Two journalists set out "hack" Spotify with a painfully bad track by a fictional artist boosted by plays purchased from a shady music "promotion" company. They not only succeeded, but found it surprisingly easy.
A lack of musical talent should never keep you from recording a completely terrible song. And it shouldn’t stop you from then buying 10,000 streams of that song," that was the tongue-in-cheek premise that motivated Lasse Cato and Alfred Maddox of the Danish version of online music site Noisey to "hack" Spotify.
"We started by giving the project a name that we felt described what we were all about: Cl1ckba1t," wrote the pair. "We took turns on the mic, choosing wildly different styles in our roles as shitty MCs. Some added Auto-Tune to off key bars, while others simply said all of the most cringey lines they could think of. With some shoddy production flouishes, we’d created the exact opposite of a cool track."
After using an unnamed service to upload the track onto Spotify, they set out to buy some plays.
The average price to purchase plays and followers on Spotify, Soundcloud and other music and social platforms varies. One outfit calling itself Social Media Experts promises 100,000 plays for $299, where as Streamify says that they'll deliver them for just $200. Spotify Promotion promises only 10,000 plays for $299, but throws in 3000 followers. More than one seller on Fiverr will do "viral Spotify promotion" for just $5 - $10.
"We chose to blow $40 on 10,000 plays, as we felt anything less would make us look bad," writes the journalists. "With ultimate Spotify glory within our grasp, we got greedy and tried to get all 10,000 plays in one day. Luckily, this wasn’t Streamify’s first rodeo in the world of buying popularity, and they immediately hit us with a warning, stating that more than 10,000 plays in one day would be “dangerous” for our track."
"Instead, the service suggested 60 days. We’re not soft, so we chose to spread our 10,000 purchased plays out over ten days," the pair continued. "Every day, our plays and “monthly listeners” rose exponentially. After ten days, we’d hit our target. Yet, even though we were listed as having as many as 5,000 monthly listeners at our peak, we today have 0, while our track has 10,000 plays, as promised. Thanks, Streamify."
What does all of this mean for the future of music and the music industry?
"We’re not saying that all songs that get a lot of plays are bad. But streams equal money. And money equals streams, making translating digital plays into quality a huge potential problem. If we can produce a track and buy streams for it, so can everyone else. And if that’s the case, can the amount of times a track has been played still even be used to measure its popularity? We can't say for sure yet. Welcome to the new digital frontier."