Music Tech

YouTube Deletes Billions Of Fake Views

Buy_youtube_fake_playcounts-313x199By Eliot Van Buskirk of

People on the internet are noticing that YouTube deleted billions of fake views from YouTube, after someone – some say artists, labels, or their affiliates — intentionally faked in order to get paid in a more Gangnam-like style, and climb the charts.

The thing is, the exact same thing happened last December, when YouTube cracked down and deleted billions of views, with Universal Music Group, the world’s largest record label, having more than a billion offending views stripped from the site (and, we assume, from the accounting department that pays out royalties). Sony’s and other artists also benefited from the fake plays — the only reason Universal was the top offender was that it has more music than the others.

During last year’s outrage, the Daily Mail, which initially reported the deletions, said “music industry sources… blamed it on housekeeping related to the migration of their videos across different channels.”

Now, in December 2013, the same exact thing is happening again. Could more of this migration channel housekeeping thing be to blame, or perhaps, as The Guardian’s sources would have it, are these fake plays the result of “technical difficulties.”

Much of the commentary around this issue has assumed that labels, publishers, artists, and/or songwriters are the ones faking the views (or more likely paying someone or something to fake them), because they’re the ones who stand to gain from it.

Rather than the oddball “channel migration” theory of 2012 or “technical difficulties” theory of 2013, what’s more likely is that these fake plays are really happening, and that YouTube is conducting some sort of December audit of its views, separating the fake ones out before finalizing the accounting on its royalty payments.

Not only is this not a new phenomenon on YouTube, but it’s not exclusive to YouTube. There’s a whole Tumblr dedicated to fake likes on Facebook. One band’s fans gamed Rdio and Spotify to put a Fifth Harmony song on top of the charts. The list goes on.

So the fact that the same exact thing happened in Decembers 2012 and 2013 isn’t really news. To the contrary, if people stopped trying to fake play counts when they stood to gain from doing so, that might constitute bigger news.


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  1. Unfortunately this is always going to go on. There are stories of managers buying their artists singles in shops to help them get in the charts.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if there are people automating loads of itunes download to get ranked.
    With new tech coming out all the time people will keep finding new ways to cheat the system. Quite sad really.

  2. Now heres one Ive often wondered about. I get offers on a weekly basis from sites whom provide “views” + “likes” for a fee,, on our music page. And myself,,Id rather EARN them,,than pay for them. For a couple of reasons,,#1 if you earn them,,you know there for real.#2 its rather deceptive ,both to us,,and the public that we got 20,000 views + likes,,that really are not real folks viewing + listening instead. I guess its all about personal integrity.

  3. Not just personal integrity, but End User Agreements, too. It’s against YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc. rules to engage a service who provides views and/or likes for a fee.

  4. What’s to say a competitor didn’t buy views for your video in order to sabotage it (you, the competition) and get your video taken down. I don’t put that past labels facing indie competition or the other way around. In fact this was indeed the case with an artist we worked with. He’d left his band and went solo, leaving much bad blood. The remaining band managed to get his wikipedia profile re-directed to their band’s wiki page, and bought likes to get his video taken down – which it was. There are no safeguards in place at youtube for this, and their appeal process is useless, useless, useless.
    Also, we bought an ad for an artist on google adwords for youtube. It got 202 views but the views never showed up in the counter on youtube. Upon investigation they replied with “youtube and adwords count views differently. We can ensure you those views took place but they don’t necesarily show up on your youtube counter.” WHAT? REALLY? not only that but they weren’t even willing to refund the $10 cost or offer a coupon. Perhaps they don’t want to pay monetization royalties for those 202 views as it cuts into their ad revenue? You think? GOOGLE IS CRIMINAL IF YOU ASK ME and its about time someone or many someone’s did something about it!

  5. That’s advertising. Tide detergent runs a commercial on TV telling you it has the best stain fighters – does it really? Or are they just telling you that to get you to buy their detergent? Now post your bands video to YouTube and it has no views so you ask your friends and family to like your video – is that cheating? Now you go to someplace like and you buy 5000 more views. Now people are starting to notice your band and they add more views suddenly you have 100,000 views that’s 95,000 legitimate views. And they think they can pull them all down? That sucks!

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