‘Streaming farms’ are Spotify’s newest credibility problem

Streaming giants might accidentally be shelling out ~$300m to bot listeners.

October 7, 2020

Let’s say you just dropped a fire new track on Spotify, but only your aunt, brother, and 3 friends are streaming it.

Fear not: For a small fee, you can turn to one of dozens of small companies offering to boost your track with thousands of artificial streams.

These companies, called “streaming farms,” are a huge problem for Spotify and Apple Music: One music industry exec tells Rolling Stone that ~3-4% of all streams are faked — equal to ~$300m in lost revenue.

Streaming farms start out as playlists

Scammers curate playlists of a client’s songs and then let loose a bunch of bots that run through the tracks on loop for weeks at a time.

According to music marketing agency Venture Music, streaming farms are employed by both independent artists and major labels, who use them to “to push their releases further up the charts.”

Sometimes artists are sucked into this economy against their will. Venture Music tells The Hustle, “The vast majority of our current clients (now 40 total) have unknowingly found their way onto botted playlists this year.”

2018 catapulted streaming farms to prominence

That year, Spotify discovered that a Bulgarian scammer was behind 2 of its most popular playlists: “Soulful Music” and “Music From The Heart.”

“Soulful Music” had a whopping 467 songs (almost all by randos) and nearly all of the streams (~72m) came from 1.2k bot accounts.

In the end, the scammer made off with an estimated $1m+ in streaming revenue.

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