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What’s the Deal with Streaming Fraud? Here’s Everything You Need to Know.

May 26, 2021

It’s no question that music streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music are dominating the digital world of music distribution. Streaming is a win-win for the artist and the listener: artists make money for every stream their music gets, while listeners can take their music on the go without having to download a thing. 

Artists, producers, labels, or anyone who is an owner of music rights are always striving to gain as many streams as possible. But in a world that is so stat-driven, there are plenty of potential issues within streaming numbers–things like streaming fraud, which could easily sabotage the trajectory of an artist’s music career. And you could be one of the many artists who are generating fraudulent streams without even realizing it. Yikes, right?

So, what is Streaming Fraud?

Streaming fraud means exactly what it sounds like: fraudulent attempts to generate streams and manipulate a platform into paying an artist for song plays that weren’t actually listened to by real listeners and fans, AKA “artificial streams.” You may also hear this activity referred to by both distributors and stores alike as “abnormal streaming activity,” “streaming manipulation,” or “store-end fraud.”

An artificial stream doesn’t reflect any authentic statistics; instead, these fraudulent streams can be generated by automated processes, otherwise known as scripts or bots. 

Why you should never rely on fake streams.

When it comes to sketchy streaming numbers, it doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to notice a red flag or two. Whether you’re using streaming bots, listening to your song for hours on repeat, or even paying for a seemingly legit third party who guarantees streams or playlist placements, gaining a few extra hundred streams just isn’t worth it. 

Spotify even states in its terms and conditions that “artificially increasing play counts by using any bot, script or other automated process is strictly prohibited.” 

As a TuneCore artist, if you’re involved in streaming fraud and get caught, your music will likely be removed from all stores and streaming platforms, and you won’t get paid. You’ll most likely receive an official warning from us, and your TuneCore account could even get shut down. 

“But I didn’t even know what I’ve been doing was considered streaming fraud!” That’s okay. It happens more often than you’d think. You may be approached by a buttoned up third party like a music promoter who guarantees you’ll generate X amount of streams. No matter how legit they may seem, be sure to do your research and remember the old saying, “if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

So what’s being done about it? 

As the scope of the way we consume music continues to advance, the music industry is finding more effective ways to stop fraudulent streaming in its tracks. Every day, streaming platforms are working hard to help eliminate streaming abuse by proactively removing content that violates their terms. Additionally, streaming services like Spotify have been having real people reviewing suspicious streaming numbers while also developing technological systems to identify and combat streaming manipulation. 

Spotify, for example, uses “a combination of algorithms and manual review by employees to detect fraudulent streams and aim to remove fake user accounts and filter them out from our metrics on an ongoing basis, as well as to require users to reset passwords that we suspect have been compromised…” That’s enough insight to believe that no one can outsmart their algorithm. 

In Conclusion…

No matter how fraudulent streams are generated, they’re never going to be reliable. Always remember that it’s easier to detect fraudulent streams from legitimate ones than you’d think. Higher numbers doesn’t mean more talent, and just about everyone knows it.  Even if you think you’re working with a legitimate service that promises streams in exchange for money, there’s still the high possibility of illegal methods being used. So why not play it safe? 

At the end of the day, TuneCore wants to see you succeed as an artist–including our partners! So always remember: faking success is always going to be more harmful to your career than useful.