November 30, 2023

Will Bad Actors Be Stopped Now That Spotify Is Charging For Fraudulent Plays?

Fraudulent plays hurt everyone involved in streaming, but now Spotify is taking a small step towards thwarting the problem. The company has stated that it will charge 10 Euros for each song that receives 90% of its streams in a fraudulent manner. This seems like a small tap on the wrist instead of a massive hammer blow, but at least it’s heading in the right direction.

Fraudulent plays

The policy is designed to stop bad actors who upload a short duration file of white noise or junk audio, then get bots to stream them over and over in order to collect royalties. This process then drains the royalty pool a little so there’s less to spread around to legitimate artists. Even if a legit artist or their management or label uses a bot to increase the streaming numbers, they’re unlikely to hit the 90% threshold. Only the noise or junk music tracks would likely exceed that amount.

Is It Misdirected?

These junk tracks almost all come from an indie “artist” not tied to a label, so even at the paltry penalty of 10 Euros a track, it’s the distributors like CD Baby, Tunecore, or Distrokid that will get hit with the charges.

And this is where it gets tricky. The Distributors claim that they’re an innocent third party and can’t predict where the artist will employ bots later to boost the streaming count. They also, perhaps rightly, claim that Spotify should have better technology that could more easily spot the junk tracks before they’re deployed.

Even at a mere 10 Euros, the fraudulent plays penalty seems to be well-intentioned but misdirected. If an artist was able to upload directly to the platform (something that Spotify tried briefly then eliminated), then it would be easy to penalize the fake artists and tracks directly. Any label knows that they’d be cut off immediately by Spotify if their tracks don’t toe the line, so it’s the distributors who really bear the brunt of the penalty as of now.

It’s pretty apparent that they’re not happy about this and have let the fact be known to Spotify. The bottom line is that something is being done to overcome the fraud, and that’s good news for real artists.


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