Artificial Streaming on Spotify and other outlets - A FAQ

UPDATE/WARNING: Due to an increase in reported artificial streaming from multiple outlets, we are now taking a zero tolerance approach: any content reported as such will be taken down immediately without notice and placed on a blacklist!

UPDATES on this issue:
  • Artificial streaming has become a significant problem for the music industry and diminishes the earnings of legitimate artists, labels and distributors.
  • We now have measures in place ourselves (and are constantly working to make them even more effective) to detect artificial streaming on our platform and consequently remove streams from reporting and payment of royalties.
  • Fraudulent activity has become so significant that in certain cases we had to remove entire catalogues from our service.
  • We take this issue very seriously and any activity that artificially inflates usage counts is of course prohibited under our provider agreement.
Updated description of artificial streaming:
Artificial streaming does not reflect genuine user listening and is any activity that artificially inflates stream counts.
Artificial streamers may:
  • gain access to digital partner platforms by creating fake user accounts or hacking existing user accounts;
  • present themselves as marketing or playlisting companies that promise increased streams or playlist placement, but do so by illegitimate means;
  • manipulate services using automated processes such as bots or scripts; and/or
  • deliver repertoire specifically for the purpose of artificially inflating usage counts e.g., tracks by fake artists or the same audio files delivered in multiple releases (so-called “recycled audio”).

Original article:

What is Artificial Streaming?
 
Artificial streaming is any activity that takes place on the Spotify end-user platform (and on other streaming services such as Apple Music), undertaken with the express purpose of artifically boosting streaming numbers for a particular track or catalogue and thus fraudulently increasing revenue and publicity for the artist and/or label.
 
Spotify have recently implemented updated anti-stream manipulation measures and are now providing us with monthly reports containing artificial streams that have been removed from the monthly royalty calculation (and therefore subsequently removed from your monthly statements).
 As part of this update, from 1st January 2020 artificial streams on the ad-supported tier are now automatically detected and removed from the monthly royalty calculation. Spotify are soon expecting to roll this update out to premium streams as well, although in the interim they will continue with their manual process.

How are Spotify defining fraudulent plays?
 Spotify is using a number of methods to identify streams which are not the result of “natural” activity.
 This could be due to the unnatural behaviour of an individual user, unnatural streaming patterns or streams originating from an artificial user account (e.g. a bot account).

How do Spotify determine that these are artificial streams?
 Spotify is extremely concerned to keep its methodology in identifying this activity confidential - the key reason being that information on their methodology is information which could potentially be used to avoid detection.

Is there an appeals process?
 No, if streams of your track are flagged as artificial, there is nothing you can do about that.

Do I still receive royalties for streams flagged as artificial?
 No, all streams identified as artificial streams are excluded from the royalty calculation.

Can I trace the origin of the artificial stream?
 The specific user that generates the artificial streams is not disclosed to us by Spotify. You are however encouraged to work with your
 marketing team, management, artists, supporters etc. to investigate whether it is possible to identify who in your team instigated any activity which resulted in artificial streams (e.g. through a specific campaign). You are then asked to educate the relevant parties so as to ensure this does not happen again.

Why are some of my streams flagged as artificial while I'm innocent?
 Some streams are flagged on the basis that they originate from an artificial user account where all of that account’s streams are flagged. One “trick” these accounts use to attempt to mask their activity is to stream some tracks a few or even one time only in order to look like natural accounts (while streaming their target tracks at a high volume). Basically, your streams are "collateral damage" and you are indeed innocent. There is currently no recourse, but you have to understand that these streams were fraudulent in the first place.

Will my content be pulled from Spoify as a result of artificial streams?
 Spotify have indicated that while any artificial streams may simply be excluded from the royalty calculation, it is important to note that engaging in artificial streaming practices will carry some risk of content removal or strikes against your label.
 
If you have any further questions or remarks, do not hesitate to contact us!