We try to point out fakery in the industry as much as we possibly can. And when I see a lot of plays on an incredibly average record from a producer that doesn't have a following, it raises a flag. We can usually track the source. There's almost always a reason, and it's almost never organic. And all seems normal on Cole Plante's new collaborative single with Myon & Shane 54, until you do a bit of poking around. Let me explain how all of this works.
You need a song with a lot of plays to add to a press kit, because it's part of the package you need in order to be considered valuable to promoters. There's a few ways to go about getting those plays. You can make a great record that will blow up organically. You can pay a PR firm to blast your record to websites (Cole did this, which is the only reason this tune was on my radar). You can align with a big website for a premiere and hope that smaller sites pick up your record, but those sites are looking to premiere music from artists with a following. So the next move is to pay for plays on Soundcloud.
But to trick the system, you can't just have a lot of plays. You need a string of likes and reposts to match, and to ensure that nothing looks fishy. The uneducated fan will say "oh shit people like this, let me like it too" and some plays will come naturally, but it's all a ploy to boost numbers in order to increase market value. Let's take a peek at a few screenshots to see how this works:
All eight of these screenshots are filled with individuals that made positive comments on Cole Plante's record. Almost all of the comments on this tune were left within a 24-hour period. And if you take a peek, almost none of these accounts are followed by or following anyone. They're fake. It gets more interesting from here:
Here we see the same exact accounts liking and reposting his tunes in the same exact order. And if this were the end of the coincidence, there wouldn't be much to speak about. But there is a string of more than 90 comments from fake accounts that liked and reposted Cole's record, and those fake accounts liked, reposted, and commented on OTHER records in the same exact order. We got bored of taking screenshots of the same exact results, but a few profiles are below:
Cole Plante just signed to Disney and WME, is making decent records, looks the part, and has a team behind him that needs to fluff his numbers to make him seem relevant. His product wasn't being picked up naturally, so someone paid to create results in an effort to speed up his success. We're not sure who is at fault here, but someone on his team is. Whether it was Cole's call, the decision of one of his handlers, or a collaborative move, someone paid a fee to seem more relevant than he acutally is.
Now there are a few reasons why this matters. The most important is that our system of likes, plays, and followers is the only thing that our market is based off of. You can't get onto a booking agency without those numbers. No matter how great your music is, you won't play shows without those numbers. You need a big single, a certain number of followers, and a certain look. A lot of this can be manufactured.
This also matters as SoundCloud looks to change the aim of their company. They look to quietly be ramping up to make a shift of some sort, as they just snagged an extra $60 million in funding from venture capitalists a few weeks ago. They certainly have the ability to track and delete bots, and blacklist accounts that continuously use them. But they're not, and we're really curious why.
We applauded 5 Magazine's investigative research last April in uncovering a similar story last April, but that was 10 months ago. The article was humongous, and was backlinked on a ton of websites. How has SoundCloud not figured out how to track and delete these false accounts? If I can figure out what's happening, certainly an algorithm could alert them to shady activity? How many other times has this happened? What other musicians and songs have completely fake results?
The bottom line here, though, is that fans should care. DJs are gaining popularity and getting booked for shows on the back of a completely false credentials. And we don't know how deep this goes. The 43,000 people that liked Cole Plante's page aren't very engaged, are they? And while this musician may quietly and quickly become the name that kids chanted at their next festival, it's more about marketing and manufactured traffic than his music.
Oh, and "If I Fall" came out on Beatport today. You can cop that right here.