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News June 21, 2019

Music biz rallies against stream farming & streaming manipulation

Former Assistant Editor
Music biz rallies against stream farming & streaming manipulation

Major players in the music industry have united with technology companies to bring into force a code of conduct to fight streaming fraud.

The industry-wide coalition includes record labels, publishers and collection societies, with a view to stamp out stream farming and streaming manipulation – including both bots or human who are artificially inflating numbers.

Variety reports that 3-4% of all officially counted music audio and video streams are illegitimate, while Rolling Stone estimates that fake streams could be costing artists US$300 million a year.

At its core, the campaign involves implementing a “Code of Best Practice” which contains 21-points and targets “industrial scale” impersonation of genuine music streaming listening by automated processes, inauthentic accounts, or human ‘pay-for-play’ or ‘troll farm’ methods.

“Stream manipulation has the potential not only to cause economic harm to streaming service providers, rights holders, artists, and advertisers, but also to distort the media’s and fans’ impressions and understanding of the popularity of particular recordings… by influencing algorithmic playback results,” explains the code.

As reported by TMN, streaming platform Tidal is currently being investigated in Norway over streaming inflation. Sales figures for two of 2016’s biggest albums – Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Kanye West’s The Life Of Pablo – were reported to have been deliberately inflated by 320 million plays.

This meant that the two artists, who both happen to be Tidal stakeholders, were paid more royalties at the expense of other artists.

“Streaming manipulation is costing the independents a fortune,” said IMPALA’s Helen Smith

“Last year we commented on the situation with Tidal and that was just one example. It’s vital we all work together to ensure a fair and sustainable online world.”

Notably, Tidal have not signed on to be a part of the initiative.

Despite generally positive media coverage, MBW‘s Tim Ingham isn’t convinced by the new initiative, calling the code of conduct “toothless” and suggesting that it will have “zero impact”.

The 24 companies and trade bodies to formally back the global campaign include majors Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Group and Warner Music, and are joined by publishers Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group, Kobalt, Concord.

Streaming services Spotify, Deezer and Amazon, as well as IFPI, IMPALA,  Merlin, the International Confederation of Music Publishers, and National Music Publishers’ Association and Recording Industry Association of America have all signed on.

The code can be viewed in full here.


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