As AI gains more ubiquity in several fields, including music, perhaps it’s time to address another phenomenon… artificial streaming. The evaluation of musicians' artistry happens with regards to how many sales and streams they accomplish, alongside the artistic merits of their output. All the numbers and social data are a source of pride and show the hard work artists put in.
This need for validation and recognition is a common trait amongst us all, but may also lead to artists 'gaming the system' to improve the way their brands are perceived. Can you imagine if all the stratospheric streams had all been fabricated? Picture entire datasets influenced by stream farms, click bots and fake followers. That would definitely remove the romance of an artist’s ‘hero’s journey’, and that’s just one aspect. Here are some other factors to consider around artificial streaming:
Botting is a form of fraud and considered illegal because it goes against the terms of service of music hosting platforms. It's also unethical because it robs advertisers of their opportunity to reach actual people (which they pay for the opportunity to do). This has the knock-on effect of devaluing platforms due to its actual users being perceived to be of less value.
While increased streams may lead to better hype, bigger buzz and maybe industry recognition; these flashpoints only temporarily enhance an artist's reputation and career by extension. Building trust and credibility with both the audience and official platforms is more beneficial over time.
All the data associated with an artist's music is essential in making short, mid and long-term plans. For instance; planning a tour can be heavily influenced by where an artist has the most listeners from. If this is skewed by bots, it could lead to mis-directed investments.
Speaking of investments... time, energy and resources are always better spent finding and engaging actual fans. Rather than implementing bots, perhaps building an engaged community will lead to better returns. And since art is communal; generating false buzz may be a shortcut to fame but eventually denies the artistic community of new artists who could benefit from the attention and money botting ingests.
Here's a great video from Spotify that delves into the issue of artificial streaming further: