Spotify, Amazon and Deezer have joined all three major labels and music publishers, the RIAA, the American Association of Independent Music, IMPALA, Merlin, The International Confederation of Music Publishers and other global music industry trade groups in signing code of conduct designed to battle streaming manipulation.
MIssing from the list of signatories are Apple Music, Pandora, Soundcloud, Tencent Music and Tidal. The later has been accused of manipulating its own streams.
Initial signatories include Amazon, American Association of Independent Music, Artist Rights Alliance, Deezer, IMPALA, International Artist Organisation, International Confederation of Music Publishers, International Federation of Musicians, International Federation of the Phonographic Industry, Independent Music Publishers International Forum, Merlin, National Music Publishers' Association, Recording Academy, Recording Industry Association of America, Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Sony Music Entertainment, Spotify, Universal Music Group, Warner Music Group, Worldwide Independent Network, Universal Music Publishing Group, Concord Music Publishing, Kobalt Music Publishing, Federazione Editori Musicali, Musicnotes.
Manipulated streams are primarily driven by "pay for play" schemes and the use of bots and human click-farms to inflate streams on the free tiers of Spotify, Soundcloud and YouTube. Manipulated streams are estimated to represent 3-4% of all streams, outgoing A2IM board chairperson Louis Posen of Hopeless Records told the audience at Indie Week on Tuesday. That would mean a $300 million loss to rights holders annually.
The new code of conduct defines unacceptable practices as "all instances of illegitimate consumption are characterised as involving an absence of genuine demand for playback of the relevant recordings from genuine consumers."
The code offers these examples, which absent reasonable evidence to the contrary, would be deemed stream manipulation:
- "plays reasonably established to have been made pursuant to an automated process (including so-called 'bots' or 'click-farms', but excluding any playback functionality available as part of the relevant streaming service (e.g., playlists, autoplay or radio style experiences)), whether or not initiated by a bona fide consumer"
- "plays resulting from any 'pay-for-play' arrangement i.e. where payment is made to any person or entity in order to procure artificial plays via streaming, regardless of whether such streaming is brought about via automated or non-automated means, and with or without human intervention."
All parties also pledged to implement "effective detection and management of instances of suspected illegitimate activities."