Music streaming has become a major source of revenue for artists in recent years, with platforms like Spotify and Apple Music providing a way for listeners to discover new music and for artists to reach a wider audience. However, the rise of streaming farms has created a problem for the music industry, as these farms artificially inflate streaming numbers and skew the data used to determine an artist's popularity, success, and even income.
What is a streaming farm?
A streaming farm is a collection of accounts or devices that are used to artificially increase the number of streams for a particular artist or song. These farms can be run by individuals or companies and can use a variety of methods to boost streaming numbers, such as using bots or creating fake accounts. The goal of a streaming farm is to make an artist or song appear more popular than it actually is, in order to attract more listeners and/or generate revenue.
How streaming farms skew streaming numbers
One of the main ways that streaming farms skew streaming numbers is by using bots to automatically play songs over and over again. These bots can be programmed to play a song multiple times in a row, without any human interaction, which can artificially inflate the number of streams for that song. Additionally, streaming farms can also use fake accounts to stream songs, which can make it appear as though there are more listeners for a particular artist or song than there actually are.
Much like steroids for bodybuilders, here's the running excuse for faking the funk - if you don't cheat, you can't compete.
Streaming numbers are often used as a metric for success in the music industry, with the number of streams on platforms like Spotify and Apple Music being used to determine an artist's popularity and influence.
If an artist's competitor is faking up to 100k streams per month, and they are not, it can give the illusion that their competitor is cooler, more popular, and more successful than them.
When streaming numbers are artificially inflated by streaming farms, it can make it appear as though an artist or song is more popular than it actually is, which can lead to false conclusions about an artist's success and influence.
Once this practice began to run rampant throughout the music industry, it became nearly impossible to know what was real (unbeknownst to the average music fan).
In many cases, streaming farms are intended to be used as an "algorithm ping". In other words, if an artist can get just enough streams on a song, the streaming platform algorithm may "label it as hot", and give it more organic reach, at which point the artist stops running bots.
While this approach is relatively less egregious than using bots solely for producing revenue, the practice of depending on bots for organic reach will be unsustainable as a business model moving forward, as stream bots will soon be easily detectable using blockchain/digital ID technology.
Artificially inflating streaming numbers can be harmful to artists' careers and reputations in the long run, especially as technology advances and these practices become harder to implement & easier to detect.
Instead of relying on artificially inflated streaming numbers, artists should focus on building a genuine fan base and creating high-quality music.
It's better to heir on the side of caution and build streaming numbers organically. Otherwise, artists risk getting accounts banned, having streams taken away, and losing credibility with their fans as the effectiveness of streaming bots begins to wane.
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