Artificial streaming comes in many discreet and deceptive forms. Artists will be penalized for artificial streams whether they are aware of them or not. 

What is Artificial Streaming?

Artificial streaming is a practice of inflating the number of streams a song receives on digital platforms through illegitimate means. This tactic, whether intentional or unintentional, undermines the integrity of the artist, the record label, the distribution company, and even the streaming service. It also misleads both listeners and stakeholders within the music industry. It is a practice that undermines the fairness of the music industry and distorts the perception of an artist’s popularity and success. It impacts the artist’s credibility and potentially deprives others of the recognition they deserve.

The Consequences of Artificial Streaming

As a response to artificial streaming, digital service providers (DSPs) like Spotify and Apple Music are cracking down in a major way. Streaming platforms continuously monitor and refine their process as well as detection methods. This pro-active strategy further protects the integrity of their product and your music. When artificial streaming is detected, both the distributor and the artist are penalized.

Spotify states that “artists who don’t participate in artificial streaming are not negatively impacted by artificial streaming penalties in any way.”

The use of artificial streaming, knowingly or not, can threaten your hard work, resulting in the potential withholding of streams or royalties, or even the complete removal of your catalog from streaming services. Your distributor may remove tracks detected as artificial or fraudulent from the streaming platform until the issue is resolved. Otherwise, the track may be at risk of being taken down permanently by the DSPs.

For more information from the DSPs on their stance on artificial streaming, please refer to Spotify’s Artificial Streaming Education and Apple Music’s Guide to Protect from Streaming Manipulation.

How does Artificial Streaming happen?

Though you probably didn’t intentionally participate in artificial streaming, it can happen to anyone at any time. 

Here are the three most common methods:

1. Bots

These networks and codes continuously play a song on various streaming platforms, creating an illusion of popularity and increasing the song’s stream count.  These bots attempt to mimic human behavior and evade detection algorithms but usually come up short. 

2. Streaming Manipulation

Some individuals or entities may attempt to manipulate playlists curated by streaming platforms to include their songs, thereby increasing the likelihood of their tracks being played and streamed by legitimate users.

3. Streaming Farms

These are companies or individuals that are paid to stream music repeatedly, artificially boosting streaming numbers.

Even if an artist doesn’t believe he or she is participating in these tactics, somebody is. Whether it is someone on your team or a fan who thinks they are helping, detection is undeniable. Many companies advertise marketing strategies, playlist placements, and increased streams as a guarantee. Any company that is promising exposure for your music is not considered a legitimate source of streams. Even reputable companies can be infiltrated by those seeking to offer increased but artificial streams. 

How do I spot Artificial Streaming?

Spotting artificial or fraudulent streaming activity can be challenging but not impossible. There are indicators that you should look out for.

When looking for indicators of artificial streaming, remember PURGE:

1. Presence

Analyze the online presence of the playlist, the playlist creator, and its listeners. If you notice repetitive patterns, strange titles, inconsistent genres, a lack of online presence, incomplete profiles, or other anomalies in user behavior, artificial streaming is likely. Trust your gut.

2. Unusual Data

If you notice sudden and significant increases in streaming within a short time or a sudden increase in playlist placements without reason, it might indicate artificial streaming. Legitimate growth tends to be more gradual and organic.

3. Ratio

Compare the number of plays a song receives to the number of saves or follows it has. If there’s a significant imbalance, it might suggest that the streams are not from genuine listeners but rather from bots.

4. Geography

The growth of an artist tends to either be widespread or localized to areas where the artist is actively performing. If a song or artist shows an overwhelmingly high number of streams from a particular region or demographic unrelated to the artist, it could indicate artificial manipulation. 

5. Engagement

If the streaming activity is consistent throughout the day and night without any significant breaks, it is potentially fraudulent. Streaming patterns typically reflect human behavior, such as peaks in commuting hours or evenings. Artificial streaming might show consistent activity regardless of time.

By staying vigilant and paying attention to these indicators, it’s possible to identify suspicious streaming activity and avoid getting caught in fraudulent practices within the music industry. 

As a Platinum-rated Spotify Preferred Provider, Syntax Creative is committed to decreasing the impact that artificial streaming has on the music industry. It’s our desire to ensure our clients are educated and not engaging in artificial streaming activity.