Russ Talks Labels Artificially Boosting Major Artists’ Streams: ‘Everyone in the Industry Knows’

The New Jersey-born rapper said some labels are paying huge sums to boost their artists' streams but "the ROI is crazy."

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Russ continues to take aim at major record labels.

After claiming his album streams were intentionally undercounted, the New Jersey-born rapper shed more light on the purported practice of buying fake streams. Russ addressed the topic during an appearance on Andrew Schulz’s Flagrant podcast, where he asked to explain some of the shady tactics that improve chart performance.

“How are they tricking us?” Shulz asked. “Because I see these people that go crazy, right? Album goes No. 1 but then they can’t fill up a show. So the math is not mathing.”

Russ said Shulz’s skepticism was completely on point, as the issue of “fake streams” was so pervasive in the industry that it had become an open secret that "everyone in the industry knows is going on."

“It’s a real thing,” the 31-year-old said. “Here’s the deal, when you talk to these people—'cause I’ve talked to these people, 'cause I’ve been like, ‘What is this? How are y’all doing this?’ They never disclose the mechanics of how they actually fake the streams. There’s like, you know, rumors of streaming farms or [they’re] delving out fucking computers in third-world countries and hacking the backend to make it look like it’s an IP from the U.S. All this nutty shit. But the reality is the labels are spending money and you know, devil's advocate, they’re treating it like a marketing expense. Because, in a sense, it almost is.”

Russ alleged labels are spending money on fake streams instead of traditional marketing methods, like buying billboards. However, he clarified that labels are only using these tactics on high-profile talent.

“They’re not doing it with like up-and-coming artists who you wouldn’t believe it. ... Let’s say your song has 500 million streams, organically. But let’s say with fake streams now you’re at 900 million," he said. "No one’s gonna sit there and be like, ‘This is more like a 500 million-stream song.’ … They’re not doing it to the dude across the street and giving him a billion streams. They’re doing it to people who really can get half a billion, but let’s just pump it to get 900 million.”

Russ talks about the labels faking streams for artists

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Russ was then asked if someone could hypothetically buy a No. 1 record. He said it's possible, but reiterated that these methods only work for artists who have achieved mainstream success.

“You have to have people who are really consuming the music, and your song has to actually be moving around, organically,” he continued. “Once it’s that, then they’ll push the button on it. And it just depends, it’s like it’s a campaign.”

So how much would one of these strategies cost? Russ didn’t get into details but said some companies were paying up to $70,000 for a 12-week “fake streaming” campaign. 

“The ROI [return on investment] is crazy,” he continued. “’Cause that 70 grand might bring you back 200, 300.”

You can check out the full interview above.

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