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Apple Music fraud falls by 30% after beefing up protections

Apple Music fraud has fallen by 30% in the past year, says a new report, after the company implemented stronger protection against so-called streaming manipulation.

The most obvious example of streaming fraud is where a musician uses a network of bots to constantly stream their music 24/7 in order to obtain royalties, but Apple says it has detected other examples …

Billboard says that while the new anti-fraud measures have only now come to light, Apple has been using them for more than a year.

Apple Music quietly rolled out its own strengthened fraud protections — including hitting repeat offenders with “financial adjustments” — more than a year ago, according to an email obtained by Billboard that the platform sent to music industry partners in March. Apple Music’s internal metrics indicate that the policy has already led to a 30% drop in streaming manipulation.

Artificial streams aren’t the only type of fraud detected. Apple pays a royalty per track, with a proviso that a track of 30 seconds or less doesn’t count. So some ‘musicians’ have created entire albums of 31-second songs.

While the motivation is usually financial, some artists just want to boost their apparent popularity. Apple said in an email to music labels that this doesn’t work either.

To help labels and distributors figure out where fraud is occurring, Apple Music’s email says the platform started sending daily reports detailing “a content provider’s albums with streams held in review.” “After each review,” the email goes on, “we remove manipulated streams and release legitimate plays. At the end of each month, content providers also receive a report with all excluded streams.” (Spotify has now also ramped up the reporting it provides to labels and distributors, according to one executive at a distribution company, “adding a new dimension of seeing repeat offenders.”)

“This all happens before Apple Music pays royalties and tabulates charts,” the email noted. “We block wrongdoers from the primary advantages of stream manipulation and redirect royalties to valid plays of content.”

The Cupertino company says it takes fraud extremely seriously, and that it has a range of responses, depending on the severity. These can range from “financial adjustments” to account closures and – where it is a record label rather than a musician responsible – termination of distribution agreements.

The measures clearly work, with Apple Music seemingly having the lowest fraud level in the business. Deezer has said that it found 7% of plays were fraudulent, Spotify says its rate is less than one percent, while Apple says that after implementing these new tools and policies, its own rate fell to 0.3%.

Photo: Auguras Pipiras/Unsplash

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Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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