Music Marketing

Are EDM Artists Buying Facebook Fans? DJ Excision Speaks Out On Controversy

Excision-sends-haters-to-failsvilleControversy broke out this week in the Electronic Dance Music scene over whether or not major EDM dj's are buying Facebook Fans. A graphic showing multiple artists' Facebook fan pages with Mexico City as the "Most Popular City", including Skrillex, David Guetta and Excision, was interpreted as possible proof by Mixmag.  This possibility was then spread around the web via EDM fans and web publications.

Excision got into the fray with a Facebook post attempting to debunk the possibility. Though convincing on a personal level, Excision failed in his task and the issue remains open.

Before I dig into this topic let me make my position clear: I don't believe these dj's are buying fake fans on Facebook, but that does not mean fake fans are not being bought on their behalf. If fans are being bought, it would most likely be someone who's marketing on their behalf either buying fake fans through one of many available services or outsourcing social media marketing to an individual or firm who then employs a service that provides fake fans.

Edm-fake-fansEarlier this week Mixmag posted an unattributed story referring to a "user generated image posted online over the weekend" (shown at right), also without additional attribution.

This graphic is a composite of screengrabs taken from the Facebook fan pages of David Guetta, Excision, Steve Aoki, Skrillex, Deadmau5 and Avicii. They all list the "Most Popular City" as Mexico City. That is still the case early morning June 1st for all except deadmau5 whose current "Most Popular City" is Naples, Campania, Italy.

The highlighted "Most Popular City" for each act is seemingly presented as evidence that these artists are "buying fake fans". The Mixmag response is interesting because it includes the statement "even if this particular graphic is nonsense (which, let's face it, wouldn't be a first for the internet)." It also states that a "more in depth feature" is coming soon.

Given that they could have verified the graphic by checking the Facebook fan pages and probably did, it gives one a sense that Mixmag already knows more than they're letting on. It also raises the question of how they found the graphic and whether or not someone there created the graphic as part of a self-serving linkbaiting scheme.

Excision responded at length on his Facebook fan page in an attempt to debunk the claims now circulating widely through the EDM online community. He states that Mixmag got the "Most Popular City" info wrong because they and others interpreted it as "showing you the where the artist has received the most new likes on a given week."

Excision goes on to discuss the issue from various angles, including the fact that other artists are buying fake fans, and asks, "why would you buy fake profiles of people from Mexico when you can buy fake American fans with triple the value for the same price?"

It's an interesting defense but it doesn't actually hold up.

If you hover over the question mark beside "Most Popular City" you'll see FB's explanation:

"The city where most of the people talking about this page are from."

Facebook clarifies elsewhere that the one liner doesn't mean what normal humans would think:

"People Talking About This – the number of people who have created a story from your post. Stories include:
• Sharing, liking, or commenting on your post
• Answering a question
• Responding to an event"

However, that explanation leaves out a fuller range of actions that Facebook interprets as story creation. As widely noted and attributed to "A Facebook spokesperson", "liking a Page" is also considered part of the metric.

That means, yes, the "Most Popular City" can indicate new Facebook fans.

But there's not enough information available publicly via Facebook to say more than that. However, when buying Facebook fans, one typically gets a batch of profiles that are very similar and often from the same area.

Dan Tynan shares a specific example of what he's been finding of late that seems similar to the EDM situation.  In the process he exposes the action of Hey Dude Skin Care who ultimately responded by saying that the "company fell victim to an outside social media agency…The methodology for obtaining followers was never shared with Hey Dude."

Taken as a whole, the above points are why I think it's most likely that some entity connecting these acts outsourced the process, knowingly or not, and ended up being exposed via Facebook.

If you're interested in researching this topic further, I would suggest seeing if there's a business relationship that connects all these acts and then seeing who's providing publicity. Then I would examine other acts promoted by that firm to see if similar patterns are appearing on their Facebook fan pages. Unfortunately that's a bit complex for this blogger at the present time. But if you come up with something, let me know.

Note: I think Excision's best move was the image (see above thumbnail) that he had "one of my guys" do in Photoshop of "all the hater sheep on their way to Failsville."  For my part, I'm no hater but I used to work in hip hop web media so I generally assume the worst in cases like this.

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Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith blogs about business at Flux Research: Business Changes and about dance at All World Dance: News. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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  1. windish agency is the booking agent
    publicty is biz3
    source : feb issue of Billboard mag
    Mex. DF is as big as if not bigger than NYC. so that is an important S.American Market
    I beleive none of these dj speak spanish so a little strategy to take advantage makes sense. If they have “fake” fans who cares. At the end of the day if people are showing up and they are geting $$$. thats all that matters $$$.

  2. Hi there – My name is Neil Harris, and I can lend some insight from personal experience. I manage Cut Copy and Dragonette, two electronic-leaning artists.
    Mexico City is the most popular city on both band’s social media (soundcloud as well as facebook). We don’t game either band’s social media, and iwe were scratching our heads as to why Mexico City was so strong, as neither sell many records there.
    Dragonette haven’t been there, but are headlining a 1500 seater there this summer, and Cut Copy have been there 4 times, with their last headline show drawing almost 7000 paying fans (which is about equal to their last NYC show).
    So I doubt on the surface that most of the numbers Mixmag refers to are bullshit – they just really like the music down there, and there’s a shedload of people in that town.

  3. Are these fake F*c*book fans real people with real names taking a small amount of money or another sort of compensation for befriending a profile of a popular act or are they fakes? If it’s the latter, then why does F*c*book not just go ahead and delete them like any independent user registering under a surreal / artificial / stage name?
    Is this a case of payola or a case of vote for me and I’ll buy you a meal or both?

  4. Interesting article. On the line “It also states that a “more in depth feature” is coming soon”… there is a more in depth feature in the hard copy magazine than there is on the web site (the cover features Above & Beyond).

  5. Excision and the other artists can put this debate to rest by posting a screenshot of their Facebook Insights page, which shows the overall distribution of “fans” by geographic location.

  6. Hey Neil! hope all is well. I as a promoter as well can confirm that in mexico, if its electronic music, they have 18x the fans of anywhere else in the world. true story. for any subgenre.

  7. are you effing serious? mexico city is on top of all the music buzz and influence.. for some reason they have the best taste in music and always know shit before anyone else.. mexico city has always been my top facebook fans, and they’re so fake that i’ve actually developed business and personal relationships with them, traveled there several times for vacation and to play shows for this loyal audience, been asked for autographs in the streets. it was because of their strong music influence, that led me to explore different and now popular styles of music. this is an embarrassing article.

  8. I am an underground DJ from Florida and recently purchased advertising slot for my page. This is the advertising slot that you see in the right of Facebook, and occasionally in the news feed. My add targets fans of techno, deep house, Richie Hawtin, Seth Troxer, Maya Jane Coles, Minus, Paco Osuna and other similar artists as my music. I purchased advertising in Miami, Orlando (my current city), Ibiza, Munich, Detroit, Denver, San Francisco, California, and Mexico City (Mexico City). So far, Mexicans in Mexico city have been the most responsive to my ad, although it has been shown in all these other cities. It seems Mexicans are more open to advertising of electronic music artists, and are more open minded to discovering new ones. I only spent $15 in an ad, and all but one of 20 new likes that I have ‘paid’ for are from Mexico City. Remember, fans are not being ‘paid for’ and they are not receiving money for liking my page. This is purely their decision after seeing a brief ad for it that depicts my genre of music and the fact that I have a new record out on Beatport. I imagine larger Dj’s with a higher marketing budget are getting an equally higher response from users in Mexico City – this just means Mexicans like to discover new music and artists and are not close minded and stubborn as their American counterparts which are clearly desensitized to advertising and only pay attention to ads that are completely ridiculous, have naked women on them, or other non-sense. (just watch superbowl ads)

  9. So why didn’t Excision just say he had a lot of Mexican fans?
    In fact, he said Facebook got the most popular city wrong and so he denied having those fans!
    Here’s another problem: there can be a lot of fans in Mexico City and there can also be a bunch of fake like coming from Mexico City.
    Neither disproves the other.
    If there are a lot of real fans there, then buying fake Facebook likes might also be a tactic to reach that Mexico City fanbase.
    Mixmag followed their earlier article with this
    Personally I no longer care.
    No one has real evidence.
    Everybody’s speculating.
    The widespread use of fake fans is pretty obvious in the industry.
    Were they in this case? We’ll never really know at this point.
    So, no disrespect to Mexico City’s fans or their love of EDM but this is kind of a wack discussion.

  10. EDM DJs will most certainly use face book’s promotion option that puts an FB ad on the sidebar of every page. The “likes” garnered from these promotions are no different than the fake “likes” garnered from “click mills”. The DJs and the promoters could be promoting their artists in good faith and still have what appears to be fake likes. The fault lies with FB, not with the DJs. Thanks for the article.

  11. Also pages like Metallica, or the fuc*ing Justin B. show That city as the most popular, pages like pokemon and The legend of zelda share the city as the most popular. Maybe these pages actually have a fuc*ing lot of fans in The Federal District, a lot of fan-peoples there, maybe.

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