Spotify attacks “artificial plays”

Spotify is taking new and more stringent measures to tackle the problem of artificial streams that has obsessed it for several years.

Its new objective is to educate musicians, through its Spotify for artists bras, so as not to fall victim to unscrupulous third-party companies who offer to increase their flows in exchange for a royalty. These companies primarily target new artists – often those who are self-publishing and don’t have a label or distributor working with them – who might naively see this as a quick way to make an impact on the streaming service and then hopefully get picked up by editors to be included in key playlists that can further boost their careers.

The streaming company posted an educational video on its Spotify for Artists YouTube channel describing the issues, alerting the actions of some of the warning signs, and explaining that it has processes in place to spot, and then disqualify, streams that appear to have been manipulated.

“We want artists to know what’s going on so that they can also fight and avoid scams,” says Regina Escamilla, senior product marketing manager at Spotify, in the video. “For an artist, a stream is a listener connecting with their music, that’s what it is. That’s what we want. But sometimes third-party services try to manipulate Spotify using bots or other automated ways to create what we call artificial flows […] This type of flow manipulation affects the entire music industry, fans included.

The company says it follows “unusual listening patterns” and sends out red flags if it detects suspicious gaming activity.

“We want to make sure artists and rights holders are paid fairly for their work,” adds Sarah Shields, Head of Promotional Programs and Business Partnerships at Spotify. “If the artificial streams were not detected, it would take away royalties from artists who work hard with legitimate streams, which is not correct.”

The company also cautions artists against working with outside companies that claim they can get their music from key playlists managed by Spotify, stressing that these placements cannot be bought and are entirely up to editorial decisions. Acts caught engaging in such manipulation could see royalty payments frozen or even see their entire music catalog removed from service.

This issue of streaming manipulation has been brewing for several years. Back in 2018, Music trade around the world exposed how a playlist maker in Bulgaria was able to rip off over $ 1 million from Spotify’s royalty pool (from which all music is paid for) through a complicated one-way stream manipulation process. huge scale.

Along with this, the industry is increasingly critical of how sleep playlists are able to record an impressive number of streams by bypassing Spotify’s streaming rules to their advantage.

Rolling stone recently wrote about Sleep Fruits Music, which has a number of Spotify playlists that consist of rain sounds and other ambient noises that people can let play all night long as a sleep aid.

Its playlists are made up of songs that are often only 31 or 32 seconds long, barely exceeding the 30-second threshold for which Spotify requires a song to be played in order to qualify for a royalty payment.

One of the concerns of the music industry is that this dilutes the reserve of cash available that could go to musicians rather than those dealing with white noise and the sounds of nature.

Manipulating the charts and “creatively” adapting the rules has been a constant in the recording industry since the 1950s, when Payola had a big radio presence, a scandal that brought down DJ Alan Freed. It resurfaced in the 1980s on a more industrialized scale, as Frederic Dannen’s 1991 book shows. Hit Men: Power Brokers & Fast Money in the Music Business.

In the days of physical singles, teams of buyers would target stores back on the charts and buy multiple copies of singles to propel them up the charts. All of this cost the record companies money behind them, but the belief was that they would reap the benefits later if the act became established from their revolutionary “success”.

Graphics manipulation is simply adapting to new technology, but the move to streaming might see a darker side appear – one where it’s less about improving your profile and more about undermining the profiles of your closest rivals.

“We recently heard of an artist ox who stepped up buying artificial streams for each other’s music as quietly as possible, hoping to punish rivals,” wrote Music ally in September.

Whether unscrupulous operators play with the system to drain the pool of royalties payable or exploit the desperation of new acts to impact the streaming services, PR war, and law enforcement activities that Spotify must engage with will become more and more difficult to navigate. .

He’s already fighting fires with acts complaining about how little they get paid as well as the difficulty of building a lasting career from streaming.

Spotify’s argument that man-made games and third-party snake oil dealers are offering to hype to keep up with Spotify playlists only takes food off the table of genuine (and honest) artists is strong. Still, some critics will point out what Spotify is already doing with its own Discovery Mode offering, where it can boost certain tracks for artists if they agree to a lower royalty rate for those boosted tracks, as simply making a bad situation worse.

A number of DIY acts seem happy with this optional marketing and promotion tool, but major independent labels, represented by European trade body Impala and its US counterpart A2IM, are far from happy with what. it represents.

The harshest critics of Discovery Mode will compare it to the damaging impact of artificial games: it is, they will say, arriving at the same problem but just from a different starting point.

All of this means that more and more artists trying to make a living are going to have to scratch their heads to try to determine if the “cons” are outweighed by the “pros”.


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