Artificial Streaming: The Red Flags

10 Nov 2021

With digital streaming now cemented as a central pillar to today’s music listening culture, artificial streaming is an issue becoming increasingly prevalent across streaming services. 

But what even is artificial streaming?

Artificial streaming, or fraudulent streaming, is when a song's play counts increase without fans legitimately streaming an artist’s music. There are varying degrees of artificial streaming and often for genuine artists the intention can be harmless. It can be as simple as one person leaving a song or album on repeat for 24 hours at a time or as complex as an army of computer bots programmed to endlessly play a song or album across a number of user accounts. These streams in turn generate royalties and if not picked up as illegitimate, are distributed back to the artist. As you can imagine if done en masse it can be profitable. If not picked up as far as streaming services are concerned, these royalty payouts are considered lost revenue. 


While artificial streaming practices violate the terms of service for platforms across the board, it is also a major issue for artists and their teams alike, stealing opportunities for success from hard-working artists playing fair and square. However, many streaming services such as Spotify are combating artificial streaming by analysing suspicious surges in song play counts and unusual listening patterns. If fraudulent activity is detected, Spotify and other services may withhold royalties, correct streaming numbers and remove an artist’s music from the platform. 


Check out this video from Spotify for Artists for an in-depth explanation:



Unfortunately, artists can get sucked into artificial streaming without even realising. “If a marketing service offers things like increased brand recognition and exposure, or connections with a third-party playlister, proceed with caution,” warns Regina Escamilla from Spotify. It is not in thes 3rd party company’s interest to inform any potential customers of stream manipulation and in turn the artist’s will lose out. “You may expect a spike in streams around a new release or playlist addition. But if your streams spike on a random Wednesday or you notice a big number of streams unexpectedly coming from just one category in your ‘Source of Streams’ data on Spotify for Artists, then there could be something fishy going on.”


So moral of the story: steer clear of dodgy playlist promises and purchasable stream counts. If it sounds too good to be true, it most certainly is. Trust your gut and hit that block button.


Keen to keep reading? Click here for more info and tips to spot artificial streaming.


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