According to an email sent to its streaming partners, Apple Music has been quietly cracking down on streaming fraud since October of last year.
The email was sent in March but only reported by Billboard last Friday.
The unknown email author says that Apple Music has been policing its platform against “the deliberate, artificial creation of plays for royalty, chart, and popularity purposes” and “the delivery of deceptive or manipulative content.” An example of the latter: “an album of 31-second songs.”
The author claims broad success in the campaign, at least as of March. Since Apple Music introduced new tools and policies last October, “manipulated streams have accounted for only 0.3 percent of all streams.”
Spotify has declared that cracking down on streaming fraud is one of its top priorities for 2024, introducing new policies against streams of white noise and intentional streaming fraud. The crack down will also introduce thresholds for payments, meaning smaller or artists that don’t meet the threshold of popularity will not be paid for their streams.
In addition, it’s become a well-known scam for black hat hackers to generate nonsense music using AI tools like Boomy and then inflate their playcount via botnets under their control. If the costs of deploying the botnet are cheaper than the royalty rate, the hacker can generate money from nothing (other than the legitimate artists screwed by Spotify’s pro-rata royalty system). You can read more about the scam in 5 Mag’s story on Boomy.
The email further provides an illustration of how big streaming has become: the 0.3% of all manipulated streams still equated to 85,000 albums puffed up by fraudulent streams.
As a result of Apple Music’s crackdown, fraud and manipulation has fallen by 30% according to Apple Music’s internal metrics, the email claims.