Streaming fraud is a serious problem in the music industry. In a world that’s obsessed with stats, it’s understandable why. But the issue runs deeper than just buying streams. Even if you decide to work with a service that claims to be legitimate, they might be using the same illegal methods you’re trying to avoid. Faking success, whether intentional or accidental, is way more harmful to your career than helpful. It’s up to you to be conscious of scammers, bots, and misinformation, but we’re here to provide a helping hand.
Why Independent Artists Should Beware of Streaming Fraud
Here’s what you need to know…
Buying fake streams (along with many other illegal practices) on major streaming platforms like Spotify is nothing new. As easily as fraudulent users can steal an artist’s music to leech royalties, they can also buy streams from illegal third parties and fake them with illegal bots and click-farms. Of the most common, third parties who promise playlist placements or a specific number of streams in exchange for compensation are likely using illegitimate practices without your knowledge.
Although universal technology has advanced enough to make it easy for people to utilize black hat strategies like these, Spotify has been working tirelessly to implement their own best practices and systems to combat stream manipulation on their site.
For example, Spotify uses “a combination of algorithms and manual review by employees to detect fraudulent streams and aim to remove fake user accounts and filter them out from our metrics on an ongoing basis, as well as to require users to reset passwords that we suspect have been compromised…”
On that note, this post breaks down the biggest issues that streaming fraud causes in this industry and how, whether intentional or by accident, doing so can hurt your career for years to come.
1. It steals rightful revenue from other independent artists.
Streaming services operate with a system called a “shared pool” model, which splits all income according to the total number of streams accrued. So if the numbers are being sabotaged by fake streams, real musicians with honest streams don’t get the money they deserve.
According to Rolling Stone, “three to four percent of global streams are illegitimate streams…That’s around $300 million in potential lost revenue moved from legitimate streams to illegitimate, illegal streams.” //
2. It limits future opportunities.
Higher numbers don’t equal more talent, and everyone knows it. It’s not hard to tell if your streams are fake, and when they are, boy does it look bad. When labels see you’ve faked your thousands of “listeners”, they share that info with the industry. Then, you’ve lost your reliability and any opportunities that could have transpired had you just been honest and worked for real fans like everyone else.
3. Your account will be suspended and/or deactivated.
With today’s constantly evolving technology, streaming platforms have adapted to be able to automatically scope out fraudulent streams and artists. Once you’re caught, your account will be suspended or deactivated all together, forcing you to start from square one.
4. Lastly, you’re straight up wasting your time & money.
The fact of the matter is, all the time and money you spend falsifying streams and using black hat tactics to cheat your way to the top could’ve been spent on some legitimate marketing, proper ads and other perfectly good tactics to organically improve your stats online.
The key is to do your research and find reputable services that you can be sure are doing the right thing. Some services will claim to get you thousands of streams or followers overnight, and what they’re really doing is using bots of their own to cheat the system.
Our advice: Be very careful with how and where you use your hard earned money. Always do your research on every company you plan to go into business with. Talk to prior clients, review testimonials, and make sure you’re spending your dollars wisely.
Let’s face it. There’s no way to suddenly gain thousands of dedicated monthly listeners overnight. There are, however, tons of legitimate ways to make it happen over time. The trick is to strategize wisely, always do your research, and work on growing an exceptional team to help you along the way.
The best way to ensure your release’s success is to plan for everything and do it way in advance. Sometimes unexpected things come up in the production process, so you’ll want to give yourself ample time to set everything up properly and adjust as/if needed. So, how early do you need to start planning?
How Far Out Should You Plan Your Release?
Ideally, you should really start planning 3 months in advance. To make sure you’re ready, we’ve compiled a checklist of tasks you need to complete before the big release day finally comes around.
3 Months Before Release Day
Make sure you’re registered.
First and foremost, you need to make sure you’re registered with a Performing Rights Organization like ASCAP, BMI, or SESAC. This is crucial. These are the people who are going to make sure you’re getting paid every time your song is played.
Figure out your PR plan.
To make sure your release does well when it finally drops, you’re going to need some great PR leading up to the day. It’s easy to invest in the things you can see the results of right away like high-quality recording or a new amp. However, something like PR is just as important.
The music can be the most incredible, high-quality audio that anyone has ever heard, but if you don’t have a strategy or the contacts to actually get the word out, how will anyone know? You can either do all the promo and networking yourself or you can hire a PR firm. Depending on what your budget is and how big the release has the potential to be, hiring a PR firm to help you out could be monumental in your success.
2 Months Before the Release
Make sure you’ve got some great press photos.
Once it’s time to start getting press and featured on blogs, make sure you have some great photos to offer. You want your photos to be on brand and exemplify who you are. Make sure the photos are professional quality! It never looks good to have an out of focus or terrible quality photo. Remember, whatever press you get ends up being an extension of who you are. If you can help it, make sure it’s all as professional as possible.
Focus on growing your audience.
Make sure you remain active on all your social media platforms. Retweet and share your process, do an Instagram Live to show everyone what you’ve been up to, do anything that will keep your audience engaged up until the release day when you’ll need their support the most.
4-6 Weeks Before The Release
Finally, submit your release to your distributor.
The required lead time is no less than 4 weeks, 6 weeks is ideal for delivery of release AND marketing drivers. This gives your distributor time to ingest and approve releases, DSPs time to receive them, and playlist editors time to receive pitches and marinate with a release before deciding whether or not to feature or place it on playlists.
Now, It’s All About Marketing.
Hype it up 🔥
Up until the release, make sure you’re blasting your release on all socials and hyping it up to your audience. Post teaser videos on Instagram, behind the scenes pics, and whatever else you can think of to tease a bit of the action. Get creative!
If you plan everything properly and put the work in, you and your distributor will be ready to go when release day finally comes. But for any of this to work, make sure to communicate with everyone on your team and remain consistent with your efforts.
Work smarter, not harder.
No matter what time of the year it is, getting major traction on your new releases can be difficult. However, certain months will give you a better shot than others. To make the most of your release, choosing when to do it is half the battle. These are the best and worst months to release your music this year…
The Best and Worst Months to Release Music
*Disclaimer: Make sure you start your promotional efforts AT LEAST 4-6 weeks before your release or your distributor WILL hate you. ( If not hate, then any other negative emotion may apply.)
After the holiday season, everyone is recovering from the immense amount of food they ate and a slightly more immense holiday hangover. However, everyone is also getting back into the swing of things and eager to find the next big thing.
Generally, the first two months of the year are a great time to release new music. Why? The market isn’t as saturated as later on in the year, and the minds of your listeners are open to new things.
These themes do particularly well:
- workout songs
- positive messages
- upbeat / let’s get moving types of music.
Specifically in February:
- Love or anti-valentines day songs
- Songs about relationships (good or bad, either work)
Whatever you do, don’t release music in March if you’re a relatively unknown artist. SXSW is in full swing and all the media outlets are spending their time covering the action.
However, if you’re planning on performing at SXSW, that’s a different story. In this case, releasing your track(s) this month is something you definitely SHOULD do, as it can help get your work out there for publications to utilize in write-ups about the event / additional promo. If you’re not performing at SX, it’s a better idea to attend the event and do some networking to gain more exposure before your next release.
If you do decide to release this month, these themes tend to do well:
- Feel good, light, positive messages
- Upbeat/happy party tunes
What To Do After Being Added To A Spotify Playlist
How Releasing Music Consistently Can Improve Your Career
What To Do After Making Your Music Available Online
At this point, SXSW is over and touring season begins. Additionally, this month harbors Record Store Day. Think about partnering up with your local record store and doing some related promo. (Keep in mind, April 15th is the dreaded tax day in the US.)
Think about sticking to these themes:
- Songs about money (making it or losing it)
- Hopeful, positive messages
These themes always thrive during this month:
Now that summer is here, it’s good vibes and summer bangers galore. School is out and festival season is in full swing, qualifying these months as the perfect time to release music. If you can, get yourself some festival gigs. Festivals are a great place to perform your new release and rack up a ton of exposure.
Similar to May, these themes do exceedingly well:
- Summer fun, beach day anthems
By the end of August, the festival season starts to wind down and the school season makes its debut, but the summer vibes aren’t quite over yet.
The same themes from June/July also apply to August, making this a good month for new releases as well.
Now’s the time for emerging artists to really shine. Everyone in the industry is in the office more consistently, students are back in school, and everyone has their ears wide open to new music hitting the scene.
To optimize on the season, these fall themes do well:
- Sad / Moody / Angsty
- Cozy / Ambient
- Folk / Alternative
- (In October) spooky, badass Halloween bangers
Around this time of the year, industry folks tend to travel and be out of the office more frequently, the major labels’ biggest artists tend to release in the 4th quarter to take advantage of the holiday retail spike, and artists of all kinds are releasing holiday music.
If you have a New Year / Christmas / Holiday song, of course now is a great time to release it. However, the market is heavily saturated and anything other than holiday or end of the year vibes don’t tend to do well. Additionally, remember that once it gets closer to Christmas and the New Year, response time from industry gatekeepers will become more and more limited.
Having a great release strategy is the key to optimizing the success of your upcoming releases. An amazing song can end up not doing so well simply because of when it was released. Additionally, have a clear idea of when you will have your mastered audio and track or album art in hand before selecting a release date.
Sometimes unexpected things come up in the production process, so you’ll want to give yourself ample time to set everything up properly. The more prepared you are, the higher your chance of success.
So you’ve been added to a popular playlist on Spotify… Hell yeah! Getting your music placed on a great Spotify playlist means more exposure, a further reach and a major platform to back you up. Once you’ve been added, the work doesn’t end there. Here’s how to ride that wave and make the most of it…
What To Do After Being Added To A Spotify Playlist
Share it like CRAZY
First things first, FOLLOW the playlist! Then, treat getting on a major Spotify playlist just like a good press feature. The goal here is to pump up the exposure on your feature as much as you can. You want as many people to know about and stream it as humanly possible.
- Pin the playlist to the top of your Spotify profile, and include a good looking image alongside the pin.
- Share the playlist on all socials, not just the track, and tag accordingly. (That means tagging playlist supporters as well, i.e. Spotify, Deezer, etc.)
- Replace the playlist link in your bio for the next couple of days you are giving love to the playlist. (Playlisters love it when artists return the favor!)
- Ask your fans to share (and listen to) your track in the playlist.
- Try a sponsored post on Instagram with a link to the track on Spotify.
- Share to your IG Stories using the share feature on Spotify.
- Include it in your newsletter and/or website.
🧠 NOTE: Keep in mind, it’s very important you share the actual playlist rather than the song itself. When people like or save your song within that playlist, it improves the performance of your song within the playlist.
Don’t forget to reach out and thank the amazing playlist curator who gave you a shot and put you on the playlist! If they liked you enough to put you on the playlist, odds are they’ll be happy to hear from you.
Not sure how to find them? It’ll take a little bit of research, but Google is your best friend here. You should be able to find their email and send them a genuine thank you message or find their Instagram/Twitter handle and tag them when you share the news.
You never know, maybe this connection will lead to other playlist placements (and more) in the future.
Monitor Your Stats
Once you get featured on a Spotify playlist, be sure to keep an eye on your Spotify for Artists dashboard to track your streaming numbers and see how the playlist is impacting your stats. You should be checking this anyway, but seeing the proof in the pudding is a great way to see where else you could improve moving forward. For example, when choosing other tracks to pitch to other playlists.
Hit Up Other Playlist Curators
Use your success on this playlist to pitch your music to other playlist curators. If you’ve found another playlist that fits the vibe of your track, you can share it with the curator and explain how well it performed on the other playlist and why you think it would be a good fit for theirs as well.
Reinvest Your Earnings
Instead of blowing your success, do the future you a favor and put it towards marketing. Reinvesting your earnings from this placement into promoting future releases to keep the momentum going.
With Spotify Ad Studio, you can build an audio ad campaign in less than 10 minutes, create a new audio ad from scratch, forecast impression estimates based on your target audience, and track and manage all your campaign reporting, all in one place.
Once you’ve been featured on one playlist, there’s no reason to stop there! Use this momentum as leverage to get placed on even more playlists. Getting featured on a major Spotify Playlist feels like the equivalent to Willy Wonka’s golden ticket for musicians. Why settle for just one when you can go for the gold?
Keep in mind, you cannot pay to get on an official Spotify playlist. If someone or a third party company is offering placement on a playlist in exchange for money, what they’re really doing is illegal streaming manipulation.
Now that you’ve got this under your belt, don’t stop there. Keep the grind moving and let this momentum push you forward to bigger and better successes. If you’ve gotten featured once, there’s no reason you won’t continue to get featured as you progress throughout your career.
You got this!
As intimidating as it seems, consistently releasing new music (every month or even every week, if you believe that works for you) has many undeniable benefits. Aside from making your fans happy to hear more from you, this practice does a lot of good for artists at any level. In this post, we’ll give you 6 reasons to release new music consistently. Here’s the rundown…
How Releasing Music Consistently Can Improve Your Career
Consistency is good for engagement on any platform, no matter what you’re into. Want to get better at production? Practice every day. Want to improve your vocals? Sing every day. The same theory applies to putting out music. The more you do it, the most traction it’s going to get. And let’s face it… your fans want as much from you as they can get. When you release new music, on any platform, the amount of people who will interact with it will grow right along with you. Not to mention, from the fan point of view, there’s something exciting about being able to expect something new from your favorite artist every week.
Go Viral on TikTok
TikTok also thrives on consistency. The more you post, the better your chances of it being caught up in the wave of a random trend. Every time you release music, use it to make little TikTok babies. Whether you use it to follow existing trends or to try and create new ones, the more you post the better.
Not sure how to figure out what’s trending right now? No problem. We did a whole post right here that gives you 6 of the best ways to find the hottest trends right now. And if you’re new to TikTok, here are some helpful resources to help you thrive…
Grow Your Catalog
Releasing music more frequently helps you grow your catalog significantly faster than if you waited every 6 months. This can be advantageous for streaming platforms, as the more songs you have increases your chances of being discovered through playlists and algorithms.
If you already have an extensive back catalog, did you know there are things you can do with it to keep the momentum going behind the scenes while you work on new things? Check out, “How To Maximize your Back Catalog While Working on New Releases” to learn how.
Releasing songs consistently is a great way to build momentum for something bigger down the line. If you plan on going on tour or releasing a full album later in the year, you can hype up the day to come on socials with every release more often. Get everyone on board and offer incentives for streaming your tracks. If they like what they hear, they’ll share your work with their friends and grow your audience one release at a time. When whatever big day finally arrives, you’ll have a whole team of people ready to experience the fun and share it on socials.
Better Chances for Sync
If you want to get featured in movies, TV, commercials and more, it doesn’t hurt to give sync reps a lot to choose from. Although having a lot to choose from does technically help your chances, what kind of music you have out also plays a part.
Jon Mizrachi, the Senior Director of Sync Licensing for our in-house sync licensing division, Bodega Sync, explains:
“If you really want your music to stand out, it’s important to understand that songs are used in sync to support a narrative, not to tell one. If there’s a sad montage where someone dies, you’re not going to hear a song with lyrics about someone literally dying… Even in advertising, which is typically far more literal, music will be used to add depth to whatever you see in the footage or hear in the voiceover. You know what’s not a great song for Toyota? A song about Toyotas.”
So, if you really want to focus on optimizing your music for sync, try to create universal songs that aren’t too specific. If the goal is to connect with the listener, you have to craft your songs to be as relatable as possible. In addition, once one of your songs gets featured, the chances of your other songs getting chosen for other sync opportunities goes up, too. The more music you have, the higher chance of something being perfect for that new TV show hitting the market.
Practice Makes Perfect
Putting out music more often gives you the chance to really experiment with your personal sound. You can try new things and see how your audience reacts and if it doesn’t quite hit, no big deal! Try something new the next time, and keep it moving.
At the end of the day, I realize putting out music consistently is no easy task. Depending on your music, it may even be impossible. If you specialize in full blown musical arrangements for every track or don’t have frequent access to a studio, finishing a full song on a monthly or even weekly schedule is insane to even fathom. At the end of the day, it is up to you and this is an idea to try out where it makes sense. Challenge yourself to at least try, and see how it works for you.
After all the blood, sweat and tears it took to finally get your new music out into the world, it’s finally time to get as many people to listen to it as possible! From the technical stuff like registering with PROs to the fun stuff like social media promo, here are some of the most important things every musician should be doing after their release goes live. Let’s dive in…
What To Do After Making Your Music Available Online
Register with a PRO
To make sure you receive the royalties you’re rightfully owed, your songs need to be properly registered with either ASCAP, SESAC or BMI. Sadly, we can’t do this for you. Only you as the writer can affiliate with a PRO.
If your music is being distributed, performed worldwide, and you don’t have a publishing deal, your royalties are sitting in collection societies around the world waiting to be claimed by you. If you don’t register in time to collect your royalties, the collection societies will retain the royalties and you will miss out on that additional revenue. That’s why we created our publishing administration service to help you get through this process as easily as possible.
Register with SoundExchange
SoundExchange has paid out more than $7 BILLION in royalties to date. They are the sole organization designated by the U.S. Congress to collect and distribute digital performance royalties for sound recordings. They’re the ones who collect these digital performance rights from non-interactive music streaming on internet sources like SiriusXM and Pandora.
Sign Up for Lyric Distribution
Some distributors have partnerships for lyrics distribution and submission for example: Apple Music, Musixmatch, and LyricFind. With these partnerships, you’re able to streamline and expedite the submission process for faster turnarounds and less hassle.
Update your ‘Artist Pick’ on Spotify
Artist Pick is a great way to highlight what’s important to you right now, whether it be your latest release, playlist, show announcement, or even a Fan Support link. Check out the video below to learn how to do it…
Promote It On Socials
Social media offers an easy and effective method for promoting your latest track. To do so, start by creating a strategy tailored to your goals and target audience. Next, you can engage with your followers by posting your song in Reels, Stories, TikTok’s, and wherever else your fans frequent. You can also collaborate with fellow artists to expand your reach even further. Remember to utilize relevant hashtags, create visually appealing content, and consider running targeted ads for wider exposure. Lastly, always encourage user-generated content from your fans! Ask them to tag you in their own posts featuring your song, and get permission to re-post it on your own profile.
Pitch for Sync
When we talk about sync licensing in the music business, we’re referring to the act of synchronizing a piece of music with any form of visual media. That means getting your music featured in movies, TV episodes, commercials, video games, etc.
Get Some Press
After releasing new music, it’s always a good idea to send your music to music journalists, bloggers, and magazines for potential reviews and features. You can even share it in Facebook Groups, Reddit threads, or anywhere else where people can see your new song and share it with their communities.
You worked hard on your new track. Don’t let it get lost in the shuffle of thousands of songs trying to break through this crazy industry. Practicing things like consistently hyping yourself up on socials, optimizing your Spotify, SoundCloud, Apple Music, etc. profiles, and everything else we covered above, can make or break the performance of your work.
In the meantime, be proud of all your hard work! Keep going, be consistent, and believe in your talents as an artist.