Analysts Report Up to 10 Percent of Music Streams Are Fake

So-called "streaming farms" and related tactics have long been a concern in the streaming age.

woman wearing headphones
Image via Getty/FTiare
woman wearing headphones

10 percent of music streams could be fake, at least according to a figure included in a recent report detailing the current state of streaming.

The article in question, penned by Anna Nicolaou for The Financial Times, focuses largely on Universal Music Group (UMG) and Deezer’s recently announced “artist-centric music streaming model.” As detailed in a press release earlier this month, UMG and the streaming platform will roll out the new model (which boosts “professional artists” with a minimum of 1,000 monthly streams) starting in France later this year.

A key issue in the collaboration is the presence on music streaming services of what UMG calls "non-artist noise content" and "a flood of uploads with no meaningful engagement," with the general idea being that their proposed method could deter such uploads in the future.

In the FT piece, available in full here, JPMorgan analysts point to examples of people trying to “game the system” favored by Spotify and other major streamers. From there, executives are cited as estimating that “as much as 10 percent of all music streams are ‘fake,’” meaning they are the product of so-called “streaming farms.”

The incredible resilience of the music industry

— Financial Times (@FT) September 8, 2023

The use of such tactics has been a frequent industry talking point for years now, with artists also speaking out about the practice. In 2019, it was reported that artists and labels were potentially losing hundreds of millions of dollars to fake streams. Two years later, Pigeons & Planes took a detailed look at the importance of identifying fake data in the industry, including what to look for when trying to determine what's real and what's not.

Zooming out a bit, a longstanding issue surrounding Spotify and the streaming age at large has been royalties. Amid coverage of the WGA writers' strike, for example, Snoop Dogg expressed his support while pointing to the parallels he had seen in the music industry.

“I don’t understand how the fuck you get paid off of that shit,” Snoop said at a panel with Variety’s Shirley Halperin in May. “Somebody explain to me how you can get a billion streams and not get a million dollars? … That’s the main gripe with a lot of us artists is that we do major numbers…but it don’t add up to the money. Like, where the fuck is the money?”

Meanwhile, select artists have opted to decline to participate in the current streaming model entirely, choosing instead to release new music outside of the system through direct-to-fan means.

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