Become a Soundcloud Superstar

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 of being everyone’s favorite artist over being the favorite artist of anyone.

Social media has taken the chase for the fumes of fame to a whole new level of bullshit. After washing through the commercial EDM scene (artists buying Facebook fans was exposed by several outfits last summer), faking your popularity for (presumed) profit is now firmly ensconsced in the underground House Music scene.

This is the story of what one of dance music’s fake hit tracks looks like, how much it costs, and why an artist in the tiny community of underground House Music would be willing to juice their numbers in the first place (spoiler: it’s money).



‘Boringly Ordinary’

In early January, I received an email from the head of a digital label. In adorably broken English, “Louie” (or so we’ll call him, for reasons that will become apparent) asked me how he could submit promos for review by 5 Magazine.

I directed him to our music submission guidelines. We get somewhere between five and six billion promos a month. Nothing about this encounter was extraordinary.

A few hours later, I received his first promo. We didn’t review it. It was, not to put too fine a point on it, disposable: a bland, mediocre Deep House track. These things are a dime a dozen these days – again, everything about this encounter was boringly ordinary.

I’d caught him red-handed committing the worst sin one can be guilty of in the underground: Louie was faking it.

But I noticed something strange when I Googled up the track name. And I bet you’ve noticed this too. Hitting the label’s SoundCloud page, I found that this barely average track – remarkable only in being utterly unremarkable – had somehow gotten more than 37,000 plays on SoundCloud in less than a week. Ignoring the poor quality of the track, this is a staggering number for someone of little reputation. Most of his other tracks had significantly fewer than 1,000 plays.

30,000 fake soundcloud plays
30,000 fake soundcloud plays

Even stranger, there were only 117 comments – a very low number for a track with so many plays.

Stranger still, most of the comments – insipid and stupid even by social media standards – came from people who do not appear to exist.

You’ve seen this before: a track with acclaim far beyond any apparent worth. You’ve followed a link to a stream and thought, “How is this even possible? Am I missing something? Did I jump the gun? How can so many people like something so ordinary?”

Louie, I believed, was purchasing plays, to gin up some coverage and buy his way into overnight success. He’s not alone. Desperate to make an impression in an environment in which hundreds of digital EPs are released every week, labels are increasingly turning toward any method available to make themselves heard above the racket – even the skeezy, slimey, spammy world of buying plays and comments.

I’m not a naif about such things – I’ve watched several artists (and one artist’s significant other) benefit from massive but temporary spikes in their Twitter and Facebook followers within a very compressed time period. “Buying” the appearance of popularity has become something of a low-key epidemic in dance music, like the mysterious appearance and equally sudden disappearance of Uggs and the word “Hella” from the American vocabulary.

But (and here’s where I am naive), I didn’t think this would extend beyond the reaches of EDM madness into the underground. Nor did I have any idea what a “fake” hit song would look like. Now I do.


This Is What A Fake Dance Hit Looks Like

Looking through the tabs of the 30k+ play track, the first thing I noticed was the total anonymity of the people who had favorited it. They have made-up names and stolen pictures, but they rarely match up. These are what SoundCloud bots look like:

Fake SoundCloud Followers
Fake SoundCloud Followers

The usernames and “real names” don’t make sense, but on the surface they seem so ordinary that you wouldn’t notice anything amiss if you were casually skimming down a list of them. “Annie French” has a username of “Max-Sherrill”. “Bruce-Horne” is “Tracy Lane”. A pyromaniac named “Lillian” is better known as “Bernard Harper” to her friends. There are literally thousands of these. And they all like exactly the same tracks (none of the “likes” in the picture are for the track Louie sent me, but I don’t feel much need to go out of my way to protect them than with more than a very slight blur):

Fake SoundCloud Favorites and Likes
Fake SoundCloud Favorites and Likes

Most of the comments are hilariously banal, but a few do stand out. You have to wonder what Louie thinks, knowing that comments like “YOU ARE A GOD” come from imaginary fans he’s paid for:

Fake SoundCloud Comments
Fake SoundCloud Comments

Most of them are like this. (Louie deleted this track after I contacted him about this story, so the comments are all gone; all of these were preserved via screenshots. He also renamed his account.)


Fake Plays, Real Dollars

It’s pretty obvious what Louie was doing: he’d bought fake plays and fake followers. But why would someone do this? After leafing through hundreds of followers and compiling these screenshots, I contacted Louie by email with my evidence.

His first reply consisted of a sheaf of screenshots of his own – his tracks prominently displayed on the front page of Beatport, Traxsource and other sites, along with charts and reviews. It seemed irrelevant to me at the time – but pay attention. Louie’s scrapbook of press clippings is more relevant than you know.

After reiterating my questions, I was surprised when Louie brazenly admitted that everything implied above is, in fact, true. He is paying for plays. His fans are imaginary. Sadly, he is not a god.

You have noticed that I’m not revealing Louie’s real name. I’m fairly certain you’ve never heard of him. I’m hopeful, based upon listening to his music, that you never will. In exchange for omitting all reference to his name and label from this story, he agreed to talk in detail about his strategy of gaming SoundCloud, and then manipulating others – digital stores, DJs, even simple fans – 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 and a few other people) excoriated the label and ripped its fame-hungry owner “Louie” to pieces. I’d caught him red-handed committing the worst sin one can be guilty of in the underground: Louie was faking it.

But when every early reader’s response was, “Wait, who is this guy again?” – well, that tells you something. I don’t know if the story’s “bigger” than a single SoundCloud Superstar or a Beatport One Week Wonder named Louie. But the story is at least different, and with Louie’s cooperation, I was able to affix hard numbers to what this kind of ephemeral (but, he would argue, very effective) fake popularity will cost.

This is "Louie's" actual level of popularity - tracks that were put up months before he began gaming the SoundCloud system.
This is “Louie’s” actual level of popularity – tracks that were put up months before he began gaming the SoundCloud system.


This Is What A Fake Dance Hit Costs

Louie told me that he artificially generated “20,000 plays” (I believe it was more) by paying for a service which he identifies as Cloud-Dominator. This gives him his alloted number of fake plays and “automatic follow/unfollow” from the bots, thereby inflating his number of followers.

Louie paid $45 for those 20,000 plays; for the comments (purchased separately to make the entire thing look legit to the un-jaundiced eye), Louie paid €40, which is approximately $53.

This puts the price of SoundCloud Deep House dominance at a scant $100 per track.

But why? I mean, I’m sure that’s impressive to his mom, but who really cares about Louie and 30,000 fake plays of a track that even real people that listen to it, like me, will immediately forget about? Kristina Weise from SoundCloud told me by email that the company believes that “Illegitimately boosting one’s follower numbers offers no long-term benefits.”

But to hear Louie tell it: it does.


This Is What A Fake Dance Hit Can Do For You

This is where Louie was most helpful. The first effect of juicing his stats, he claims, nets him approximately “10 [to] 20 real people” per day that begin following his SoundCloud page as a result of artificially inflating his playcount to such a grotesque level.

These are people who see the popularity of his tracks, go through the same process I did in wondering how such a thing was possible, but inevitably shrug and sign on as a follower of Louie, assuming that where there’s light, there must be heat as well.

But – and this is the most interesting part of his strategy, for there is a method to his madness – Louie also claims there’s a financial dimension. “The track with 37,000 plays today [is] in the Top 100 [on] Beatport” he says, as well as being in “the Top 100 Beatport deep house tracks at #11.”

And indeed, many of the tracks that he juiced with fake SoundCloud plays were later featured prominently on the front pages of both Beatport and Traxsource – a highly coveted source of 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 of those blogs or magazines for coverage. He paid Cloud-Dominator. All of these knock-on, indirect benefits likely add up to far more than $100 worth of free advertising – a positive return on his paid-for SoundCloud dominance.

Louie’s records on the front page of Traxsource and Beatport, which he attributes to having bought tens of thousands of SoundCloud plays.

So it’s all about that mythical social media “magic”. People see you’re popular, they believe you’re popular, and eager as we all are to prop up a winner, you therefore BECOME popular. Louie’s $100 for pumping up the stats on his underground House track can probably be scaled up to the thousands or tens of thousands for EDM and other music genres (some 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 more) back on the other, and hopefully build toward the biggest payoff of all – the 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, but it also existed before the dawn of the internet. Back then it was called The Emperor’s New Clothes.

Of Payola and Steroids

SoundCloud claimed 18 million registered users back in Forbes in August 2012. While bots and the sleazy services that sell access to them plague every online service, some people will view this issue as one which is SoundCloud’s responsibility. And they do have a healthy self-interest in ensuring that the little numbers next to the “play”, “heart” and “quotebubble” icons mean exactly what they say they mean.

This article is a sterling endorsement for many of the services brokering fake plays and fake followers. They do exactly what they say they will: inflate plays and gain followers in an at least somewhat under-the-radar manner. I’ve seen it. I’ve just showed it to you. And that’s a problem for SoundCloud and for those in the music industry who ascribe any integrity to those little numbers: it’s cheap, and if you can afford it, or expect to make a return on your investment on the backend, as Louie does, there doesn’t seem to be any risk to it at all.

For the record, Kristina Weise told me that SoundCloud is

continually working on the reduction and the detection of fake accounts. When we have been made aware of certain illegitimate activities like fake accounts or purchasing followers, we deal with this in accordance with our Terms of Use. Offering and using paid promotion services or other means to artificially increase play-count, add followers or to misrepresent the popularity of content on the platform, is contrary to our TOS. Any user found to be using or offering these services risks having his/her account terminated.

But it’s been over 3 months since I first stumbled across Louie’s tracks. None of the incredibly obvious bots I identify here have been deleted. In fact, all of them have been used several more times to leave inane comments and favorite tracks by Louie’s fellow clients. (Some may worry that I’m listing the names of said shady services here. Rest assured, all of them appear prominently in Google searches for related keywords. They’re not hard to find.)

And should SoundCloud develop a more effective counter against botting and what we might as well coin as “playcount fraud”, they’d have an unusual ally.

“SoundCloud should close many accounts,” Louie says, including “top DJs and producers [with] premium accounts for promoting like this. The visibility in the web jungle is very difficult.”

For Louie, this is simply a marketing plan. And truthfully, he has history on his side, though he may not know it. For much of the last sixty years, in form if not procedure, this is exactly how records were promoted. Labels in the mainstream music industry bribed program directors at American radio stations to “break” songs of their choosing. They called it “payola“. In the 1950s, there were Congressional hearings; radio DJs found guilty of accepting cash for play were ruined.

Payola was banned but the practice continued to flourish into the last decade. Read for instance, Eric Boehlert’s excellent series on the more elegant system of payoffs that flourished after the famous payola hearings of the ’50s. All of Boehlert’s allegations about “independent record promoters” were proven true, again attracting the attention of Congress.

Payola consists of giving money or benefits to mediators to make songs appear more popular than they are. The songs then become popular through radio’s free exposure. Louie’s ultra-modern form of payola eliminates any benefit to the operator (in this case, SoundCloud), but the effect is the same: to make you believe that this “boringly ordinary” track is an underground clubland sensation – and thereby make it one.

The acts that benefited from payola in Boehlert’s exposé were multiplatinum groups like U2 and Destiny’s Child. This isn’t Lady Gaga or even the Swedish House Mafia. It’s just Louie, a fairly average producer making fairly average underground House Music which probably sells an average of a hundred or so copies per release.

It’s sad that people would go to such lengths over such a tiny sip of success. But Louie feels he has little choice. Each week, hundreds of EPs flood digital stores, and he feels certain that many of them are deploying the same sleazy “marketing” tactics I caught him using. There’s no way of knowing, of course, how many artists are juicing up their stats the way Louie is, but I’m less interested in verification than I am in understanding. It has some kind of creepy parallel to Lance Armstrong and the steroid debate plaguing cycling and other sports: if you’re certain everyone else is doing it, you’d be a fool not to.

I posed that metaphor to Louie, but he didn’t seem to get it. Language problems. But I’m pretty sure that he’d agree. As his legitimate SoundCloud followers inch upward, as his tracks break into the absurd sales charts at digital stores that emphasize chart position over the pathetic number of units sold (after all, “#1 Track!” sounds much better than “100 Copies Sold Worldwide!”), he feels vindicated. It’s worth it.


  1. This is a great article and I’m surprised to see no comments… As a worldwide indie label we absolutely refuse such services, but we know our ‘competitors’ (if we can call them that) all inflate. Truth be told our music is REALLY awesome and some of our artists are legendary in their own right, but our label has always been a part time thing so we don’t put as much effort into real promo. I do bet though that if we could remove all of these “fakers” from the spotlight, true labels like us (NexGen Music) visibility would probably be greater that it is today. Let’s remove the noise and get rid of the fakers!!! /

    • Went to check you page, was surprised to see so much Garage music! Good quality though. The biggest problem we face today is quite simply that it is too easy to make “music” with a cheap PC and software. People with no talent at all flood the market with their “songs”. There used to be a time where you had to invest in material, time and needed much dedication to deliver something. Now the barrier is as low as it can be and a ceaseless flood of meaningless “music” tracks is added every day to the pile.
      It’s virtually impossible to let your music be heard in this overcrowded digital noise. Dedicated sample libraries and virtual instrument developers are pushing the barriers each year to make it easier and easier to “make” music by pushing a few buttons. Genres have never been this clear defined in their narrowness because most of it comes right out the same software boxes.
      And what happened to the fans themselves? Honestly, there used to be a time where people in general could distinguish music from rubbish, but those days are over. TV, radio and internet, they have over the decades programmed people what they should like. That is why hyping tracks with fake followers etc. works so well. Night and day people listen to their devices, they hardly remember what silence is like. The necessary contrast is missing in their digital lives. All these things add up to a zombie population that has no clue which art or music has real value, has soul; and which not.

  2. Hi there! I’ve been receiving also fake comments, likes, reposts from people I didn’t even know or played my tracks. I really, really don’t like this, it’s not taking an artist music seriously and denying the chance to get some proper feedback on his/her tracks.

    • THEORY: The author points out the same fake followers like all the same tracks. Maybe you get thrown a free listen, like or comment by the bots now to make their choices seem more organic? “Joe Schmoe doesn’t only like the tracks with 60,000 plays, but this random one with 12 plays, also.” Makes the bots appear more real.

  3. What happens if a really talented group does this after a year of not receiving any public interest? I mean this in a “brilliant but cancelled” kind of sense where the ratings just aren’t there. Before Moby Dick was published the book was rejected over and over again by many publishing companies. Could this mean that some talented artists will otherwise go unknown if they don’t try, with this method, to push themselves above the noise and into the ears into a real audience of listeners? The bottom line is that talented artists can’t survive without a fan base. If they aren’t getting a response from their, for the sake of argument, brilliant music then why should this method, in such an intense, be frowned upon? It may be silly, but it may be the only shot some real artists have in the industry today. What do you guys think?

      • love her post chino.
        truer words never spoken.
        Lawyers claim to have won”as advertise many law cases,yet why?”Simple for new “fans”of the work” for the law office,more marketing/better/more clients! trust me i work in a firm so i know.
        Nothing wrong with this at all. i think it’s smart.End of the day as Morgan say it come down to a lil bit o luck,and good record.

    • A bit late to the party but I honestly agree. I personally think it’s more a result of more cultural stupidity than anything else where the lame commercial shit gets exponentially more publicised and trends catch on (which imo should not happen in music, producers should be crafting their own version of their own music, not trying to slot their track into some pre-defined genre). These trends end up spawning hundreds of copycat producers in a bid to light their own popularity fire on the back of this huge bandwagon and what happens is that real musicians get their content completely drowned out because there is such mass musical blindness that people can be made to believe that they like something.

      As a producer myself I solely enjoy just making the music and being over the moon with even a couple new plays or comments because I just want people to enjoy my stuff. That’s why I used to frown upon the act of people trying to publicise themselves on other people’s track or youtube comments which now seems less of a sin when the music industry has become what it is now.

      Although I believe trying to accelerate popularity by leaving your mark all over other people’s track and youtube comments becomes less a benign act of just trying to be heard but now more an obsession for the self-gratifying numbers and possibly even financial gain from which, now has become a game that has nothing to do with actually enjoying making music but more a sell-out act of selfish pursuit.

      • Every few weeks I’m being alerted of “suspicious” commenting on this article and finding 3 or 4 new commenters, all with the same IP address vigorously agreeing with each other that buying shit is the way of the future. At this point, the humans in the industry are still stupider than the bots. Thank God.

    • I’d rather starve to death than feed into this bullshit. Soundcloud is such a fucking scam, it’s unbelievable that any artist clued into this would give them money at this point.

      This is practically the definition of a pyramid scheme. There’s no ‘shot’ at this point, it’s all crumbling into one massive shitheap bubble, whose pop is the destruction of our cultural connection with something timeless and intrinsic to humanity – these distribution websites are more interested in the premiums they can squeeze out of people that actually give a shit about their work than moderating their website so that real effort can shine through.

      • I dont Agree at all! SC is great tool and if U r saying ur TV is better one Im sorry for U Millions will agree with me – POWER that FRESH MUSIC GIVES cant be compared with anything right now Im listening to something what only 1K people have heard in last hour & it all’s gonna make a huge BUZZ tomorrow, how about that? What if those sites is the only thing that can help music>the world?))

      • Sadly Soundcloud is in a poor state these days. It was pretty decent back when it first started out. I think relying on bigger blogs, labels, podcasts and networking in the real world is far more worth than just relying on soundcloud to grow a fan base. We are past the stage where that is doable, without paying hard cash, which defeats the purpose of obtaining real fans. There are systems where you give comments to other people, and they give it in return, and it creates a cycle of people helping each other. It’s better, but still feeding the same demons. Make good music, sign with labels or start your own, get heard.

        • I’m working towards starting a new distribution system, actually 🙂 We’ll see how that pans out. We need to meet fans half-way and come up with something more pervasive and self-aware, if not better than streaming. I think a great majority of people are ready to understand how this is affecting the distribution of wealth in the industry, that there are artists who don’t necessarily want to be fabulously wealthy, just have enough to survive on and improve their craft, so there’s a market there.

          • Interesting, but did you notice how Baboom, which had this different distribution system with most of the incentives for the artists themselves, silently went offline again? It’s clear to me that a new player in the field that is in the best interest of artists (and thus fans) will not be allowed. This is not a free world, whatever people think.

  4. this is outrageous! i knew something sketchy was going on with some of these idiotic and generalized comments. i’m on soundcloud and i have gotten emails about buying plays. thank god i never did it. i make music strictly as a hobby and i hoped that by putting it on soundcloud i could get real feedback so that i get better at the craft. i get excited if i even get 10-20 people to listen to my stuff. now this whole thing seems tainted. it’s a little depressing, but on the other hand, now i don’t have to wonder why these crappy artists are getting so much more attention. the idea of soundcloud is amazing. being able to share music with people all over the world and listen to unknown artists is great. I’m sure soundcloud profits indirectly from these inflated numbers too. eventually they will get bought out by twitter/fb for a ton of money and the reason is that they show such high numbers of users.
    however i came across this article because i was looking for a way to search for songs that have few plays instead of many. these are the most fun to listen to. does anyone know how to do this? after reading this i really want to know!

    • hey man, put your sound cloud profile, i would like to listen to your music ‘cause you raised my attention. I make « real music » too if you’re interest

  5. Is it possible for someone to apply this shit to your tracks without knowing? I recently put up a track, and in a week it got 120 plays. For me, thats a pretty big number, but I dont think that is what was out of the ordinary. No, what caught my attention was how my plays are now at 500 as of this morning, and counting. I believe now its at 541? And it keeps going. None of my other tracks are getting hits. The track in question is ONLY getting plays, and I am not getting any new followers. What the hell is going on with my track?!

    • yes it is possible… is it really far-fetched to imagine some A&R/management/agency wants to appear like s/he is doing right by their client, so they artificially inflate their stats — “LOOK! through my diligence and hard work I steered HELLA followers to your site,” a $50 or so investment in order to keep milking hundreds more?

  6. Well, this is a very interesting article. I’m not sure how bad of a thing it is too buy plays really, but it does seem a little pointless. Life is about status for most people I guess. They just want to appear great. Same reason why people buy nice clothes, nice cars etc. Why not buy some plays to go along with your wanted persona?

    I don’t think it’s likely someone will get famous from it, but if they do then good for them. That would just go to show how easily people are led. Maybe it makes business harder for record labels, but that doesn’t really matter either. You don’t even need labels anymore anyway.

    I’ve taken the opposite approach the last few years, giving away my tracks, just let them have it. A lot of the time, people will just feel a compulsive urge to compensate you, or find you a gig. I’ve got a few thousand plays on some tracks. Not like 80,000 or anything gigantic, but enough you know? Also I was on soundcloud back in the old days, when you could get tons of plays simply by playing good music and being polite to people.

    People should focus less on being famous, or appearing to be. Should focus more on staying a working musician, and producing music that will last the test of time. But hey, the business man in me says if you can make money off of fools trying to get famous quick, why not? There’s a sucker born every minute. 🙂

  7. I’m a real musician. With true passion and integrity. I find it extremely hard to now stand out among the fake buyers and the fake numbers, and their “real dollars”. The social media frenzy and the desire for EVERYONE to be “popular” has actually bogged down the field for real artistry. And for the most part…competition is no longer about talent. It’s about these absurd numbers and “buzzes.” With so much going on, how can the audience actually find the REAL guys…where is the truth among so many lies ? *SIGH*

    • HAS ZERO TO DO WITH lie etc.
      has EVERYTHING buying plays or not, to do with MARKETING YOURSELF,and that is part of marketing since sixties. My dad knew this he say laughing still since he retire in radio.he seen how mgr.,to artist will go UP TO THE STATION offer to play a track “never for free,for marketing purpose dollars period.simple as that it is a business,as few wise folks here are saying,about MARKETING same as any field of work,simple as that.i say more below about my cuz,now interviewing for her “songs”with major label who reach her and she again sold them NOT on they said views,nope.her “song,the arrangement,radio-ready sound,and her marketing,of THAT 1 song,did it.”we are happy for her.”
      i say much more below.
      Good luck
      #LIFE2SHORTNot2MarketYourself and that is what it come down to marketing,a “great product.”nothing wrong with that,a lie,you might say,but for my cousin and her partner,it was premise on the song,and not the amount of plays.and a “touch of good luck,in the right place,at the right time.”

      night all

        • You should sometimes re-post that morgan.i feel same way.I know how”good marketing works.”I work at law firms a long time. Lawyers claim to have won”as advertise many law cases,yet why?”Simple for new “fans”of the work” for the law office,more marketing, better/more clients! trust me i work in a firm so i know. Nothing wrong with this at all. i think it’s smart.End of the day as Morgan say it come down to a lil bit o luck,and good record. I would not care if you have 100 plays,or 10 in only 1 week,if i love your song,and it somehow make it to my “major”label,i will call you,arrange a sit-down contractual meet and greet.simple as that.Good luck to you all artist.#NeverGiveup Morgan is right,all about marketing a”great product.”I see lawyers do it all the time.
          .Good night.

    • you’re right, and it has a lil bit of luck to do wit it too.I see nothing wrong with
      buying plays,and or fans who cares,it come down to the actual “song”being
      hopefully discovered,who doesn’t know that smh.this article don’t make sens to me at all.
      Someone hating,and i will save my comment for FB just in case it get deleted,like Morgan
      earlier great post.

      Morgan comment on this page is right,best IMO,(see her post above)
      but she also post one after yours Ma$$

      all about Marketing, Promotion,and soundcloud is good at that imo, many lawyers,
      “and others market one’s self…”People either gotz 2 learn the game,keep up or be left behind

    • Yeah, one where advancing ones success should come from credits earned, not pre-fadricated to give the visual of skill and talent… This hurts those who earn their credz through real work and real plays and real period…

      • And yet this still works. As Ma$$ said, this is a business.The business’ that get ahead are the ones willing to play dirty. Whether or not someone ‘likes it’ or thinks that the medium should ‘more about the art’ matters very little to the people lining their pockets.

    • Yeah, they’re making money off you, so you can sell a track for $1.69. Or not even sell at all. In the end you lose and you feel empty for being talentless in contrast to the amount of “people” who like your track because it’s actually good in bad taste of opinion.

  8. Great article first of all. Soundcloud is simply broken. For those of you who say ‘what’s the big deal’ allow me to elaborate. I don’t know if things were as bad when it was published as they are now. It appears bots and general cheating have taken over soundcloud. It’s January 2015 as I write these lines and most of the ‘trending’ categories on soundcloud feature songs that fit the description of ‘Louis’ song. You’ll see bad to mediocre songs with 100k + plays with less comments than in songs with 500 plays. Artists with 10 or more ‘succesful’ songs with millions of plays and only 50 followers. Songs with millions of plays on soundcloud and only hundreds of views on youtube.
    The bot thing is only the tip of the iceberg. There are various ways to cheat in soundcloud. Artists that ‘like’ and comment on thousands of songs to get back some likes and comments as a form of reciprocacy. Fake ‘fan’ accounts that like and comment on everything in drones and when you see their profile they only have one specific song reposted. Or tell you to check ‘their friend’s song’. And I’m sure there are many more ways.

    Why is that harmful? Because it defeats the whole purpose of soundcloud and it blocks talented artists to emerge. Unless you are a world known act, the only way for you to be heard is to be featured in the trending category of your genre. That’s the only way people will find you in there. When a new song is uploaded, if it gets enough views on its first days it will go in ‘trending’ and from there more people will discover it. Which is near impossible because of the cheaters and their thousands of fake views. Your song gets pushed down and down and it never gets featured.
    Soundcloud is simply broken by definition. It doesn’t have any mechanisms to promote artists. You can be the next Mozart and upload a masterpiece. If you leave it as it is, it will never be heard by anyone. Noone will ever know about it. All you can do about it is post and repost it on various so called ‘groups’ of soundcloud. That will net you tens of plays… a week. Another thing is to follow people, a lot of them, in the hopes that they’ll check you out and maybe listen to your songs. Neither of them is efficient and will not get you very far. Soundcloud advises you to listen to other people’s songs and engage with them so they’ll engage with you, but that is the least efficient way. Give and receive? A like for a like and a comment for a comment? Really? They won’t even listen to your songs. I was complimented yesterday about my vocals in an instrumental piece(no vocals). What you want is fans. Real people that will engage with you IF they like what they hear. Actual listeners of music. But soundcloud is not designed to get you in touch with them.
    It’s not designed for them really. It doesn’t give them incentives to be in it. If they make a comment, it can’t be liked. They can’t post statuses, their photos can’t be liked or commented on. There is no reward system for them to stay. They don’t even discover new music, which is the motto of soundcloud. 99% of what they see featured are songs of well known artists which they knew already, and the crappy songs of the cheaters which they don’t like. And when they do like something, soundcloud doesn’t suggest similar songs/artists. So why would they stay?
    Soundcloud is broken. And it’s a shame because it could really help struggling artists with talent. They need to find ways to bring real listeners to the page, severely limit cheating and find ways to help artists with talent to emerge

  9. So after this long ass article, what’s your plan? How do I get plays, comments, fans according to you? give me the alternative

  10. what really irks me is that industry types and most people buy into this.
    no fake followers = no fake/real plays = nobody is ever going to even try to take your art seriously no matter how good or substandard it might be = you start to believe the latter must be true then

  11. I’m not sure that the opprobrium heaped upon Louie is fair. Any assessment of any music, literature or “art” is subjective. The root of the word “art” is artifice. As well as artificial. Promotion of art is, in many ways, an art. This article strikes me as a little precious. Precious about taste. because he thinks the track is bad he lambasts its promotion as in some way reprehensible. U2 tricked people, some would say, into buying tickets for a concert because they thought they were still good (and not pumping out the same songs and same album for the fifteenth time) as they were getting loads of downloads from Itunes. They gave the album away free. This would have cost money. Music, literature (from pulp to literary genius (subjectively assessed)) and art (cartoons to fine) is about publicity and generating a mood. So is politics, so is publishing magazines. I think to get sniffy about poor Louie and make him change his soundcloud name is bad form. I haven’t listened to the track but so what if I did and liked it. Does that make me an idiot? Am I stupid for having liked it? No, of course not.

    But at least I know how to promote my own, brilliant, unique, and sooo underground, alternative trap acid hip glitch hop edm trance drum n bass hybrid derivative and not genre at all tracks, and get in the charts. What a nasty man I will be. No one will get jealous and write a nasty article about me and get my account closed for, wait for it, actually “marketing” my track, will they? Because marketing it is evil isn’t it? Not.

  12. funny thing, i created a soundcloud account a long time ago, but never used it, started using it some days ago and i realize that i am following random artists that i never remembered doing, fucking soundcloud bot system automatically takes control over any inactive user, at least so it seems

  13. I am a producer also i make Deep/Future House. I always know there is something wrong with these songs, with 50.000 plays and only 10 comments or something like that. After 2 years i have now 65 people who follow me, sometimes they become 70 when the fake accounts come across me and after 2-3 days they disappear. They contact me also manny times on twitter for take their offer to buy some “imagine” I my think also is bad that manny people choose to do this, but also is SoundCloud fault because unofficially they work together with the “hackers” for making money instead of supporting artist. Also they seems to treat people very different, for example you cannot have an a banner on your account or promote your tracks, only by invitation from them you can do that here is their answer:

    “Banners are currently only available with Premier profiles, which are part of our On SoundCloud program, which is not open to the public at this time”.

    And thats nothing, in the Premier account they can help you as they said “promoted your tracks and profilesand get payed” but when i ask about Premier account for me this was the answer:

    Q: How can I become an On SoundCloud Premier Partner?

    A: At this time, the Premier Partner level of On SoundCloud is invite-only. As we expand the program, we’ll publicly announce when it becomes open to more community members.

    Q: How were creators chosen to become Premier Partners?

    A: Our first wave of Premier Partners represent a broad range of creators on the platform: independent artists, major artists, comedians, podcasters. These partners were selected based on their good standing within the SoundCloud community, their proven ability to build an engaged audience, and their growth over time. (Really?! So if you are a normal person with no more than 1000 followers you will never get the shout! Is this beautiful or what?)

    Q. How can I monetize my tracks?

    A: Only artists and partners that are a part of the On SoundCloud Premier their can monetize their tracks.

    Who really thinks this people from SD they care fore music, is fooling himself! This people they are like Mafia, they decide when and if you gone “get up” even if your tracks they are good!

    And don’t make confusion between Premier account and Pro Unlimited account. They are not the same thing manny people they don’t even know the Premiere account even exists. Just check on google and you will find it.

    If you ask me they work together with the people with fake accounts, without no limits or care for music, only money are in their mind! Because this Premiere account it was first developed for NORMAL people, for sustain they work and help them grow, and if it was like that we are not having now trouble with millions of fake accounts. Instead of that what they did? They just keep it for artists, who already are big and have money, to help them to become even bigger and even more profitable! Unbelievable!

    P.S I really hope this big Mafia scam called SoundCloud it will end soon, even if i will not have place for my music, i prefer to see this people in the jail, because they are responsible also for distroing EDM with this criminal policy to keep it down the normal people with talent, and promoted only the same shit over and over again.

  14. Any online crowd voting suffers from the same fate. Quriky, Facebook fan pages, Amazon ratings, Youtube, the app store and even American Idle’s demise is from their voting going by way of the mysterious, anonymous, unverifiable online masses rather than phone. Yes, the phone voting was a pain but it keep it real because it was a pain. All online voting can be easily circumvented. Just look on Fiverr and for 5 bux you can find anyone to do this very cheaply also. SoundCloud is a great repository for audio just as YouTube is for videos but YouTube is much more at the same time. SoundCloud’s search and discovery is extremely inferior which why it is only good at being a repository. Working the industry, I can’t look at Amazon or any ratings and take them seriously because they are so easy to fake. And believe me, everyone is doing it. Like that quote from that credit card ad on TV, “Everywhere!”. Its “Everybody!”. Which, over time, just trains the public to not take any of it seriously and many now don’t trust ratings on anything. I mean on “AnyThing!”

  15. I’ve seen this over and over. I deleted a twat from my home city who uses payola and his music sucks so bad. Yet when you look at his soundcloud page you’d think he was a popular DJ / producer. His shit is on beatport too. I felt a sense of accomplishment when I got my first track on beatpot. Then this fucker put all his shitty garbage up on beatport and it ruined it for me. I actually feel like hard work and talent are laughed at now as if you are some kind of fool for trying hard, you know when you could just suck and put in minimal effort and get to the same place.

  16. Im just producing for fun. Couple days ago, I uploaded one of my best beats ever. Within 3 days I got like 17 likes, which to me as an amateur producer is quite a lot. Then I look at all the people who liked my shit, and to my surprise these totally hot chicks liked the track! But of course, they fake af! My question is, why would these bots randomly like and share shit. I mean, I never bought likes/plays. I don’t even have a “pro” account on soundcloud. Shit is fucked up for real, I feel fake for just receiving fake traffic.


  17. The author acts indignant about this but people have been buying popularity since the advent of pop music. As a matter of fact it’s pretty much how the entire mainstream music business is ran. Consumers like what is popular and what they perceive as popular generally guides their decisions. Palms are greased and music is promoted and popularized that is uninteresting fodder everyday. Why shouldn’t underground acts mimic this behavior?

  18. its easy to spot the fake music and bought fans: its always the worst types of music in the scene, the most popular shit (edm…brostep.. hiphop…commericial pap) – theres no answer to this situation really. it will end but bad music wont… im not sure what the fuck people get out of buying fans apart from some smug sense of commercial deviance – JUST AVOID CRAPPY AREAS OF COMMERCIAL MUSIC… its that simple

  19. I understand the beef with this practice, but come on, the industry that everyone is trying to make it in is the biggest culprits of these tactics. My view is if its not fake views or listeners its just force fed to the average listeners until they like it. We have all heard a song we’ve thought was garbage that turned out to have commercial success. This to me is what Promotional dollars is, throwing the rod out there until the fish bite. At the end of the day in order to win there has to be some sort of talent, if not as the article states its a lost on the artist trying to get over. I know many will disagree but half the artist out today are nothing but average artist.

  20. I put it like this , im a awsome dj and the only people i accept comments and any kind of repost or anything is from other djs producers that i actually know in real life, that way u know whats really going on and they help me out with my reposts for other listeners and etc…… best feeling is knowing real existing ppl like ur shit lol

  21. This sounds like prisoners dilemma. You cant join (it really doesnt work) them and you cant not-join them (you wont get anywhere real). Even the Beatles had to payola their first hit. You can grumble, but sometimes if that is the system, you need to play the system. Not advocating for the practice, just being pragmatic about it.
    Help me keep it real!

  22. My last track hit 4.6k plays, 250 likes, 60 reposts and 65 comments and I have less than 400 followers.
    Most of the comments are something like “cool”, “nice”, “!!!” (this is the worst one), “good job, Madd Rod!”, “i like it Madd Rod”, “good Madd Rod”, “gr8”, “this fux with my head” (best one ahahah).

    Believe me or not, these ain’t fake comments 😉 It’s fake feedback/too simple, but that happened for two reasons:
    1) I invested a bit (less than 10$) in real publicity from several EDM networks;
    2) It has a follow to download gate, so if people want to download it, they will need to post a comment, and besides that I get an automatic repost + like + follow from those guys.

    What’s your opinion about this guys?

  23. Meanwhile, SoundCloud itself is giving a false impression of play numbers/growth/popularity via their so-called feature called “continuous play” in order to impress financial partners, potential investors and others who can help grow the company and make it more valuable. This is at the expense of its listeners who have to hear what they do not want to hear (before they turn it off) after the song they play ends and another song (not of their own choosing) unexpectedly plays.

  24. I find to be successful on Soundcloud likes followers etc. is to listen to other music and like and comment on their material.So basically its not about how good a musician you are or a great song you put together,but moreover how you social network with others.As far as buying likes or followers its a double edged sword sure it might be cheating but if you got a great song and want to get heard peoples natural instinct is to click on the song with a 1000 plays than the one with ten plays.I doubt if Jimi Hendrix would have rated on soundcloud.reverbnation or bandcamp if he was a home recordist.You have to go out and do gigs ..or better still have a face like Justin Bieber so the young girlies go ape over.

  25. The internet is the bane of capitalism, which was a system designed to manage scarcity. There’s no such thing as scarcity on the internet. Supply is infinite, and so prices gravitate towards zero. The only way to create wealth is to artificially limit the “supply” of digital content through the threat of litigation. Otherwise, traditional business models completely break down, and you’re forced to make money strictly through advertising and/or selling user data.

    And in case you’re wondering where all this is heading: once 3D printing technology becomes economically feasible, this will be the way everything in the world works, not just the digital realm. Why buy a new phone, computer, or even car, when you can instead download the schematic, load it into your home’s handy dandy replicator, and then materialize it in your back yard? Think that sounds crazy? The US government is already scrambling to pass legislation regulating the 3D printing industry, to very little avail.

    I personally think it’s beyond ironic that the very technology the military invented to defend capitalism from the Soviets during the Cold War will end up essentially dismantling the free market within the next century (I’m of course referring to the internetz).

  26. I get so many BS likes and followers at times and I always try to block them as soon as they show up. My favorites are when someone with a name like “User648651468” likes a track I posted. One time, I had five profiles follow me at once, all of them had pictures of semi-nude girls in their early 20s and the same track on their profiles: “How to get More Likes and Followers!” The worst part about this is that honest users like myself and plenty more are getting buried underneath mediocre or outright terrible tracks just because they have more hits, all of them fake. Those of us who put time and effort into our work, whether it be jazz, classical, EDM, etc. and do everything we can to make the best possible pieces can barely get exposure because of this garbage.

    I studied composition and audio engineering at Berklee. I have played the piano and bass for over half my life. I take pride in what I post knowing I am putting every ounce of effort into it, and I promote and network like a normal, honest person does and should. Yet people who make a repetitive track 5 minutes long that’s just the notes D-C-Eb-C over and over again with over 40k likes and reposts is getting more attention because he decided to pay for hits instead of learning how to make actual music (this was a real user, we’ll call him “Jakob” to hide his real identity, all of his tracks have now been deleted).

    Rant over.

  27. It’s still happening in 2016. I just made a soundcloud last week, and instantly noticed all the people liking or following me were fake. The names all had the same flow, i.e. AshleyMadison836, TinaSmith948, etc. I also highly doubt that women that look like that are interested in Skinny Puppy-inspired industrial haha. I’m wasting too much time blocking people, and to be honest, the only actual industrial I can find on the site is well-established bands, all the amateur stuff labeled industrial isn’t industrial at all (one track even had sampled Lady Gaga vocals…) It seems like bland, mediocre electronic is the future, but electronic has always had the highest amount of posers because you don’t have to actually be a musician to do it.

  28. What do you call boring or mediocre music? It’s just your personal opinion. I call 70% of ALL music mediocre. The music you love, I call that boring. Lot of musician gain REAL fans only because they have money to promote, even though their music is fuckin mediocre or worse…. I think we all know that.

    Anyway I think this whole thing is not a big deal, MANY people use fake plays and fake followers.

    Another thing is: 37.000 plays is really not a big deal. Especially on Soundcloud… maybe people care about Facebook follower numbers or Youtube plays, but I don’t think that many people care about Soundcloud statistics.

    Also there are tracks with huge numbers of plays (REAL plays!) and they only have a few comments. I made a cover song, and have 54.000 REAL plays but only 13 comments! Because someone put the track on a playlist so now I get thousands of plays every month. I never even promoted that track because that’s and old DEMO recording of my band.

  29. Not only fake profile becomes out of hands, but to put a cherry on top of the cake, there’s also tons of accounts which sole purpose is to upload copyrighted song with small changes (trying to avoid the dynamic detection system). Those songs pollute the Tags search and, so, the Radio station system of SoundCloud.
    For example, take any really popular song use the “Radio based on” button that allow SoundCloud to generate a huge loop of songs that uses the same tags. Chances are relatively high that you’ll start hearing really similar (if not close-to-identical) musics to the original song. Then you might think “Well, it’s a radio based on that song…”, but the thing is that the button “Radio based on” show related music while supposedly excluding the song itself unless the list of musics found is fewer than 10 (if I remember correctly).
    When I start listening to music (as I work) and there’s one I know about, I tend to look at it out of curiosity. (Sometime, it’s a slight different than what I’m used to.) Then I notice this random account that uploaded the song (without any rights to do so) which raise in views because of tags search.
    When I looked up online, there seems to be some kind of DJ community that believe that uploading copyrighted sounds on SoundCloud for their “work” should be allowed… even when the said copyrighted sounds are ALREADY on SoundCloud under its real owner’s account’s list.

    For example, check this one out :
    The one on top (uploaded by C21FX) is the official label/release.
    There are at least 6 that are blatantly copies of the original for no good reasons.
    6 are remix/dub or whatever and out of the bunch ONLY 1 actually made its own “style” while the others only smashed something over the original work (which is purely abysmal).
    2 are unrelated to the original work.

    Out of those, I counted at least 50K of views that are onto blatant copies of the original song uploaded by the real owners.

  30. Looks to me like: Soundcloud is nothing but a big scam!! It’s nice that you can load free
    wave tracks, but every time I do, I’m bombarded by promo scammers wanting to sell me plays and comments…..I mean every time……when you look close….mostly bots……shame on you guys and your fake musicians!!!! Do me a favor…F@#$ OFF!!!

  31. I get some fake comments and likes from people trying to promote their service, but that is about it. Most of my views come from my podcast which is played from a variety of apps. These people cannot comment through soundcloud because it is my SoundCloud feed on a completely different platform. Are you sure these accounts are listening directly through SoundCloud or another source?

  32. I get the odd fake follower, usually pictures of semi clad women etc but my follower count is not even at 500 lol. It is sad that money will get you ‘Fake’ success these days and people actually buy into it , but from what i’ve seen and unfortunately heard anyone with enough money can ‘Make it’ these days.

Comments are closed.