The National Music Center is working on a report to draw up an inventory of streaming fraud. In the rap world, often suspected of practicing the purchase of streams, the atmosphere is feverish.
“You can’t buy taste, but you can buy streams and views”, launches rapper Alpha Wann in his title light in the dark. In the era of streaming king – the streaming platforms (Spotify, Apple Music or Deezer) have 443 million paying subscribers and now represent 62% of global turnover in the music sector – listening figures have never been so relayed, scrutinized… and manipulated.
Rap is particularly eager for these rankings – best sales, best start, gold, platinum or diamond record – which are widely commented on on social networks. In a permanent one-upmanship, each album breaks a new record. A reason for pride, and sometimes for rivalry.
Regularly, suspicions of cheating, in the form of the purchase of streams, are the subject of “clash” between rappers. The latest was between Vald and Booba. In early February, rapper Vald, who had just released his album Va week earlier, called sharply on social networks Snep, the National Syndicate of Phonographic Publishing, which is slow to deliver its weekly count of album sales.
A few hours later, the organization unveils the long-awaited ranking. Vald’s album is doing well in the first place with 74,093 sales equivalents. This figure does not fail to react to another artist: Booba. The Duke of Boulogne accuses the rapper from Aulnay-sous-Bois of having cheated.
Why are we talking about it today?
Faced with ever more advanced fraud techniques and a debate that resurfaces with each accusation between artists, the Minister of Culture Roselyne Bachelot asked at the beginning of March, the National Music Center (CNM), to achieve an in-depth study on the subject in order to better understand it.
This report, which should be released next spring, will initially “allow us to define what the manipulation of streams actually represents. Measure its impact, and above all make an inventory of the measures already put in place or to be put in place in the future to fight against these practices”, explains to BFMTV.com Romain Laleix, deputy director general of the National Music Center .
It will be produced in collaboration with all players in the music sector affected by these practices: “Spotify, Deezer, Qobuz are playing the game. Apple Music and Napster too, to a lesser degree, but communication works with us. The others, no “, detailed to AFP Jean-Philippe Thiellay, president of the CNM.
“Vald all that because of you because you haven’t dosed,” quipped Booba, reacting to the CNM investigation. Not sure that this report, which should be content to provide information on the practices of the environment, points to the culprits and allows to decide between the rappers.
“It doesn’t matter anymore, everyone is positive, analyzed Rohff in an Instagram story. Instead, make a vaccine against cheating with a mandatory stream pass and then we will go on a war to depopulate the game and clean up the layer of the area.
When is that from?
Stream purchases are just the latest avatar of album sales fraud. Prior to that, record labels themselves raided store shelves. Then there were the purchases of views on YouTube…
“The fraud has moved (from physical sales) to fake accounts on music platforms. You can buy pirate accounts on the “dark web” or via well-established boxes”, journalist Sophian Fanen, author of the book, explained to AFP in early March. Stream Boulevard.
Already in 2017, The echoes had been able to consult an internal Snep document in which the union was concerned about the “excessive” listening scores of certain rap artists “on audio streaming platforms”.
“Some hip-hop rap artists accumulate disproportionate listening scores on audio streaming platforms”, underlined the internal report of Snep, pointing to performances on these platforms, far ahead of those “of other distribution channels or distribution of digital music” namely YouTube and downloads.
Buying streams, how does it work?
But concretely, how do we manipulate our streams? Behind these distorted figures hide more or less shady companies that offer to “boost” the visibility of artists by increasing their statistics on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube or on streaming platforms. Among these companies are Rocket Media Services Where Boostium whose headquarters are based in France.
To understand how it works, journalists from the Swiss media tataki conducted the investigation. They recorded a track, ironically titled Pay your bots, and put it online on the platforms. Then, they used one of these sites to buy streams on Deezer and Spotify.
Although illegal, the process of buying streams on these sites is nevertheless very simple and easy to access: for 89 euros and from a link to a song on Spotify, Boostium guarantees 25,000 streams in 24 hours as well as “total anonymity” to buyers. In practice, software will automatically play the title in a loop for 31 or 32 seconds (reading is counted from 30) the number of times indicated.
Mélissa Afsin, journalist at Tataki, specifies during her experience that the price of listening varies according to the broadcasting platform (Boostium asks 29 euros for 50,000 plays on SoundCloud) and the site used (SOSvues offers 20,000 streams on Spotify for 56.99 euros). This budget also depends on the country of origin of the reading: a French stream and a Colombian stream are not worth the same price because they do not count in the same rankings.
Result, if on Deezer, Pay your bots did not get the listenings promised – either thanks to the platform’s regulation tools, or because of a scam – on Spotify, the song counts close to 19,000 streams, which mainly come from two unknown cities.
Last December, rapper Booba expressed his anger against Ninho, number one of the top albumwhich mysteriously appeared at the top of the charts in many Asian countries such as Singapore, Malaysia, or even Thailand, known to be home to “stream farms”.
What’s the point of buying streams?
What is the interest for artists to resort to such practices? The first goal, quite obvious, is to gain notoriety, obtain certifications and try to find a place in a competitive industry.
“If by buying fake, they manage to make it real, because it impresses people and it creates a craze, great good for them”, indicated Guizmo in an interview at the StreetPress channel in 2018.
However, the phenomenon does not only affect young rappers who seek to find a place in the sun. Because if at the beginning the purchase of streams concerned more emerging musicians, to artificially launch their career,
“We are now seeing artists, with a certain notoriety and who already have real listens, use fake streams to better position themselves in the rankings,” Louis-Alexis de Gemini, Chief Marketing Officer at Deezer, told BFMTV.com.
Some even see it as a promotion technique among others.
“If the majors have the sorrel to put in the promo, it’s like everything, some have bought views on Youtube to make millions, others prefer streaming… It’s a technique, I don’t see that like a cheat, rather like a technique a little in between”, noted Lacraps, without endorsing the practice, also questioned by StreetPress.
But this boost is not without risk. Beyond overriding the law and risking that fraudulent songs will be permanently deleted from the platforms, the purchase of streams does not necessarily have a positive impact on the income of the artists who use them.
Indeed, the pay for music streaming especially benefits the most listened to artists on the platform. Concretely, the sums of the subscriptions are put in a common pot, donated almost entirely to big sellers. As a result, increasing the number of listens to a song does not necessarily increase your income.
How industry players track fraudulent streams
In response to these frauds, players in the music industry are organizing on different scales. On June 18, 2019, 24 publishers, record companies (majors and independents) and associations signed a “charter of good practices” aimed at preventing and detecting the manipulation and purchase of wiretaps.
However, three years after this agreement, the subject is still at the heart of the debate. During its annual report on the music market in 2021, made public on Tuesday March 15, Snep announced that the fight against fraud “would be one of its main objectives for the coming year” and considers “extremely mobilized on the subject”, according to Alexandre Lasch, general delegate of the union.
“When we detect something suspicious, we investigate it and then remove it from the service,” a Spotify spokesperson said. at the Quartz website.