In the last year, Music Ally has reported on some of the examples of ‘fake uploads’ to streaming services and download stores. That’s when scammers take rare/bootleg tracks from famous artists and upload them (via a distributor) to DSPs under alternative names. Beyoncé, SZA, Rihanna and Kid Cudi are among the artists who’ve seen their work illegitimately repurposed in this way.
Now Pitchfork has an investigation into how these scams work, and there are some troubling details for the music industry. Like this: “One leaker told Pitchfork that they were paid upwards of $60,000 in royalties this year by DistroKid and TuneCore, after uploading unreleased tracks by artists including Playboi Carti and Lil Uzi Vert onto Spotify and Apple Music… while much of the music was later removed, the documents viewed by Pitchfork indicate that royalties were still paid out, as much as $10,000 at a time”.
Soundrop, which was the pipeline for a couple of prominent fake uploads, is one of the distributors interviewed about how it’s trying to tackle the problem: a combination of audio-fingerprinting tech and a content-approval team reviewing songs that are flagged by that system, or whose metadata seems suspicious.
The piece also questions whether lower-profile artists – who can still suffer from fake-upload scams – are getting the protection that larger artists are. “The fundamental reality is, if people are losing enough money or being damaged enough through this chicanery, you’ll see something change. But the little people who don’t have resources, well, it’s just the same story as always,” as NYU professor (and former Astralwerks GM) Errol Kolosine puts it. The full feature is well worth a read.