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There is SO much fraud with streaming music services. Here are scams to watch out for.

All the streaming music services draw from the same universal library of 110 million-ish songs. On average, 94,500 new songs are added every day. A tiny portion–about 4%–comes from the three major labels while the rest are from indie labels, DIY musicians, and scammers. Let’s look at that third group.

Fraud is rampant on streaming music services. It’s estimated that US$2 billion is lost each year and fake songs may account for 10% of all streams. That’s billions of listens per week.

Here are a couple of the most common scams.

  • Someone will post a slightly sped-up or slowed-down version of a well-known song. People are duped into listening to those bogus tracks thinking that they’re listening to the real thing. When they do, streaming royalties go to the scammer that posted the altered versions. Check out this account.
  • A scammer will repost someone else’s song–usually an unknown artist–tagging it as having a “feature” from a well-known performer. The algorithm picks up on the fake “featured” artist and pushes it out to fans of that artist. When they listen, the streaming royalty flows to the scammer.
  • Bots listening to bots. Someone uses AI to create a song which is then uploaded to the streamers. That same scammer will then employ a bot to “listen” to that song (or songs) over and over and over again. Royalties can then be funneled to the scammer. At the very least, this pushes the unknown artist up by the algorithms, sucking attention to that artist.

Spotify and Apple Music seem to be suffering the most while YouTube Music—which benefits from YouTube’s powerful ID recognition software–is the least infected. All streamers are playing a neverending game of Whack-A-Mole against these frauds.

Then there are accounts Sped Up Nightcore which is just like it sounds: Sped-up versions of hit songs. Note that most of the songs are credited to Warner Music. It’s suspected that this site is actually the product of…Warner Music. The thinking is that this playlist of “remixes” will wrest attention away from sites not affiliated with Warner. It becomes a landing page for anyone looking for one of these songs who might have found it on TikTok. And because it looks illegitimate, it’s got a cool underground vibe.

Universal Music has its own “remix” page called Speed Radio. Like Sped Up Nightcore, it seeks to divert people away from illegitimate speed up/slow down sites.

How well does this work? Some of these accounts have more than a million listeners. That’s a million people who might have otherwise gone to a scammer site. Basically, it’s fighting fire with fire.

One more thing: the flood of AI music. Watch out for a company called Boomy, which is having a moment with Spotify. It specializes in posting AI-generated songs and reaping any royalties. Is that a scam or just a clever way of using new technology?

Fun times ahead.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38336 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

2 thoughts on “There is SO much fraud with streaming music services. Here are scams to watch out for.

  • One of my daugthers is an indie artist (Mikalyn). I always knew that she would have to figure out a way to navigate through the maze that is the music business in order to eke out some kind of living. I just didnt think that it would be so seemingly impossible. In a recent conversation with Cory Tetford – he summed it up well. Whatever an artist did yesterday to have some success today, you will need to work twice as hard today to have the same success tomorrow. Good thing music is so damn fun eh.

    Reply
  • There’s also the scam where a music publisher uploads the same track under different (made up) artist names. This happens mostly on genre compilations and cover collections (aka “Tributes”).

    Reply

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