YouTube – Deletes Fake Music Plays in Apparently Annual December Rite

by Eliot Van Buskirk

People on the internet are noticing that YouTube deleted billions of fake views from YouTube, after someone  – some say artists, buy_youtube_fake_playcountslabels, or their affiliates — intentionally faked in order to get paid in a more Gangnam-like style, and climb the charts.

The thing is, the exact same thing happened last December, when YouTube cracked down and deleted billions of views, with Universal Music Group, the world’s largest record label, having more than a billion offending views stripped from the site (and, we assume, from the accounting department that pays out royalties). Sony’s and other artists also benefited from the fake plays — the only reason Universal was the top offender was that it has more music than the others.

During last year’s outrage, the Daily Mail, which initially reported the deletions, said “music industry sources… blamed it on housekeeping related to the migration of their videos across different channels.”

Now, in December 2013, the same exact thing is happening again. Could more of this migration channel housekeeping thing be to blame, or perhaps, as The Guardian’s sources would have it,  are these fake plays the result of “technical difficulties.”

Much of the commentary around this issue has assumed that labels, publishers, artists, and/or songwriters are the ones faking the views (or more likely paying someone or something to fake them), because they’re the ones who stand to gain from it.

Rather than the oddball “channel migration” theory of 2012 or “technical difficulties” theory of 2013, what’s more likely is that these fake plays are really happening, and that YouTube is conducting some sort of December audit of its views, separating the fake ones out before finalizing the accounting on its royalty payments.

Not only is this not a new phenomenon on YouTube, but it’s not exclusive to YouTube. There’s a whole Tumblr dedicated to fake likes on Facebook. One band’s fans gamed Rdio and Spotify to put a Fifth Harmony song on top of the charts. The list goes on.

So the fact that the same exact thing happened in Decembers 2012 and 2013 isn’t really news. To the contrary, if people stopped trying to fake play counts when they stood to gain from doing so, that might constitute bigger news.

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