Fake views, fake plays, fake fans, fake followers and fake friends – the mainstream music industry has long been about “buzz” over achievement, fame over success, the mere appearance being everyone’s favorite artist over being the favorite artist of anyone.
Social media marketing is taking the chase to the soundcloud views to a new degree 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 already firmly ensconsced inside the underground House Music scene.
This is actually the story of the one of dance music’s fake hit tracks looks like, how much it costs, and why an artist from the tiny community of underground House Music would be willing to juice their numbers from the beginning (spoiler: it’s money).
At the begining of January, I received an e-mail through the head of a digital label. In adorably broken English, “Louie” (or more we’ll call him, for reasons that may become apparent) asked how he could submit promos for review by 5 Magazine.
I directed him to our music submission guidelines. We receive somewhere between five and six billion promos on a monthly basis. Nothing regarding this encounter was extraordinary.
A few hours later, I received his first promo. We didn’t evaluate it. It had been, to never put too fine a point upon it, disposable: a bland, mediocre Deep House track. These matters certainly are a dime a dozen today – again, everything about this encounter was boringly ordinary.
I’d caught him red-handed committing the worst sin anybody can be liable for within the underground: Louie was faking it.
Nevertheless I noticed something strange after i Googled up the track name. And So I bet you’ve noticed this too. Striking the label’s SoundCloud page, I found that this barely average track – remarkable only in being utterly unremarkable – had somehow gotten over 37,000 plays on SoundCloud in under per week. Ignoring the poor expertise of the track, this can be a staggering number for an individual of little reputation. Most of his other tracks had significantly fewer than 1,000 plays.
Stranger still, many of the comments – insipid and stupid even by social websites standards – originated from those who usually do not appear to exist.
You’ve seen this before: a track with acclaim beyond any apparent worth. You’ve followed a link into a stream and thought, “How could this be even possible? Am I missing something? Did I jump the gun? How do so many people like something so ordinary?”
Louie, I believed, was purchasing plays, to gin up some coverage and purchase his way into overnight success. He’s not the only one. Desperate to make an effect within an environment in which countless digital EPs are released each week, labels are increasingly turning toward any method available to make themselves heard over the racket – the skeezy, slimey, spammy arena of buying plays and comments.
I’m not really a naif about such things – I’ve watched several artists (then one artist’s significant other) take advantage of massive but temporary spikes with their Twitter and Facebook followers inside a very compressed time period. “Buying” the look of popularity has grown to be something of a low-key epidemic in dance music, such as the mysterious appearance and equally sudden disappearance of Uggs along with the word “Hella” in the American vocabulary.
But (and here’s where I am naive), I didn’t think this will extend past the reaches of EDM madness to the underground. Nor did I have any idea exactly what a “fake” hit song would appear like. Now I do.
Looking from the tabs of your 30k play track, one thing I noticed was the total anonymity of the people who had favorited it. They have made-up names and stolen pictures, nonetheless they rarely match. They are what SoundCloud bots seem like:
The usernames and “real names” don’t make sense, but on top they appear so ordinary that you just wouldn’t notice anything amiss if you are casually skimming down a long list of them. “Annie French” has a username of “Max-Sherrill”. “Bruce-Horne” is “Tracy Lane”. A pyromaniac named “Lillian” is preferable called “Bernard Harper” to her friends. There are literally thousands of those. And they all like exactly the same tracks (none of the “likes” in the picture are to the track Louie sent me, however i don’t feel much have to go away from my approach to protect them than with more than a really slight blur):
Most of them are like this. (Louie deleted this track after I contacted him concerning this story, so the comments are all gone; every one 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 this? 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 own – his tracks prominently displayed on the leading page of Beatport, Traxsource and other sites, along with charts and reviews. It seemed irrelevant for me during the time – but pay attention. Louie’s scrapbook of press clippings is far more relevant than you already know.
After reiterating my questions, I had been surprised when Louie brazenly admitted that everything implied above is, the truth is, true. He or she is paying for plays. His fans are imaginary. Sadly, he is not really a god.
You possess seen that I’m not revealing Louie’s real name. I’m fairly certain you’ve never heard about him. I’m hopeful, based upon playing his music, that you simply never will. In return for omitting all reference to his name and label from this story, he decided to talk in depth 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 on this story (seen by my partner as well as some others) excoriated the label and ripped its fame-hungry owner “Louie” to pieces. I’d caught him red-handed committing the worst sin one could be guilty of within the underground: Louie was faking it.
But when every early reader’s response was, “Wait, who may be this guy again?” – well, that informs you something. I don’t know if the story’s “bigger” than a single SoundCloud Superstar or possibly a Beatport 1 Week Wonder named Louie. But the story is at least different, along with Louie’s cooperation, I managed to affix hard numbers from what this kind of ephemeral (but, he would argue, very efficient) fake popularity costs.
Louie told me he artificially generated “20,000 plays” (I think it had been more) if you are paying for the service which he identifies as Cloud-Dominator. This will give him his alloted variety of fake plays and “automatic follow/unfollow” from the bots, thereby inflating his variety of followers.
Louie paid $45 for anyone 20,000 plays; for that comments (purchased separately to help make the complete thing look legit on the un-jaundiced eye), Louie paid €40, which happens to be approximately $53.
This puts the price of SoundCloud Deep House dominance in a 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 the track that even real folks that pay attention to it, just like me, will immediately forget about? Kristina Weise from SoundCloud explained to me by email the company believes that “Illegitimately boosting one’s follower numbers offers no long-term benefits.”
Here is where Louie was most helpful. The first effect of juicing his stats, he claims, nets him approximately “10 [to] 20 real people” daily that begin following his SoundCloud page on account of artificially inflating his playcount to this kind of grotesque level.
These are generally people that begin to see the rise in popularity of his tracks, glance at 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 ought to be heat too.
But – and this is basically the most interesting element of his strategy, for there exists a strategy to his madness – Louie also claims there’s a monetary dimension. “The track with 37,000 plays today [is] from the Top 100 [on] Beatport” he says, in addition to being in “the Top 100 Beatport deep house tracks at #11.”
And indeed, many of the tracks he juiced with fake SoundCloud plays were later featured prominently in the front pages of both Beatport and Traxsource – a very coveted supply of promotion for any 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 some of those blogs or magazines for coverage. He paid Cloud-Dominator. Every one of these knock-on, indirect benefits likely add up to far more than $100 amount of free advertising – a confident return on his paid-for SoundCloud dominance.
Louie’s records in the first page of buy real youtube comments, which he attributes to having bought tens of thousands of SoundCloud plays.
So it’s exactly about that mythical social media “magic”. People see you’re popular, they think you’re popular, and eager since we are all to prop up a success, you therefore BECOME popular. Louie’s $100 for pumping in the stats on his underground House track often will be scaled up to the thousands or tens of thousands for EDM and other music genres (a number of the bots following Louie also follow dubstep and in many cases jazz musicians. Eclectic tastes, these bots have.)
Pay $100 on a single end, get $100 (or higher) back on the other, and hopefully build toward the most significant payoff of – the morning whenever your legitimate fans outweigh the legion of robots following you.
This entire technique was manipulated in the early days of MySpace and YouTube, it also existed prior to the dawn from the internet. Back then it was referred to as the Emperor’s New Clothing.
SoundCloud claimed 18 million registered users in Forbes in August 2012. While bots as well as the sleazy services that sell access to them plague every online service, some individuals will view this matter as you which is SoundCloud’s responsibility. And so they have a wholesome self-curiosity about making sure the small numbers next to the “play”, “heart” and “quotebubble” icons mean precisely what people say they mean.
This article is a sterling endorsement for most of the services brokering fake plays and fake followers. They generally do just what they say they will: inflate plays and gain followers in a a minimum of somewhat under-the-radar manner. I’ve seen it. I’ve just showed it to you personally. And that’s a problem for SoundCloud and then for those who are in the songs industry who ascribe any integrity to the people little numbers: it’s cheap, and whenever you can afford it, or expect to generate a return in your investment about the backend, as Louie does, there doesn’t seem to be any risk into it in any way.
continually working on the reduction as well as the detection of fake accounts. If we happen to be made aware of certain illegitimate activities like fake accounts or purchasing followers, we cope with this as outlined by our Regards to Use. Offering and using paid promotion services or another methods to artificially increase play-count, add followers or to misrepresent the recognition of content around the platform, is contrary to our TOS. Any user found to become using or offering these facilities risks having his/her account terminated.
But it’s been over 90 days since i have first stumbled across Louie’s tracks. Not one of the incredibly obvious bots I identify here are already deleted. In fact, all of them 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. Feel comfortable, them all appear prominently in the search engines searches for related keywords. They’re not difficult to find.)
And ought to SoundCloud build a more efficient counter against botting and whatever we might as well coin as “playcount fraud”, they’d offer an unusual ally.
“SoundCloud should close many accounts,” Louie says, including “top DJs and producers [with] premium makes up about promoting similar to this. The visibility from the web jungle is very difficult.”
For Louie, this is just a marketing plan. And truthfully, he has history on his side, though this individual not realize it. For a lot of the final sixty years, in form if not procedure, this is the best way 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“. Inside the 1950s, there are Congressional hearings; radio DJs found responsible for 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 on the more elegant system of payoffs that flourished right after the famous payola hearings of the ’50s. All of Boehlert’s allegations about “independent record promoters” were proven true, again attracting the interest of Congress.
Payola contains giving money or good things about mediators to create songs appear popular compared to what they are. The songs then become popular through radio’s free exposure. Louie’s ultra-modern form of payola eliminates any advantage to the operator (in cases like this, SoundCloud), nevertheless the effect is identical: to help you be feel that 58dexppky “boringly ordinary” track is an underground clubland sensation – and thereby make it 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 or even the Swedish House Mafia. It’s just Louie, a fairly average producer making fairly average underground House Music which probably sells about 100 roughly copies per release.
It’s sad that folks would head to such lengths over this type of tiny sip of success. But Louie feels they have little choice. Weekly, a huge selection of EPs flood digital stores, and the man feels certain that many of them are deploying a similar sleazy “marketing” tactics I caught him using. There’s absolutely no way of knowing, naturally, the amount of artists are juicing up their stats the way Louie is, but I’m less considering verification than I am in understanding. It has some kind of creepy parallel to Lance Armstrong along with the steroid debate plaguing cycling and also other sports: if you’re certain all the others does it, you’d become a fool to never.
I posed that metaphor to Louie, but he didn’t seem to have it. Language problems. But I’m pretty sure 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 number of units sold (in fact, “#1 Track!” sounds a lot better than “100 Copies Sold Worldwide!”), he feels vindicated. It’s worth the cost.