In 2015, Vice published a comment piece titled ‘I Built a Botnet that Could Destroy Spotify with Fake Listens’.
Essentially, its author William Bedell offered an early account of the click fraud that’s now fraught within our industry, where ‘farms’ featuring thousands smartphones and computers are streaming the same track or album at once; over and over again.
In the Vice article, writer William Bedell said:
“This kind of malware-driven botnet is a cheap way to mimic a lot of listener activity, and could end up forcing the value of a Spotify listen down even further if deployed on a large scale. Real hackers might switch to using stolen premium accounts for even juicier payouts, and the same race to the bottom would occur at the premium tier.”
Now, phones are still being purchased for a low cost and used to harvest streams. Scammers are setting up thousands of accounts to continuously play songs by using software bots to automate the process.
One scammer based in Bulgaria caught the attention of Spotify when two of their playlists’ streams had spiked higher than any other playlist created by a major label.
Journalist Tim Ingham uncovered the activity in an exposé for his publication Music Business Worldwide (MBW). He found that just one of the playlists (‘Soulful Music’) was making US$288,000 a month.