Spotify exec Jen Masset on streaming manipulation, bots & stream farms

Spotify executive Jen Masset talks to Your Morning Coffee’s Jay Gilbert about the harmful practice of stream count manipulation and what the streamer is doing to stop it.

Jen Masset, Spotify’s Global Head of Indies, Commercial Partnerships, was interviewed by Jay Gilbert for Your Morning Coffee who provided this transcript.

JAY GILBERT: When I read stories about people trying to game the system when it comes to streaming music, I often see terms like “bots” and “spin farms.” What exactly are “bots” and “spin farms?”

Jen Masset of Spotify

JEN MASSET: So first off you have like the term “bot,” which can have numerous definitions, but here at Spotify, we think of artificial streams, which are those typically associated with bots as those that don’t represent genuine listener intent. A spin farm on the other hand is likely a series of devices that are set up to generate streams automatically on particular pieces of content.

JAY: So how big a problem is artificial streams today? 

JEN: Well, stream manipulation is an industry-wide issue, it’s not just at Spotify. Sadly, but also, it’s industrywide and Spotify takes it very seriously. So, while the percentage of potentially impacted streams overall is extremely small, that doesn’t mean we’re okay with it. In fact, we’re developing technologies, processes, and policies that protect the integrity of the Spotify platform and that’s an area of absolute top priority for us. 

“stealing legitimate earnings from hardworking and deserving artists and rights holders”

Bad actors, such as those that promise things like playlist placements or specific number of streams in exchange for money, they violate our terms of service and they encourage stealing legitimate earnings from hardworking and deserving artists and rights holders. We take that very seriously as it keeps us from our company mission of a million artists, living off their art and giving billions of fans the opportunity to enjoy and be inspired by it. We’ve taken legal action against bad actors and helped take down artificial streaming companies and markets around the world.

Engaging in any way with artificial streams can result in the withholding of manipulated streams from streaming numbers. We can withhold royalties and, where necessary, we can remove the tracks from our service. So it ultimately hurts an artist’s long-term process. 

Spotify reports the number of artificial streams to our partners on a monthly basis, and we believe that artificial streams are decreasing on a monthly basis. The number of pieces of legitimate content delivered are increasing. 

JAY: So, what can be done about this problem besides what you just outlined? What are some things that can be done at the DSP level, but also for artists, managers, labels, and distributors?

JEN: That’s a great question. So, on the Spotify side, we’re working to stamp out any artificial streaming activity across our service. We have a robust fraud detection team who use best-in-class anomaly detection, capabilities and the expertise gained during years of studying abnormal streaming behavior to proactively detect abuse and quickly mitigate the impact of the activity.

“artists who use our platform should feel secure”

Again, while we can’t prevent the abuse from happening, the listeners and artists who use our platform should feel secure that we have the technology and a team of experts committed to fighting this issue. 

Spotify also engages in a range of direct and indirect mitigations and responses to fraudulent activity to protect the integrity of our charts.

Those can include removing artificial users or albums from our platform to more indirect measures of zeroing out streams from royalty, chart or metric considerations. This means that even when an artificial stream occurs, it’s not necessarily counted towards charts, royalties or other metrics. 

On the artists, artists, managers, labels, and distributor side, education is extremely important and it’s one of the reasons I wanted to speak with you about it today. We have educational articles and videos on Spotify For Artists, which we are extremely thorough. We’ve researched them. We’ve interviewed tons of people and put those together through our preferred provider program.

We ask that any distributor who wants to be listed as preferred on our website also is sure to educate their community of distributed artists and labels on this issue.

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