If you’re getting ready to market your upcoming release, you may be considering employing a company that claims to help boost your streams, followers, and playlist placement for a fee. We have one very important tip for you: don’t.
What is Streaming Fraud?
Streaming fraud (also known as streaming manipulation, abnormal store-end behavior, fraudulent store-end behavior, or store-end fraud) is the act of artificially inflating your views, streams, follows, and sales, in order to generate revenue or manipulate your release’s popularity in the charts, on playlists, or in search results. This often comes in the form of paying a promotion or playlisting company to help you get more streams, follows, downloads, favorable playlist placement, or general exposure on streaming platforms.
While these services claim to get you legitimate streams and fans, what they’re likely doing is utilizing bots to stream your release over and over in order to amplify your songs and manipulate their placement among other popular tracks. Although the results may feel like a dream at first, they can quickly devolve into your worst nightmare when a store discovers the unusual activity related with your release and removes it from their platform - for good.
Spotify, Apple Music, Deezer, and all other streaming platforms, routinely check for and remove content that they believe to be violating their terms of service. Spotify’s widely-agreed upon definition of “streaming manipulation” covers “selling a user account or playlist, or otherwise accepting or offering to accept any compensation, financial or otherwise, to influence the name of an account or playlist or the content included on an account of playlist.”
In layman's terms, paying for playlisting, followers, or streams is a big violation of their terms and will result in a readjustment of your streaming data and royalty calculations or, more likely, removal of your release or account from the platform. Spotify breaks down all the details in their video about artificial streaming, and you can find the full list of activities that aren’t permitted under any circumstances in their User Guidelines.
Spotify details some of the best practices for getting noticed by their editors in their blog here, and explains that you cannot and should not pay for any service that promises to get your release on a Spotify playlist.
Plain and simple, the biggest consequence of getting wrapped up in fraudulent streaming behavior - whether unintentionally or on purpose - is that your music will be removed, and you won’t be able to re-distribute it. Additionally, you won’t be paid any of the revenue generated through activity deemed fraudulent by either the stores or your distribution partner (that’s us, we’re your distribution partner).
TuneCore may go as far as to completely close your account, and/or restrict your ability to withdraw funds if we determine that you are participating in any fraudulent behavior. Our full terms on the subject can be found here.
One of the most important points to keep in mind when it comes to the TuneCore terms around streaming manipulation is:
“You should be aware that Streaming Manipulation may be the result of the actions of a third party, such as a promotion or marketing company, record label or music distributor, acting on behalf of an artist or on its own behalf. You are encouraged to investigate and vet any companies or individuals you may enlist, retain, or employ to promote or market your music, as you may be liable for Streaming Manipulation perpetrated by a third party on your behalf. For the avoidance of doubt, any Streaming Manipulation done by a third party on your behalf or that relates to your Recordings is a violation of these Terms of Service.”
This means that whether you intended to be a party in violating the terms or not, you are responsible for the outcome. When in doubt, remember the golden rule: do NOT pay for service that promises to boost your streams, followers, or to put you on a store’s playlist.
Ok, So What can I do?
We know it’s tough out there, so we put together a number of legitimate ways to promote your release without risking your distribution status. Check out Spotify’s Promotion Guide to learn more about:
- Pitching song to playlist editors
- Utilizing Spotify’s branding to promote your release
- Embedding a music player outside the Spotify app
- Sharing on social channels
- Promoting your release with audio ads
For more strategies, check out TuneCore’s Survival Guide dedicated to marketing and promotion. We also have guides dedicated to:
- TikTok for Musicians
- Spotify Playlists
- Pitching Your Music
- DIY Touring
- Digital Marketing for Musicians
- College Radio Promotion 101