Major and independent music labels, including IMPALA and IFPI, along with publishers, DSPs and artist organisations have introduced a ‘code of best practice’ which aims to counter ‘stream farms’ and other forms of streaming manipulation.
The code is an effort to ensure an equal playing field in the online world. It is basically a set of rules to prevent unreal plays on streaming services. The code aims to detect project unauthentic chart positions, market share, royalty payments, etc. In short, it aims to prevent ‘fake streams’.
There are bots specifically designed to ensure a continuous play of the particular artist’s songs. Fake streams are usually a monetary or barter transaction where the streaming platform is paid to increase the illegitimate play count of an artist’s music.
IMPALA signs the code
“Streaming manipulation is costing the independents a fortune. Last year we commented on the situation with Tidal and that was just one example. It is vital we all work together to ensure a fair and sustainable online world,” said Helen Smith, Executive Chairperson IMPALA.
IMPALA, a party to the association, represents a major chunk of European independent music companies.
The music industry has long been a witness to strategic manipulations. Back in the days, the RJs would be ‘gifted’ goodies to promote a particular artist/album. During the CD era, artist buying their own CDs to boast sales figures, was a popular manipulation.
Music Streaming manipulations
Now with music streaming accounting for the biggest share of recorded music revenue, newer and innovative methods of cheating the system are being developed. These systems are used to drive in revenue rather than the old days where one would shell out money. The system is influenced to manipulate the playlists or the number of streams being recorded for any one track. This usually involves hiring people or machines to log into multiple accounts on the streaming platforms and give certain recordings lots of extra plays.
The artist is generally paid his sum of the streaming revenue on a monthly basis. This amount varies upon the percentage of songs streamed from an artist’s catalogue. The music label is generally entitled to 50% of this revenue.
If one can control the system to ensure that the ‘bots’ play only the music they control, then the revenue earned would be relatively higher than what the artist paid as subscription fees.
The International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), an organisation that represents the interests of the recording industry worldwide, has also signed the code.
Commenting about it, Frances Moore IFPI, CEO said,
“Stream manipulation undermine the accuracy of charts and, ultimately, the accuracy of royalty payments from streaming services to music creators. Those who create music – from artists and songwriters to labels and publishers and beyond – must be remunerated fairly and accurately for their work and investment. Any stream manipulation undermining that fairness cannot be tolerated.”
“We are committed to working with stakeholders across the broader music community to prevent stream manipulation.”
All about the Code
The ‘code of best practices’ contains promises by the streaming platforms to monitor and a crackdown on illegal streams. The music labels have also undertaken to share information about any suspicious activities that they come across.
You can read the entire code here. A rather interesting sentence in the code is,
“This Code is not legally binding and does not create any contractual or pre-contractual obligations under any law or legal system.”
This makes it basically toothless. How far will it go to ensure a level playing field is what we have to wait and watch out for.