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Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Gaming The Streaming Networks With Fake Listeners
Security consultant Peter Fillmore showed how an automated program called a bot (a software based robot) could generate royalties a few years ago. Fillmore made about $1,000 in royalties and even topped the Australian streaming charts of Rdio by having the bot listen to his own music nonstop. In Fillmore's case, it wasn't about making money as much as it was about showing the various streaming services the potential vulnerability.
Fillmore's music was sampled every 30 seconds for about 6 months, when Spotify finally caught on and took down his album.
In a great article on Motherboard, William Bedell attempted to duplicate Fillmore's method and wound up making approximately $32 a day from Spotify, at about $0.08 per stream, which is at the high end of the Spotify payout.
That being said, while this might be child's play for an experienced hacker, it's beyond the abilities of most musicians who aren't programmers. It involves disguised user bots using virtual private networks and dozens of paid Spotify accounts (see the graphic above). Still, Bedell estimates about a 600% rate of return on the venture.
You can be sure that Spotify and all the other streaming services are taking these approaches very seriously, so by the time you try something like this, it's possible that this hole in their services will be patched.
It does go to show that people will always try to game the system if they can.