According to Spotify founder Daniel Ek, the value of a company is “the sum of the problems you solve”.
The problem of bot farms playing the same tracks over and over to manipulate streaming data may not be entirely new. However, as generative AI tools become more mainstream, it takes on a new dimension for the music industry.
This requires streaming service providers to be vigilant in forecasting and planning ahead so as not to be left behind playing a game of reactive whac-a-mole, desperately fixing problems as they arise. Otherwise, aside from dealing with obvious copyright controversies, they could end up paying large sums of money for millions of bot-boosted “fake streams.”
According to an article in the Financieele Dagblad, Universal Music Group (UMG), which controls about a third of the global music market, is sending takedown requests “left and right”. Stockholm-based Spotify obliges — at least to an extent.
Less than 5 weeks until TNW Conference
Don’t miss your chance to be part of Europe’s leading technical event
Last week, the music streaming giant temporarily expelled hundreds of thousands of songs generated on the AI platform Boomy. The tool from the California-based startup allows users to create tracks by choosing from a selection of styles, such as Lo-Fi or EDM, then customize them and include or add vocals before uploading them to streaming services.
However, this is not the case for Drake to rap on your track – the vocals must belong to the user. As such, the songs were grayed out not because of copyright infringement concerns, but because of the discovery of widespread “suspicious listening activity”.
Meanwhile, it doesn’t mean that Spotify has completely blocked Boomy users and banned them from uploading new tracks. Indeed, the AI platform announced this weekend that “Boomy Artists” have re-enabled their curated delivery to the streaming giant.
We are pleased to announce that curated delivery to Spotify of new releases from Boomy artists has been re-enabled.
Supporting our artists and creators using the Boomy platform is our top priority and we really appreciate your patience over the past few days.
— Boomy – Create AI Music (@boomy) May 6, 2023
The two parties are reportedly still negotiating to restore the rest of Boomy’s back catalog.
Fake stream farms an industry wide problem
Spotify’s crackdown is part of an ongoing battle against bot streaming farms. Essentially, this is when a bunch of digital devices are logged into different platforms and just playing music 24 hours a day, often playing the same song over and over.
This obviously affects the number of listens and generates direct income for the owner of the track. Meanwhile, it also affects data-driven functions such as charts and playlists.
That reports the streaming giant“Artificial streaming is a long-standing, industry-wide problem that Spotify is trying to eradicate from our service.”
Earlier this year, the French Center National de la Musique (CNM) published a study about music streaming fraud, in which Spotify participated. However, CNM called out other major streaming platforms Apple, Amazon and YouTube as “unable or unwilling” to participate in the investigation.
The first study of its kind found that in France in 2021 at least one to three billion streams were fake, i.e. between 1% and 3% of the total number of listeners. Of course a lot has happened since then.
The CNM says it will launch a new investigation into the matter in 2024, which may better reveal the implications of the recent revolution in access to generative AI – and Spotify’s ability to mitigate it.
Grimes is alone in the pro-AI camp
In recent months, the music streaming market has seen a significant surge in AI-generated songs. According to Boomy, users have already “created” more than 14 million songs.
Services like those from Boomy, Aiva, and Soundful use machine learning to allow users to generate unlimited tracks and even monetize their creations on streaming platforms, much to the chagrin of artists, producers, distributors, and other industry stakeholders.
Grimes has launched an AI platform especially for humans to use her voice to create new music. to report that “Copyright is worthless. Art is a conversation with everyone who has come before us. The intertwining with the ego is a modern concept. The music industry is dictated by lawyers and that stifles creativity.”
Needless to say, she is an exception in her pro-generative AI stance in the global artist community.