Artificial Streaming and other fraud

What is Artificial Streaming?

Normally, music is discovered and consumed by regular users of the (streaming) outlets and other music platforms. The user discovers, likes or already knows the artist or is a dedicated fan, learns about a song on the radio, a forum, a playlist or on Youtube and subsequently listens to the tracks on the outlet.
These listens then generate streaming or other royalties, which is the income for the rightsholders (artists, records labels etc.).

This is called "organic" or "natural" discovery and streaming and is the basis of how the modern music industry works. Each stream is a reward for talent and hard work and not because the artist has a lot of money to push their music onto people. 

Any attempts to make your music streamed more, without it being listened to or heard intently, is viewed as cheating. If this leads to increased streaming numbers, it has the potential to be considered as fraud by the outlets. The streams generated by those efforts are then called artificial streams.

Artificial streaming has now become a significant problem for the music industry and diminishes the earnings of legitimate artists, labels and distributors. Although the number of streams has increased through this behaviour, the royalty pool (the amount of money that should be divided among the artists) remains the same. Therefore, the outlets see artificial streaming as theft and your fraudulent income as stealing from other artists.

What causes artificial streams? The outlets keep this more or less secret to prevent circumvention of their detection algorithms. As far as we know, the methods include, but are definitely not limited to:

  • Playing your music (album, track or playlist that contains your music) on a constant loop throughout the day, or having someone else (or multiple people) do that.
  • The same, but on a bigger scale; actually using bots or scripts to stream your music, often under hacked user accounts.
  • Delivering duplicates of the same content under different, often fake, artist names.
  • Having your track placed on popular playlists where it is out of place due to popularity, musical context, territory of interest,  or otherwise.
  • Posting large amounts of creations containing your track to social media, such as TikTok or Instagram.
  • Paying people to play back, stream, click on or like creations containing your track.
  • "Hiding" your track in popular monetized content that is not related to music (such as gaming streams).
  • Paying promoters or marketing companies to do any of the above.

What happes when artificial streaming is detected?

  • Any generated royalties from artificial streams will be witheld from payout, or, if already paid, deducted from future royalties (up to 18 months after the fact).
  • The offending content will be taken down.
  • Your access to the content portal will be blocked.
  • Pending the outcome of the subsequent investigation, your account may be terminated permanently and your royalties witheld up to a maximum of 18 months, until all damages have been deducted from your royalties or paid back by you.
  • Your music may be blacklisted by outlets.
Once your content has been implicated in these practices, there is nothing you can do about it. We have never seen anybody actually succesfully contest artificial streaming reports against their content.

The only thing you can (and should) do is prevent it!

Make sure your tracks are only streamed organically, by:

  • Never playing your music (album, track or playlist that contains your music) on a constant loop throughout the day, or having someone else (or multiple people) do that.
  • Not creating excessive amounts of content containing your music for posting on social media and Youtube.
  • Never editing your music into other non-musical content and posting it on social media or Youtube.
  • Never offering to pay people, not even your friends, to stream, like, click or otherwise engage with your content.

Many of the tricks used to increase streaming numbers are not feasible to use for the average person. However, there are many people and companies that offer promotional services, promising to increase your streaming numbers. Be very wary of those offers, because they may use some of these tactics or pay other people and companies to do so.

If these people and services:

  • Promise or guarantee playlist placements,
  • Promise or guarantee a certain amount of streams, clicks or likes, and/or...
  • Promise or guarentee other metrics indicative of public engagement and streaming counts,
Do NOT hire or pay these people!!!
NEVER PAY for promised or guaranteed amounts of streams!

Make sure that any promotional people or services you hire:

  • Have a dedicated website which lists physical contact details, such as an actually existing office address and real names.
  • Have good independant reviews and are recommended on many artist blogs and vlogs.
  • Communicate matter-of-factly and concisely answer your questions and do not try to overwhelm you with marketing speak, numbers, namedropping and previous results.
  • Explicitly mention that they only try to create organic engagement.
  • Explicitly mention which tactics they use.
  • Do not guarantee specific numbers of streams or playlist placements.
  • Give you the opportunity to contact previous clients for references.

A good faith promotion service only guarantees effort, NOT results!

Allowed tactics to potentially increase your streaming numbers are:

  • Planning your releases to have maximum impact. Click here to download a small guide.
  • Paying for adverts on Spotify, Facebook and Youtube.
  • Pitching via Spotify for Artists.
  • Asking us to help you with marketing your release. We sometimes even have a small budget to help you on your way and we can pitch your release on multiple outlets.
  • Approaching playlist curators and asking them to feature your release.
If you have any questions about this, make sure to write to