UPDATE/WARNING: Due to an increase in reported artificial streaming from Spotify, 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!
Note: while this article focusses on Spotify, multiple outlets employ similar fraud detection systems and will take similar - of not more strict - measures against artificial streaming attempts.
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!