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FYI

CMW: Streaming Manipulation 101: A Bummer Of A Primer

Depending on who you ask,  fraudulent music streaming is either a $1B (U.S.) or $2B (U.S.) headache for the global music industry.

CMW: Streaming Manipulation 101: A Bummer Of A Primer

By Nick Krewen

Depending on who you ask,  fraudulent music streaming is either a $1B (U.S.) or $2B (U.S.) headache for the global music industry.


According to The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), streaming services account for 84% of the revenue in the US, the world's largest music market, so, either way you slice it, this act of fabricating streams via artificial means isn't good news for anybody.

This is why, on the second Thursday morning panel of Canadian Music Week held at the Harbour Ballroom B/C at the Harbour Westin Hotel, Music Canada's Associate Counsel Annesta Duodu moderated a session with entertainment digital technology company Beatdapp co-founder and CEO Morgan Hayduk and Will Page - Author, Visiting Fellow, London School of Economics and Edinburgh University - as well as the former chief economist for Spotify - to shed some light on this nagging problem and potentially offer a few solutions in the process.

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Although there was a lot of discussion about how easily streams could be manipulated, the "101" portion of the program explaining exactly what streaming manipulation entailed was kind of skipped over, so here's the skinny: it's the practice of artificially boosting a song's - or an artist's - stream counts to improve chart positioning, increase market share and generate royalty payments - which we all know, when it comes to digital platforms - are less than a penny per play.

Beatdapp's Hayduk said he understood the motivation behind such a move: an artist wants to draw some attention to their track away from the rest of the pack. But he states that it's a little more complicated because "every stream is worth something, so if you can put content onto a platform and play it millions of times, you'll make some money."

And, of course, that money generated by a fraudster is the amount taken away from a genuine artist or song that is listed "by the book" on a digital music service platform like Spotify or Apple.

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He also said one of the most misunderstood parts of online fraud abuse is that "there is an increasingly sophisticated apparatus that music is just becoming one of the industries targeted," adding a list of banking, airline industries and grocery points as those who are also being targeted.  In fact, fraud and the Internet have been entangled with each other since the information highway took root, so the likelihood of fraud banishment is...well, let's just say the Toronto Maple Leafs have a better chance of winning the Stanley Cup before criminal activity on the Web is outlawed.

Both men said there are a number of complications in fighting fraud - and Will Page says part of the problem is the volume of music that's being uploaded to streaming platforms daily - an estimated 120,000 songs - and it's only increasing.

"One day of music is more volume of music than was released in 1985," Page contends. " And that's coming today. And tomorrow. And the day after. What's going to happen when it's one million uploads and how are computers going to police that?"

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Hayduk says that manipulated streaming is also causing market share value "to be shifted incorrectly," adding that each point of a market share is valued at approximately $175 million (U.S.), 

And the almost inexhaustible methods employed by fraudsters - from creating fake Facebook accounts to sneakily adding a letter to a URL (one of the men mentioned a John Lennons URL to dupe people to think it was a sanctioned site) - are just two examples.

'There's a bundle of creativity, and it's impressive in all the wrong ways," Hayduk declared.

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While machine-learning A.I. is being incorporated to search for any reporting anomalies ranging from suspicious geography to other algorithm-fooling concoctions, the overall feeling originating from this panel is that it has the potential of becoming a runaway train of sorts that is going to cost a lot of money and industry cooperation to maintain streaming integrity in the fight against fraud.

Hopefully, they'll find a workable and effective solution to this dilemma soon...but I wouldn't be holding my breath.

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Billboard Editorial Director Hannah Karp at CMW 2024
Grant W. Martin Photography Courtesy Canadian Music Week

Billboard Editorial Director Hannah Karp at CMW 2024

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