very likely to find interest, even if they have little or no actual fanbase.
Of course, the problem is not new and streaming services have anti-fraudulent measures in place. Spotify, YouTube and other platforms systematically monitor consumption on the service to detect sudden surges of activity that are often associated with fraudulent activity.
Still, this massive industry problem cannot be solved in a day. And the only way to battle “fake technology” is with exceptional and authentic technological solutions, developed to rise above the new wave of enhanced boosting schemes and ensure that stats are correct. We must use advanced technology to remove “fake streams” and “fake news” from the industry, thereby providing the guarantee of genuine data, while ensuring that royalties are distributed only to legitimate copyright holders.
By Sergey Bludov,
SVP, Media & Entertainment