The Localist: The Return of Scam Services, A Public Service Announcement
The underground music world is buzzing from a recent mass casualties event in which many musicians have had songs delisted by Spotify because of an algorithm designed to remove songs that have been boosted by artificial plays via bots and fake plays. I won’t get into all the issues that one might have with a service like Spotify, which are legion. But I do want to point out how easy it is for artists to fall prey to scams on the internet, because publicity scams are one of the main sources of the mass-delisting.
To illustrate: I have several musician friends who have in the past suggested the use of services to boost Spotify plays. You can look them up yourself. Many such services suggest that they are selling “real plays” and provide services to anyone who can pay a small sum in the range of $20-200. In general, as a musician, you should be wary of any service that guarantees to make you overnight famous, and makes it available to anyone who can pay. Especially if their website provides no contact information for a real person in the United States with a physical address you can consult in case anything goes wrong. Of course, most of these services are in fact “botting” services, which run a bunch of bots via a server farm in a foreign country to generates fake streams for an artist. It is, of course, a little reprehensible for an artist to intentionally pay for these services. However, many musicians don’t understand that the service providers are running bot farms, while lying to them about the origin of the plays. Or perhaps many musicians are too starry-eyed to give much notice to the cracks in the veneer.
The scam is made more problematic given the rise of publicity services – many also with no contact information for a real person in the United States with a physical address. In this case, the publicity services act as a third party buffer, collecting fees to boost Spotify plays while also generating fake premieres with an increasingly dizzying number of fake publications with non-existent readerships or readerships made up of other musicians who are paying for publicity services.
I hope that the Spotify delisting mass casualty event is a wake up call to have independent artists return to the basics. Stop paying attention to Spotify metrics as a useful indicator of your fame and fortunes. Concentrate on writing good records, take the time to find honest brokers in the music industry (which are unfortunately harder and harder to find), and learn how to pitch them your best work, so you can get that work to a broader audience. Be selective about how you spend your money on PR services, and use it in surgically targeted releases. Which really has always been the way to become an artist of repute.
The Localist is a column focusing on issues relating to aspiring local musicians in New York City. In his free time, the author performs as St. Lenox. St. Lenox’s most recent record, “Ten Fables of Young Ambition and Passionate Love” was placed on Best Albums lists at Pop Matters and AllMusic. AllMusic credits St. Lenox with “some of the most unique and unconventionally thrilling pop music in the late 2010s.”