Fake Fans On Soundcloud

How to Become a SoundCloud Superstar, One Fake Fan at a Time

Terry Matthew from Chicago House Music blog 5 Magazine takes the lid off the underhand business – and yes, it turns out, it really is a business – of buying bogus plays, comments and follows on Soundcloud.

“Fake views, fake plays, fake fans, fake followers and fake friends – the mainstream music industry has long been about ‘buzz’ over achievement, fame over success, the mere appearance of being everyone’s favorite artist over being the favorite artist of anyone.

Social media has taken the chase for the fumes of fame to a whole new level of bullshit. After washing through the commercial EDM scene (artists buying Facebook fans was exposed by several outfits last summer), faking your popularity for (presumed) profit is now firmly ensconsced in the underground House Music scene.

This is the story of what one of dance music’s fake hit tracks looks like, how much it costs, and why an artist in the tiny community of underground House Music would be willing to juice their numbers in the first place (spoiler: it’s money).”

Read Terry’s article

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Tom Robinson

London-based broadcaster & songwriter, born 1950. His best known songs are 2-4-6-8 Motorway, Glad To Be Gay and War Baby; he has also co-written songs with Peter Gabriel, Elton John, Dan Hartman and Manu Katché. Read More…

14 Comments

  1. Pretty eye-opening. Mind…I think we’ve got a couple of fakes and we haven’t paid anyone (it’s very obvious most aren’t)…that’s something we find baffling…

  2. Really interesting article – thanks! Just offering a different angle though, there may be some artists who find this a bit worrying as there could be other reasons for such alarming stats. For example, us:

    We have over 40,000 plays on each of our songs (from around 4 months online) but less than 200 followers and comparatively few comments and likes. All of our plays are legitimate and we haven’t paid any bots to listen to us!

    We’ve racked up such a high play count because our songs are popular on a site called Stereomood which plays SC tracks but in its own player (we know this from our analytics). At first we thought it was great but recently we’ve been worrying that it does make our SC stats look a bit odd. The problem is that Stereomood is not set up to drive traffic from itself to artists’ SC or other social media – in fact it’s very difficult for listeners to find any info on the artists they are listening to. It’s not really designed as a site where people go to discover and engage with new music, it’s just a facility for people to play music on a rolling playlist.

    It’s all a bit worrying, we don’t want to look like a couple of fraudsters!

  3. There are a number of sites which pick up Soundcloud songs and embed them into their platform and in turn this up’s the play counts on Soundcloud-Stereomood being one-where no money changes hands.

    Some majors & larger independents try to share/embed their artists songs via Soundcloud in as many places as possible and you will see that it can often equal large amounts of plays vs few comments.
    Like many music blogs Fresh On The Net feature a lot of ‘soundcloud’ music which nearly always means more plays for the artists but less people making a comment on their song as this means a few extra clicks for the user(and a log in if they are not already).
    And I have to be clear on this-none of this is about money here-its 100% about sharing new interesting vibrant music.

    But if you look deeper on the internet on the whole subject of bought plays,likes & followers you will find all sorts of dodgy things going on if you dig deep enough – I know its is not for me or my colleagues & I dislike the whole ethos behind it as its is ultimately fake.

    Taking up Gymnast’s point-there is nothing wrong with sites like Stereomood picking your song to play on their site-you are doing nothing wrong,are not buying plays but an external site is picking up on your music because it is good & right for the enjoyment of their own listeners on their platform(in their case based in Italy).
    That is- imo -completely different from some good awful music muscling their play count by ‘buying’ plays.

    Bottom line to me is artists like Gymnast are just having their music played in various parts of the world because people like it,there is no team of ‘likers’ or ‘players'(excuse the pun) hitting buttons in a room of your behalf.How do I know? because thats whats been happening with some of my songs,external sites have picked them up & featured them on their blog/site/platform and it means plays have gone up & people have continued enjoyed my music-did I pay for this privilege? did I eckers like-it may be a fake world but the day i pay for someone to skew my play count/likes/followers is the day i call an end to making music.

  4. Hi All,

    I made a comment on Facebook about this yesterday and quite timely it was too, I’ve seen someone (Not naming names!) on SoundCloud this morning who had over 200,000 plays on a track. This track has 26 likes and 4 comments, the artist has 274 followers…I’m not brilliant at maths, however these statistics look a little odd to me. The track was also bobbins, no real surprise there!

    I guess the argument of ‘if everyone else does it, then why shouldn’t I’ holds something with some people, however if you’re going to buy followers, likes, views, listens then you’ll probably justify it to yourself somehow.

    For me the main thing to question is why you’re doing this in the first place? We would all love to make a career in music, the romantic notion of never worrying about alarm clocks and a commute in the morning to work for David Brent at the office. Surely the real joy of making music is when someone genuinely likes what you do. A comment on SoundCloud from someone who likes the sound of your guitar or the sweeping strings behind your kazoo solo…this is worth more than a million fake listens. This isn’t even taking into account the sheer pleasure of being able to play an instrument, be in a band, write a song, produce a track etc.

    Music is a wonderful thing, either creating or consuming, in whichever way you want to. There have always been folk who see music as a way to fame and fortune, there will always be underground musicians who will swim against the tide and do their own thing. That’s why we all feel such passion for what we do and what we love to listen to. I’ve seen more heated debates about the greatest bass riff or the best scream in a rock song than I have on football, politics or religion over a pint or three in the local pub.

    The desire and sometimes desperation to get your song heard over all the other tracks in the pile of CD’s, the playlist queue or in the frenzy of social media is something that gets to us all. How you deal with that is very much down to you. Integrity, talent and hard work will hopefully win the day, if not I’ll be happy with a few followers who like what I do and I’ll carry on making music with the same enthusiasm and passion I have done for the last 20 years.

    Keep on Keepin on Folks :)

    Mark

  5. Fascianting. I know someone who has just done a similar thing on his facebook increasing his interaction and likes.The trouble is that his new likers are people who have south american names and he hasn’t ever been anywhere near south america so it then looks like a very desperate attempt at popularity.
    We all want to be heard, the music business is a cruel beast but fresh on the net and bbc introducing etc are the doors to the music world as I see it and whilst being played on radio may not overnight increase your stats your reputation grows.
    We now have followers and fans who I know have come through radio exposure and fresh on the net etc who love our music and share online and help promote us as they love the songs. We love that they help us and there is a relationship between ourselves and our fans which may not be 2000,0000000,99999,00 people yet but it is a very very satisfying and relationship built on taste and honesty and one that I hope will continue for years to come. Surely one has to care about one’s fans and you also as a fan like artists who talk to you thats the point. Buying fans… I’d rather not have any than buy them

  6. I’d like to add a big thumbs up to this blog post, it drives us insane seeing some tracks that have obviously wildly inflated play counts and such-like. We probably get contacted / spammed every week with an offer of some spam bot plugger and we’ve always steered clear. But it’s easy to see why bands and artists do it, it’s hard work promoting a record and unless you have a clue about marketing, your options start to dry up pretty quickly, so a get rich quick scheme can be pretty tempting. I’ve tried Facebook and google ads in the past and they never seem to really add much weight, and before I stumbled on freshonthenet I was pretty disheartened about what to do. I am I confess pretty rubbish at promotion (I have a busy job, which I love btw), so have engaged a proper agency to help me out this time, they’ve given me some great advice and support, as well as I hope a bit of credibility to our current single. It may cost a bit more but I hope it will pay off (at least in satisfaction of a job well done).

  7. The Comments on the actual article tell the whole story!!

    Like Johnno & Rodeo Terrorists I also say ‘hats off’ to FOTN in general but with a cautionary note to younger bands using the LP/FF as (just another) promotional vehicle though.

    I have noticed the odd SC follower that just happens to follow every other contributor in the LP inbox that week! (Why could this be I wonder!!)

    Just stop it please!

    I only comment / vote for, songs that I like or interest / intrigue me! and unlike my lovely son, I don’t follow back ‘Just because!’

    In the week of our Bassist (Simian Jim Scriven’s) 50th Birthday @poshape https://soundcloud.com/posh-ape are delighted to be approaching 1000 plays on sound cloud and with a Gorgeous 52 Likes/followers on FB because these are genuine and in most cases ‘New’ friends gained through a common love for and respect for others work.

    Sure it’s a business, a big business , but when you think you can fool genuine creative grafters, it’s Just not my business at all!

    Ape Love to Fine people and hard working Musicians
    (It is possible to be both , I hear!)

    Dan B-) xo

  8. We can all strike a small blow against all this by ALWAYS reporting people to Soundcloud as soon as they try to sell you these kinds of services. Their website tells you >how to do so here.

  9. Yep, all very interesting. When I was writing up the Fresh Faves the other week there was one band (who I found out pretty easily) that had some ‘stuff’ written about them online which highlighted them paying to boost their Facebook ‘friends/likes’ to something like 40,000. Then I read that within the space of a few hours that number declined to something like 3,000 which made me chuckle. No surprise that these guys had tried to also fix their votes on our Listening Post then.

    Its interesting to read about Stereomood as I’ve had similar experiences – with one of my songs being up to 36,103 listens in just a few months and a couple of others at almost 2,000 in the same period of time. Those stats against my other tracks that in general receive around 400 plays in 3 months or so look a bit odd but its just down to folks on Stereomood typing in ‘Melancholy’ (I can only assume its that! I don’t tend to do happy!!) and then my tracks get played loads for those wanting to wallow in the heavyness!

    At risk of repeating what others have said and not contributing anything new to this post – It really does my head in when its bleeding obvious that bands/artists have fixed their listening numbers or got people to ‘vote’ for their track either on FOTN or elsewhere. Theres a guy (won’t mention his name) who has been at the top position on one particular site for his tracks for months now. So I popped across to take a listen cause he Tweets like a hundred messages an hour to tell everyone how amazing he is and that he’s STILL at the no1 position. So, I went and listened and the music was really bland, just really REALLY boring and trying too hard to be like someone else (although I have to say his drawings are pretty lovely.) I checked this guys Twitter feed (having made sure I no longer followed him as it was doing my head in hearing the same thing 10 times in an hour from him…nothing about other peoples music, the world around him, other interests OR anything remotely suggesting he has an interest in anything or anyone but himself) Personally…and I could be wrong here….but in my experience its usually those people who are really unassuming and modest about what they do that make the most interesting stuff…not the ones that ram it down your throat. I understand the latter is often part and parcel of ‘the music industry’ or perhaps what drives peoples ‘desire’ but its just downright boring and at best arrogant.

    When I went to the BBC Masterclass in Manchester earlier this year I was sat waiting to go into the seminars surrounded by hundreds of people. I didn’t know anyone there so was just sat on my own supping a coffee, trying to wake up and be less anxious……no…..less terrified…….about being round tons of people (having barely left my house in 3 years…seriously anxiety provoking.) There were so many people talking non-stop about themselves and name dropping, don’t get me wrong, not everyone, there were some really lovely people there but the other ‘talk’ did my head in and I wanted no part of it.

    There was a guy sat opposite me….a few feet away. He looked equally shy and bemused by the goings on. We smiled at each other but didn’t talk (sorry, I’m aware this is starting to sound like Sleepless In Seattle!!) I spoke to him when we were at the Metro stop at the end of the day and we exchanged cards. I got home and Googled his music and was totally blown away. He goes by the name of Bevan. The first thing I saw of his was a YouTube video of an acoustic session he did…I think for BBC Introducing in Lincolnshire. Truly exceptional. So that was my point really.

    I’m sure there’s some or maybe a lot of musicians who are still very much in your face and truly exceptional musicians……actually I know there are cause I know a few……..BUT for the majority I think if you have to try that hard to get people to ‘like’ ‘listen’ or ‘approve’ your music or ‘approve you’ then maybe you should be doing something else. Just my humble opinion.

    Someone please shoot me if you catch me being an arrogant so and so…..I for one however would never and will never pay for people to like me……..for the record….I think I have about 87 followers/likes on my Facebook Music page…..so not tons but I interact regularly with most of those people…I’d much prefer it to be intimate and personal like that. Sadly, as its been written elsewhere before, perhaps by Johnno (?) there are festivals and other gigs/events that specifically ask how many followers on FB, Twitter etc you have and that determines wether they invite you to play at their event etc. So if, like me you only have 80 something FB friends I ain’t gonna get to play but that guy I mentioned before who self promotes a 100 times an hour and most probably pays for friends/listens probably would. BUT would I really want to play somewhere like that anyway? Probably not….thats not what music is about to me. I’d much rather play to 10 people in a small launderette who had asked to hear me play.

    Keep it real and connect on a human level……..thats my moto all the way.
    Dx

  10. oh dear….MASSIVE apologies for my enormous waffle above…hadn’t quite realised how long it was until I hit ‘submit’

  11. Sereen Hudson-Stewart

    As a minor in the industry I tend to follow those who have next to no followers or listens most the time they follow back I’m making a new account based on reposting ppl I find are amazing and are really trying but not making it as far as they can to try and prevent the need for buying these things like if you check me like I fail but I’m proud of what I do have and what I’m building up I don’t care about how many people are acknowledging my tracks and like it just as long as I see that someone really appreciates it people that buy these services I wouldn’t show them up that’s just wrong if they feel the need to cheat let the truth get to them don’t publicise it even more that’s just spiteful you can obviously see their already struggling instead of making their time even worse why don’t you do something decent make a repost page for those who do struggle.

  12. Tom

    @SereeenHudsonStewart Thanks for your helpful contribution. We will take your advice and try to do something decent to help unknown artists in future.

  13. I have seen quite a few people follow me without listening to my tracks. I think the idea is that I should follow them back as they unfollow me a week later if I haven’t. Perhaps it is a bot doing the following and unfollowing. Occasionally I get likes from people who haven’t listed to a track, very odd.

    On another point. I wonder if Soundcloud gets that many on-site listens from non musicians. When people have heard me play things live they tend to listen again via an embedded sound cloud link on a web page, Twitter or on Facebook.

    I get the impression that most people look for new music on YouTube, Radio or Spotify rather than on Sound cloud itself. Anyone else notice this?

  14. tom

    I think you cant stop fake plays, or Follwers. Not only at Soundcloud, all Social Networks are full of Fake.

    Nice try dude. A breathtakingly cheeky spam comment by a company who specialise in, er, selling fake Soundcloud plays. Too bad we removed the website link.

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