As streaming settles in to become the established medium of music consumption, the inevitable issue of fraud is rearing its ugly head. In this piece Kevin Cornell provides a quick breakdown of streaming fraud and what you, as an artist, need to know.
Guest post by Kevin Cornell of the TuneCore Blog
Over the past decade, we’ve watched music streaming rise as a prominent method in which fans consume their favorite songs and albums, and perhaps even more importantly, how they discover their new favorite artists.
Once debated by artists big and small, there’s now an overall consensus that music streaming is not only here to stay, but also that it provides platforms for artists of all stripes to promote their music and for fans to easily access whole catalogs of releases at a reasonable cost.
In fact, here at TuneCore, we’re always looking for ways to partner with streaming platforms all over the globe and create a better experience for independent artists wishing to get heard and get paid.
But like anything else, so long as there’s money to be made, strategies to cheat the system have followed. That’s right folks, we’re talking about something known as streaming fraud (or ‘click fraud’) – something you may not even know you’re about to commit.
“WHAT’S THAT, YOU SAY?”
It’s pretty much exactly how it sounds: fraudulent attempts to manipulate play counts and trick a platform into paying an artist for streams that weren’t actually listened to (and enjoyed by) real fans.
As the streaming landscape continues to evolve, the music industry is doing more and more to combat such fraudulent activity and ensure that bad actors don’t ruin it for everyone else.
“PSSSH. COUPLE HUNDRED EXTRA STREAMS? I’LL BE FINE!”
Wishful thinking, friend.
Whether you’re intentionally programming bots, sitting around hitting ‘Play’ over and over again, or getting into business with a service that guarantees streams or playlist placement in return for money, you’re putting your career at risk.
Not sure if what you’re doing is streaming fraud? Just ask yourself if anything you’re doing could be considered ‘artificial manipulation of play counts’ – you should have your answer. This even includes inciting your fans to try their hands at ‘gaming the system’.
“BUT I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING TO SPECIFICALLY COMMIT STREAMING FRAUD! I WAS DUPED BY AN OTHERWISE RESPECTABLE-LOOKING FIRM OR INDIVIDUAL!”
This happens. More often than you’d think, actually.
At some point, you may find yourself being approached by one of these firms or independent freelancers, or come into contact with them via an online marketplace, and they’ll dangle that promise of a few extra thousand streams. Some of them will seem totally legit and buttoned up. Others might give you the creeps instantly.
When trying to decipher the difference, consider the old adage: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
The solution? Don’t risk it! Do your research and trust your instincts when it comes to anyone promising to get you a bunch of streams if you throw them a few bucks.
DON’T LET THIS SCARE YOU OFF FROM PLAYLISTS
We talk often about strategies for pitching your music to playlist curators – whether it’s an official Spotify playlist curated by their editors, or an unofficial independent playlister who has amassed a nice following of listeners because of their tastemaking skills.
We stand by this practice 100%: playlist pitching is now a major part of independent artists’ promotional strategy, and should be treated as an extension of their PR efforts.
However, we also know it’s like anything else in the music industry: difficult and often discouraging. These curators are receiving tons of emails and other targeted communication on any given day and that makes landing your song on a tastemaking playlist not much easier than landing on a tastemaking blog.
But hey, if you haven’t already, there will come a time when you realize this is a tricky business that requires a lot of hard work, revision, and dedication – and that can totally pay off for you.
At the end of the day, we here at TuneCore want to see you succeed as an artist and so do our partners.
At the risk of sounding like a cheesy mid-90s after-school P.S.A., manipulating streaming counts is not your road to success.
What seems like a perfectly fair or clever opportunity to boost streams and make more money could wind up setting you back both with your distributor and the store partners we service – and who wants that?
Avoid falling for the trap – whether that’s partnering with shady promise-makers or straight up looking for a way to cheat. Keep working hard and finding innovative, honest ways to get your music heard, and TuneCore will always be there to support your journey.