A Marketing Company Reportedly Claimed It Could Manipulate One Million YouTube Streams For $12,000
“We basically cracked the code and understand how to manipulate the system and hit astronomical numbers.”
“How many faking they streams? Getting they plays from machines?” J. Cole famously asked on 2018’s “a lot,” alluding to a shadowy music industry issue of gaming streaming services to juice up play counts. A new Rolling Stone investigative story sheds some more light on the practice, focusing on a recorded phone call between a management company, Blueprint Group, and a digital marketer named Joshua Mack, from 3BMD.
In the taped phone call obtained by Rolling Stone, executives at 3BMD claimed they had a “network” that could generate “200 million streams a month.” A marketing deck reportedly offered one million YouTube streams for $12,000, plus similar rates for Spotify and Apple Music. They also claimed they can deliver 50 percent more equivalent album units for an artist’s first week sales and say they’ve played a role in over 100 hit songs.
At one point during the recording, Joshua Mack is heard saying, “We basically cracked the code and understand how to manipulate the system and hit astronomical numbers.”
3MDB’s exact methods are not disclosed, but in other cases it can involve everything from paying to appear on certain playlists to using bot-like accounts to repeatedly stream songs and playlists. Because streaming services pay artists out of a total pot of revenue rather than per stream, artificially boosting streams not only provides outsized payouts for the artists involved but takes money away from those who aren’t.
“There are a few third-party companies out there running this for a lot of the major companies,” an anonymous A&R at a major label told Rolling Stone. “We use them too for some of our artists. We agree to a certain amount of money for a certain amount of streams, and we can spread that out among [our] artists. It’s like, we’re good; we just need performance-enhancing steroids to be a little bit better.”
These actions go against the terms of service of streaming services like Apple Music and Spotify, who monitor for bot activity and attempt to stop streaming manipulation. But Rolling Stone notes that it can be a “whack-a-mole” situation. They also explain that artists and their teams can take part in these schemes without realizing it. Ultimately, streaming manipulation remains a problem that isn’t going away any time soon.