If a song streams in a forest…

Picture of a forest
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Today’s blog was inspired by this interesting article I read about ‘fake’ song streams, and how the big distributors like YouTube or Spotify might adjust their stream counting systems in the future. So for the purposes of the title, the ‘forest’ is your phone. Welcome to the jungle?


…and no one is around to hear it…

Here’s a strange bit of news which seems pretty innocent, but might actually have a huge impact on the future of streaming for musicians.

It seems that fans of K-pop group “BTS” made a huge team effort to push the group’s latest music video “Dynamite” to 100 million views in its first 24 hours online. Now, I’m not exactly up on my K-pop fandom drama, but it seems that there has been a bit of a competition between “BTS” and the group “Blackpink” for bragging rights surrounding these kinds of titles; “most concurrent premier viewers” “most views in the first 24 hours” and so on. So naturally, super-fans set up the video to play on repeat on YouTube and created playlists to repeat the track on Spotify in order to push the numbers up. And they did it! Yay!

Fun story. But the point is that all these fans were basically gaming the system. Not actually listening to the song/watching the video, just playing a numbers game.

Now let’s take a trip back to 2014, when the band Vulfpeck created “Sleepify,” an entire album of silent tracks and encouraged their fans to play it on in repeat while they slept to fund a free tour. And boy did it work. The album received over 4 million streams, which comes to about $20,000 dollars, before Spotify eventually asked the band to remove the album. (Which they did via album.)

So again we have the idea of streams with no audience. Sure, the songs were literally empty 30 second tracks, that’s a different discussion, but the idea is the same. It’s another numbers game.

…does it count?

Which leads me to the big question: At what point does fan listening behavior become an abuse of the system?

These big companies have rules in place for bots already. You can’t create a program that just endlessly streams a song to pump the numbers up for view count and money. That’s definitely an abuse of the system where ‘fake’ streams are generated by a bot. But what happens when fans start to act the same way?

Whether the fans are trying to pump up the view count, like with the BTS video, or trying to help the band make money, like Vulfpeck, the goal is outside the scope of the systems intent. Not the enjoyment of a song, but something beyond that. So maybe that’s where the system breaks…the problem is where it may lead the companies that provide the content. How should they answer the question?

If a song streams in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it count?


I’m interested to hear your thoughts on this topic. I just started mulling it over today and I’m not sure where I stand yet. So, leave a comment below or take the discussion to social media!

If you want to test out the idea, please consider playing my album NEON on repeat while you sleep! Be sure to

Stay creative,

-E

Photo by: Imat Bagja Gumilar on Unsplash

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