Fake views, fake plays, fake fans, fake followers and fake friends – the mainstream music industry has been about “buzz” over achievement, fame over success, the mere appearance of being everyone’s favorite artist over being the favorite artist of anyone.
Social networking has gotten the chase for that soundcloud promotion to a new measure of bullshit. After washing from the commercial EDM scene (artists buying Facebook fans was exposed by several outfits last summer), faking your popularity for (presumed) profit is currently firmly ensconsced from the underground House Music scene.
This is basically the story of the among dance music’s fake hit tracks looks like, just how much it costs, and why an artist inside the tiny community of underground House Music could be prepared to juice their numbers to start with (spoiler: it’s money).
During early January, I received an email from the head of the digital label. In adorably broken English, “Louie” (approximately we’ll call him, for reasons which will become apparent) asked how he could submit promos for review by 5 Magazine.
I directed him to the music submission guidelines. We get approximately five and six billion promos on a monthly basis. Nothing regarding this encounter was extraordinary.
Several hours later, I received his first promo. We didn’t review it. It absolutely was, to not put too fine a point into it, disposable: a bland, mediocre Deep House track. This stuff are a dime a dozen currently – again, everything regarding this encounter was boringly ordinary.
I’d caught him red-handed committing the worst sin one can be responsible for within the underground: Louie was faking it.
But I noticed something strange when I Googled within the track name. And That I bet you’ve noticed this too. Striking the label’s SoundCloud page, I came across this barely average track – remarkable only in being utterly unremarkable – had somehow gotten greater than 37,000 plays on SoundCloud in just weekly. Ignoring the poor quality of the track, this is a staggering number for a person of little reputation. The majority of his other tracks had significantly fewer than 1,000 plays.
Stranger still, most of the comments – insipid and stupid even by social media standards – came from individuals who tend not to appear to exist.
You’ve seen this before: a track with acclaim far beyond any apparent worth. You’ve followed a link to your stream and thought, “How is this even possible? Am I missing something? Did I jump the gun? How do a lot of people like something so ordinary?”
Louie, I believed, was purchasing plays, to gin up some coverage and buy his distance to overnight success. He’s not by yourself. Desperate to create an effect inside an environment in which countless digital EPs are released each week, labels are increasingly turning toward any method accessible to make themselves heard above the racket – even the skeezy, slimey, spammy world of buying plays and comments.
I’m not a naif about such things – I’ve watched several artists (and another artist’s significant other) reap the benefits of massive but temporary spikes in their Twitter and Facebook followers in a very compressed time period. “Buying” the look of popularity is becoming something of any low-key epidemic in dance music, much like the mysterious appearance and equally sudden disappearance of Uggs as well as the word “Hella” from the American vocabulary.
But (and here’s where I am naive), I didn’t think this could extend past the reaches of EDM madness in to the underground. Nor did I have any idea exactly what a “fake” hit song would appear to be. Now I do.
Looking through the tabs in the 30k play track, the very first thing I noticed was the entire anonymity of the people who had favorited it. They may have made-up names and stolen pictures, nevertheless they rarely match up. They are what SoundCloud bots appear like:
The usernames and “real names” don’t make sense, but on the outside they seem so ordinary which you wouldn’t notice anything amiss if you were casually skimming down a list of them. “Annie French” includes a username of “Max-Sherrill”. “Bruce-Horne” is “Tracy Lane”. A pyromaniac named “Lillian” is better referred to as “Bernard Harper” to her friends. There are literally thousands of such. Plus they all like exactly the same tracks (none of the “likes” in the picture are for that track Louie sent me, but I don’t feel much have to go out of my method to protect them than with over an incredibly slight blur):
The majority of them are exactly like this. (Louie deleted this track after I contacted him about this story, so the comments are common gone; most of these were preserved via screenshots. Also, he renamed his account.)
It’s pretty obvious what Louie was doing: he’d bought fake plays and fake followers. But why would someone do that? After leafing through countless followers and compiling these screenshots, I contacted Louie by email with my evidence.
His first reply contained a sheaf of screenshots of his – his tracks prominently shown on the leading page of Beatport, Traxsource as well as other sites, in addition to charts and reviews. It seemed irrelevant for me at that time – but give consideration. Louie’s scrapbook of press clippings is far more relevant than you realize.
After reiterating my questions, I found myself surprised when Louie brazenly admitted that everything implied above is, in fact, true. He is spending money on plays. His fans are imaginary. Sadly, he is not really a god.
You may have observed that I’m not revealing Louie’s real name. I’m fairly certain you’ve never read about him. I’m hopeful, dependant on hearing his music, that you just never will. To acquire omitting all reference to his name and label out of this story, he decided to talk in detail about his technique of gaming SoundCloud, after which manipulating others – digital stores, DJs, even simple fans – along with his fake popularity.
Don’t misunderstand me: the temptation to “name and shame” was strong. An early draft with this story (seen by my partner and some other folks) excoriated the label and ripped its fame-hungry owner “Louie” to pieces. I’d caught him red-handed committing the worst sin anybody can be accountable for inside the underground: Louie was faking it.
But once every early reader’s response was, “Wait, that is this guy again?” – well, that lets you know something. I don’t determine the story’s “bigger” when compared to a single SoundCloud Superstar or perhaps a Beatport One Week Wonder named Louie. However the story is in least different, along with Louie’s cooperation, I surely could affix hard numbers as to what these kinds of ephemeral (but, he would argue, quite effective) fake popularity will cost.
Louie told me he artificially generated “20,000 plays” (I really believe it absolutely was more) if you are paying for the service that he identifies as Cloud-Dominator. This offers him his alloted quantity of fake plays and “automatic follow/unfollow” in the bots, thereby inflating his quantity of followers.
Louie paid $45 for people 20,000 plays; for that comments (purchased separately to make the complete thing look legit towards the un-jaundiced eye), Louie paid €40, which is approximately $53.
This puts the price of SoundCloud Deep House dominance at the scant $100 per track.
Why? I am talking about, I’m sure that’s impressive to his mom, but who really cares about Louie and 30,000 fake plays of a track that even real people that hear it, as i am, will immediately ignore? Kristina Weise from SoundCloud explained by email the company believes that “Illegitimately boosting one’s follower numbers offers no long-term benefits.”
This is where Louie was most helpful. The initial effect of juicing his stats, he claims, nets him approximately “10 [to] 20 real people” each day that begin following his SoundCloud page because of artificially inflating his playcount to this type of grotesque level.
These are individuals who see the demand for his tracks, go through the same process I have done in wondering how this was possible, but inevitably shrug and sign on being a follower of Louie, assuming that where there’s light, there should be heat too.
But – and here is the most interesting a part of his strategy, for you will find a strategy to his madness – Louie also claims there’s a financial dimension. “The track with 37,000 plays today [is] within the Top 100 [on] Beatport” he says, in addition to being in “the Top 100 Beatport deep house tracks at #11.”
As well as, lots of the tracks which he juiced with fake SoundCloud plays were later featured prominently around the front pages of both Beatport and Traxsource – an extremely coveted method to obtain promotion for a digital label.
They’ve been reviewed and given notice by multiple websites and publications (hence his fondness for his scrapbook of press clippings he showed me after our initial contact).
Louie didn’t pay Traxsource, or Beatport, or any one of those blogs or magazines for coverage. He paid Cloud-Dominator. All of these knock-on, indirect benefits likely amount to far more than $100 amount of free advertising – a good return on his paid-for SoundCloud dominance.
Louie’s records on the front page of comments on youtube, that he attributes to having bought tens of thousands of SoundCloud plays.
So it’s information on that mythical social media marketing “magic”. People see you’re popular, they think you’re popular, and eager as we they all are to prop up a winner, you therefore BECOME popular. Louie’s $100 for pumping in the stats on his underground House track often will be scaled around the thousands or tens of thousands for EDM along with other music genres (some of the bots following Louie also follow dubstep as well as jazz musicians. Eclectic tastes, these bots have.)
Pay $100 on a single end, get $100 (or higher) back about the other, and hopefully build toward the most significant payoff of all – the time once your legitimate fans outweigh the legion of robots following you.
This entire technique was manipulated in the early days of MySpace and YouTube, but it also existed prior to the dawn of the internet. In the past it was known as the Emperor’s New Clothes.
SoundCloud claimed 18 million registered users back in Forbes in August 2012. While bots as well as the sleazy services that sell use of them plague every online service, many people will view this issue as one which happens to be SoundCloud’s responsibility. And so they have a healthy self-fascination with ensuring that the tiny numbers near the “play”, “heart” and “quotebubble” icons mean precisely what they say they mean.
This post is a sterling endorsement for many of the services brokering fake plays and fake followers. They do what exactly they say they will: inflate plays and gain followers in a at least somewhat under-the-radar manner. I’ve seen it. I’ve just showed it to you. And that’s an issue for SoundCloud as well as for those in the tunes industry who ascribe any integrity to the people little numbers: it’s cheap, and if you can afford it, or expect to produce a return on your investment in the backend, as Louie does, there doesn’t appear to be any risk to it by any means.
continually working on the reduction and the detection of fake accounts. When we have been made aware about certain illegitimate activities like fake accounts or purchasing followers, we take care of this as outlined by our Regards to Use. Offering and using paid promotion services or other ways to artificially increase play-count, add followers or even to misrepresent the excitement of content about the platform, is in contrast to our TOS. Any user found being using or offering these services risks having his/her account terminated.
But it’s been over three months since I first stumbled across Louie’s tracks. Not one of the incredibly obvious bots I identify here are already deleted. In fact, them all happen to be used several more times to leave inane comments and favorite tracks by Louie’s fellow clients. (Some may worry that I’m listing the names of said shady services here. Be confident, these appear prominently in Google searches for related keywords. They’re not hard to find.)
And ought to SoundCloud create a more effective counter against botting and what we might as well coin as “playcount fraud”, they’d provide an unusual ally.
“SoundCloud should close many accounts,” Louie says, including “top DJs and producers [with] premium accounts for promoting similar to this. The visibility in the web jungle is very difficult.”
For Louie, this is merely a marketing plan. And truthfully, they have history on his side, though this individual not know it. For a great deal of the past sixty years, in form if not procedure, this is exactly how records were promoted. Labels inside the mainstream music industry bribed program directors at American radio stations to “break” songs with their choosing. They called it “payola“. From the 1950s, there was Congressional hearings; radio DJs found guilty of accepting cash for play were ruined.
Payola was banned however the practice continued to flourish in the last decade. Read as an example, Eric Boehlert’s excellent series around the more elegant system of payoffs that flourished after the famous payola hearings in the ’50s. All of Boehlert’s allegations about “independent record promoters” were proven true, again attracting the interest of Congress.
Payola is made up of giving money or benefits to mediators to help make songs appear very popular than they are. The songs then become popular through radio’s free exposure. Louie’s ultra-modern type of payola eliminates any help to the operator (in cases like this, SoundCloud), however the effect is identical: to make you believe that 58dexppky “boringly ordinary” track is undoubtedly an underground clubland sensation – and thereby help it become one.
The acts that taken advantage of payola in Boehlert’s exposé were multiplatinum groups like U2 and Destiny’s Child. This isn’t Lady Gaga and even the Swedish House Mafia. It’s just Louie, a fairly average producer making fairly average underground House Music which probably sells about one hundred roughly copies per release.
It’s sad that men and women would go to such lengths over this sort of tiny sip of success. But Louie feels he has little choice. Per week, countless EPs flood digital stores, and then he feels confident that the majority of them are deploying the identical sleazy “marketing” tactics I caught him using. There’s no chance of knowing, naturally, just how many artists are juicing up their stats the way Louie is, but I’m less interested in verification than I am in understanding. It provides some form of creepy parallel to Lance Armstrong along with the steroid debate plaguing cycling and also other sports: if you’re certain everybody else has been doing it, you’d be a fool to not.
I posed that metaphor to Louie, but he didn’t seem to obtain it. Language problems. But I’m confident that he’d agree. As his legitimate SoundCloud followers inch upward, as his tracks break into the absurd sales charts at digital stores that emphasize chart position within the pathetic amount of units sold (all things considered, “#1 Track!” sounds a lot better than “100 Copies Sold Worldwide!”), he feels vindicated. It’s worth every penny.