There are several reasons why someone wants to generate artificial currents, according to Daniel Johansson. Often it’s a matter of inflating the numbers for marketing purposes to, for example, sell an artist to live gigs.
– Often I would say that it is about smaller artists who want to get their numbers up on releases so that they look bigger than they are, he says.
These types of cheat streams should not be confused with other forms of cheating, such as uploading and playing short fake songs over and over again. Then it’s about milking the system for money rather than creating an artificial boost.
Suspected money laundering
There have also been reports of suspected money laundering via Spotify. But according to Daniel Johansson, in that case it is not about any large sums. Then tens of millions of fake streams would have been required, and such volumes are difficult to hide from the platforms, he explains.
Behind the manipulations are actors who sell streams, not only on Spotify but on other platforms such as Youtube, Tiktok and Deezer.
– The actors often say that they act as PR agencies and sometimes sell other kinds of services as well, but what it basically means is that they use streaming bots, or streaming farms, which use large amounts of mobile phones, tablets and computers that are and spins around the clock, says Daniel Johansson.
To hide the activity, proxy technology is used to make the playback appear as if it is coming from different parts of the world. In addition, AI is used to mask the activity as completely normal human activity.
– There are even farms that use so-called “clickers”, which are physical devices with finger-like sticks that you attach to mobile screens, and which mimic how a person would have clicked on the platforms.
According to Daniel Johansson, the largest actors are connected to criminal organizations that also engage in other forms of cybercrime, such as phishing and identity theft.
– If you are an artist, I think you should think both once and twice, because this kind of organization is also the person who buys streams a potential victim who can be exploited.
Can you trust some numbers about streams on Spotify and other platforms?
– Yes, pretty much. The thresholds for when the systems detect artificial streams have been radically lowered and most of the manipulation that the platforms find is adjusted behind the scenes without making any Miss Snusk stories out of it.