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 for being everyone’s favorite artist over being the favorite artist of anyone.
Social media has gotten the chase for that http://socialgrand.com/buy-soundcloud-plays/ to another level of bullshit. After washing with the commercial EDM scene (artists buying Facebook fans was exposed by a few outfits last summer), faking your popularity for (presumed) profit is currently firmly ensconsced from the underground House Music scene.
This is actually the story of the certainly one of dance music’s fake hit tracks seems like, how much it costs, and why an artist within the tiny community of underground House Music can be happy to juice their numbers from the beginning (spoiler: it’s money).
In early January, I received a message through the head of any digital label. In adorably broken English, “Louie” (or more we’ll call him, for reasons that may become apparent) asked me how he could submit promos for review by 5 Magazine.
I directed him to our own music submission guidelines. We receive somewhere between five and six billion promos a month. Nothing regarding this encounter was extraordinary.
A couple of hours later, I received his first promo. We didn’t review it. It absolutely was, not to put too fine a point upon it, disposable: a bland, mediocre Deep House track. These matters certainly are a dime 12 these days – again, everything concerning this encounter was boringly ordinary.
I’d caught him red-handed committing the worst sin one can be accountable for in the underground: Louie was faking it.
However I noticed something strange when I Googled in the track name. And I Also bet you’ve noticed this too. Showing up in the label’s SoundCloud page, I discovered this barely average track – remarkable only in being utterly unremarkable – had somehow gotten greater than 37,000 plays on SoundCloud in just weekly. Ignoring the poor excellence of the track, this really is a staggering number for an individual of little reputation. The majority of his other tracks had significantly fewer than 1,000 plays.
Stranger still, the majority of the comments – insipid and stupid even by social networking standards – has come from people that will not seem to exist.
You’ve seen this before: a track with acclaim beyond any apparent worth. You’ve followed the link to your stream and thought, “How is it even possible? Am I missing something? Did I jump the gun? How do more and more people like something so ordinary?”
Louie, I believed, was purchasing plays, to gin up some coverage and get his distance to overnight success. He’s one of many. Desperate to produce an effect within an environment in which a huge selection of digital EPs are released weekly, labels are increasingly turning toward any method offered to make themselves heard higher than the racket – including the skeezy, slimey, spammy arena of buying plays and comments.
I’m not a naif about things like this – I’ve watched several artists (then one artist’s mate) make use of massive but temporary spikes inside their Facebook and twitter followers within a very compressed period of time. “Buying” the look of popularity has become something of the 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 just naive), I didn’t think this might extend past the reaches of EDM madness into the underground. Nor did I actually have any idea just what a “fake” hit song would look like. Now I really do.
Looking throughout the tabs from the 30k play track, the very first thing I noticed was the complete anonymity of those who had favorited it. They have made-up names and stolen pictures, but they rarely match. These are what SoundCloud bots appear to be:
The usernames and “real names” don’t make sense, but on top they seem so ordinary that you just wouldn’t notice anything amiss should you be casually skimming down a listing of them. “Annie French” has a username of “Max-Sherrill”. “Bruce-Horne” is “Tracy Lane”. A pyromaniac named “Lillian” is better referred to as “Bernard Harper” to her friends. You will find huge amounts of those. Plus they all like exactly the same tracks (none of the “likes” in the picture are for the track Louie sent me, having said that i don’t feel much will need to go from my way to protect them than using more than an extremely slight blur):
The majority of them are like this. (Louie deleted this track after I contacted him relating to this story, and so the comments are gone; all 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. Why would someone do this? After leafing through numerous followers and compiling these screenshots, I contacted Louie by email with my evidence.
His first reply was comprised of a sheaf of screenshots of his – his tracks prominently displayed on the leading page of Beatport, Traxsource and other sites, along with charts and reviews. It seemed irrelevant for me at that time – but be aware. Louie’s scrapbook of press clippings is a lot more relevant than you realize.
After reiterating my questions, I used to be surprised when Louie brazenly admitted that everything implied above is, in reality, true. He or she is purchasing plays. His fans are imaginary. Sadly, he is not just a god.
You might have realized that I’m not revealing Louie’s real name. I’m fairly certain you’ve never heard of him. I’m hopeful, in relation to listening to his music, which you never will. In return for omitting all reference to his name and label with this story, he consented to talk in more detail 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 of this story (seen by my partner plus 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 responsible for inside the underground: Louie was faking it.
However when every early reader’s response was, “Wait, that is this guy again?” – well, that tells you something. I don’t determine the story’s “bigger” than a single SoundCloud Superstar or possibly a Beatport 1 Week Wonder named Louie. But the story is in least different, together with Louie’s cooperation, I could affix hard numbers to what this type of ephemeral (but, he would argue, very efficient) fake popularity costs.
Louie informed me he artificially generated “20,000 plays” (I think it was more) by paying for the service that he identifies as Cloud-Dominator. This gives him his alloted variety of fake plays and “automatic follow/unfollow” from the bots, thereby inflating his quantity of followers.
Louie paid $45 for all those 20,000 plays; for your comments (purchased separately to create the full thing look legit on the un-jaundiced eye), Louie paid €40, which can be approximately $53.
This puts the price of SoundCloud Deep House dominance at a scant $100 per track.
But 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 your track that even real people that pay attention to it, much like me, will immediately overlook? Kristina Weise from SoundCloud told me by email how the company believes that “Illegitimately boosting one’s follower numbers offers no long-term benefits.”
This is where Louie was most helpful. The initial effect of juicing his stats, he claims, nets him approximately “10 [to] 20 real people” each day that begin following his SoundCloud page because of artificially inflating his playcount to such a grotesque level.
These are typically people that see the rise in popularity of his tracks, check out 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 as well.
But – and here is the most interesting component of his strategy, for you will discover a method to his madness – Louie also claims there’s a financial 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 even, a lot of the tracks which he juiced with fake SoundCloud plays were later featured prominently about the front pages of both Beatport and Traxsource – a very coveted way to obtain promotion for a digital label.
They’ve also 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 any kind of those blogs or magazines for coverage. He paid Cloud-Dominator. All of these knock-on, indirect benefits likely add up to way over $100 amount of free advertising – a positive return on his paid-for SoundCloud dominance.
Louie’s records around the front page of buy comments, which he attributes to having bought thousands of SoundCloud plays.
So it’s exactly about that mythical social websites “magic”. People see you’re popular, they think you’re popular, and eager since we they all are to prop up a winner, you therefore BECOME popular. Louie’s $100 for pumping the stats on his underground House track often will be scaled as much as the thousands or tens of thousands for EDM along with other music genres (a number of the bots following Louie also follow dubstep and even jazz musicians. Eclectic tastes, these bots have.)
Pay $100 on one end, get $100 (or even more) back about the other, and hopefully build toward the biggest payoff of most – your day when 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 of your internet. Back then it had been known 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 entry to them plague every online service, some individuals will view this issue as you which is SoundCloud’s responsibility. And so they may have a good self-fascination with making certain the small numbers next to the “play”, “heart” and “quotebubble” icons mean precisely what they claim they mean.
This information is a sterling endorsement for many of the services brokering fake plays and fake followers. They generally do just what they claim they may: inflate plays and gain followers in a no less than somewhat under-the-radar manner. I’ve seen it. I’ve just showed it for you. And that’s an issue for SoundCloud and also for those who work in the tunes industry who ascribe any integrity to those little numbers: it’s cheap, and provided you can afford it, or expect to create a return on the investment about the backend, as Louie does, there doesn’t are any risk with it whatsoever.
But it’s been over 3 months since I first came across Louie’s tracks. Not one of the incredibly obvious bots I identify here are already deleted. In fact, all of them have already been used several more times to depart 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, all of them appear prominently in Google searches for related keywords. They’re not difficult to find.)
And should SoundCloud establish a far better counter against botting and everything we might at the same time coin as “playcount fraud”, they’d come with an unusual ally.
“SoundCloud should close many accounts,” Louie says, including “top DJs and producers [with] premium accounts for promoting such as this. The visibility inside the web jungle is very difficult.”
For Louie, this is merely an advertising and marketing plan. And truthfully, he has history on his side, though he could not be aware of it. For a great deal of the very last sixty years, in form or even procedure, this is certainly the best way records were promoted. Labels inside the mainstream music industry bribed program directors at American radio stations to “break” songs of their choosing. They called it “payola“. From the 1950s, there was Congressional hearings; radio DJs found liable for accepting cash for play were ruined.
Payola was banned but the practice continued to flourish into the last decade. Read for example, Eric Boehlert’s excellent series on the more elegant system of payoffs that flourished following the famous payola hearings in the ’50s. All of Boehlert’s allegations about “independent record promoters” were proven true, again attracting the attention of Congress.
Payola includes giving money or benefits to mediators to make songs appear most popular than they are. The songs then become popular through radio’s free exposure. Louie’s ultra-modern type of payola eliminates any advantage to the operator (in cases like this, SoundCloud), but the effect is the same: to help you be assume that 58dexppky “boringly ordinary” track is undoubtedly an underground clubland sensation – and thereby ensure it is one.
The acts that took advantage of payola in Boehlert’s exposé were multiplatinum groups like U2 and Destiny’s Child. This isn’t Lady Gaga or maybe the Swedish House Mafia. It’s just Louie, a fairly average producer making fairly average underground House Music which probably sells around a hundred approximately copies per release.
It’s sad that people would check out such lengths over this sort of tiny sip of success. But Louie feels he has little choice. Per week, hundreds of EPs flood digital stores, and he feels sure that a lot of them are deploying exactly the same sleazy “marketing” tactics I caught him using. There’s no chance of knowing, of course, the number of artists are juicing up their stats just how Louie is, but I’m less enthusiastic about verification than I am just in understanding. They have some kind of creepy parallel to Lance Armstrong as well as the steroid debate plaguing cycling and other sports: if you’re certain everybody else has been doing it, you’d be described as a fool not to.
I posed that metaphor to Louie, but he didn’t seem to get it. Language problems. But I’m fairly certain that he’d agree. As his legitimate SoundCloud followers inch upward, as his tracks enter the absurd sales charts at digital stores that emphasize chart position within the pathetic variety of units sold (after all, “#1 Track!” sounds far better than “100 Copies Sold Worldwide!”), he feels vindicated. It’s worth the cost.