A collection of global music industry organizations and businesses have banded together to curb stream manipulation. Their “code of best practice” includes 21 points directed toward stopping efforts to artificially inflate stream counts and influence copyright payouts on audio and audio/visual platforms. Manipulation might include the use of bots, other automated processes, false accounts, and “pay for play” approaches to skewing stream counts.
“Stream manipulation has the potential not only to cause economic harm to streaming service providers, rights holders, artists, and advertisers, but also to distort the media’s and fans’ impressions and understanding of the popularity of particular recordings… by influencing algorithmic playback results,” the code states. “In addition to economic damage, it also hurts artists by providing them with potentially misleading and artificial data and leaving them to either compete with artificially inflated stream counts or to consider engaging in these costly, unethical, and improper practices themselves.”
The rightsholders who sign are agreeing to launch “reasonable investigations” into possible streaming manipulation and to take proportionate action if the practice is discovered. Streaming services agree to put controls and protections in place to stop data manipulation.
Twenty-four parties have signed the code. Spotify, Deezer, and Amazon have joined on the streaming side. The three major labels signed, as well as the IFPI, RIAA, Merlin, and NPMA. Notable absences are Apple Music and Pandora.
The code appears to be a preliminary effort in combatting stream manipulation. It’s unclear what kind of protections the streaming services might add, or where the ultimate responsibility falls for catching and shutting down campaigns to influence metrics. However, it is rare for the different segments of the music business to reach any kind of consensus, so even a token gesture with a united front seems like a positive development.