The New York Times recently had an article on people who, for a price, will inflate the viewing numbers of YouTube videos. Fake stats, in other words. Since views and likes are the currency of this realm, these practices are distorting our image of what is actually popular.
The music streaming industry is having the same problems. How many streams are real? What is the role of bots? Are the companies themselves fudging the numbers? Have we con back to the old days when we couldn’t trust anyone to tell us exactly how many records were sold?
Variety takes a look.
Twitter’s recent housecleaning of some 70 million fake and automated accounts illuminates just how pervasive audience manipulation has become in the digital era. For Twitter, the fake accounts can create a shadow army of followers that has comparatively little monetary effect. But perform the same manipulation with music streams, and it constitutes fraud.
Tidal has found itself awash in accusations of data manipulation. As recently as May, Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv and the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) accused the Jay-Z-owned service of falsifying tens of millions of streams for Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” and Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo” albums. While Tidal has denied the claims on multiple fronts, a company rep tells Variety that several investigators are currently on the ground at the company’s offices looking into a potential data breach.