MBW’s next release comes from Nick Dunn (pictured inset), founder and CEO of UK-based marketing services and distributor, Horus Music. Horus, founded in 2006, has so far worked with over 30,000 artists and brands. It recently partnered with Beatbread to offer its customers access to the capital.
When Sir Lucien Gring’s note to his staff at the Music business around the world (Jan 11) Last week, it felt like a hallelujah moment.
For some time now, our industry has been plagued by problems with the music streaming ownership model. But faced with these problems, companies and organizations have either buried their heads in the sand or, like us, have been forced to work in isolation to try to deal with a global problem.
It is a relief that one of the largest and most respected individuals in the industry has now brought the issues of streaming malpractice to light and seems determined and focused to do something about it.
We and others like us no longer feel alone in this battle.
At Horus Music, we work with a range of independent artists and labels, as well as fellow distribution companies via our “My Client Zone” white label service. We pride ourselves on having multiple business models that allow us to have something for everyone.
A small percentage of our clients register with us without the desire to build any kind of close business relationship. Independent artists usually pay us a small subscription fee, and then earn 100% of their royalties income generated from the streaming platforms.
This “download yourself” model is now common in the industry and very popular. But it also provides our company with many daily challenges, because we pride ourselves on thoroughly checking client uploads for red flags. why? Because when these articles go Unchecked Through aggregators, he opens the door to rampant commercial excesses.
“Unlike legitimately successful indie artists, these creators aren’t interested in interacting and building a fanbase — but they do have the ability, on an industrial scale, to use multiple IP addresses and user accounts to rig the ‘proportional’ payment system of live broadcasts to their advantage.”
I would first like to say that there are many great independent artists around the world who produce great music. And the DIY subscription model really benefits them; Hard working artists can earn thousands of dollars with a “DIY” track, without the traditional support of any record label.
Unfortunately, there is also a small minority of form users who produce poorly made music, which are often short in duration (the awful 31-second tracks), require little skill to create, and use a repetitive idea. Unlike legitimately successful indie artists, these creators aren’t interested in interacting and building a fanbase – but they do have the ability, on an industrial scale, to use multiple IP addresses and user accounts to game the “proportional” payment system for live broadcasts to their advantage. They often earn large incomes.
In the early days of Horus – before we even thought about how such schemes could be implemented – we saw, from our company analytics, that these scam artists were easily earning $10,000 and exponentially more each month from streaming platforms.
“Once Horus began capturing this content and then exposing — and thwarting — individuals who were submitting fraudulent documents, our team began receiving death threats. We soon realized this meant one thing: the people behind many of these releases were gangs.”
We soon stopped accepting any content that we thought was being produced solely for the purposes of synthetic broadcasting. But the problem did not stop there. There were other types of “scam artists”: for example, those who deliberately use unlicensed samples that are difficult to detect. And again, the telltale signs are the same: they make a little effort to engage with a genuine fan base and then manipulate streaming platforms for their own gain.
As we’ve become more sophisticated at rooting out “artists” with unethical schemes to suck money from streaming services, things have gotten nastier: we discovered that when we ran our own identification checks on individuals providing this type of content, the documents provided were bogus.
Robust automated scanning technology for identification is still not common worldwide, but it does exist. (Ask anyone who uses a legitimate crypto site, for example — they often have to upload photos, passport details, etc. in order to be verified and allowed on the platform.)
This means the music industry collectively He was helping immoral individuals and criminal gangs get a new kind of illegal income. or to launder their money. Or both.”
Things got worse. Once Horus began capturing this content and then exposing – and thwarting – the individuals who were submitting fake documents, our team began receiving death threats. We soon realized this meant one thing: the people behind many of these releases were gangs.
And under the ‘proportional’ broadcast ownership regime, this also meant the music industry – collectively He was helping immoral individuals and criminal gangs earn a new kind of illegal income. or to launder their money. or both.
Over the past two years, Horus has been having a hard time engaging with the broader music industry to help stop this abuse. We know we’re not the only DIY company in the world being targeted – and that our competitors have been victims, too.
Disappointingly, we also have evidence that once identified and rejected by a company like ours, these music streaming scammers bounce from distributor to distributor, enabling them to continue their lucrative schemes. With no global coordination in the music business to combat these practices, these people can continue to steal vast amounts of money from streaming services nonstop.
“With no global coordination in the music business to combat these practices, these people can continue to drain massive amounts of money from streaming services nonstop.”
I’ve contacted my trade union several times about this. They have alternately told me at various points that they do not understand the issue, or say they have no other members who have raised similar concerns.
My argument has always been that we need to have a roundtable discussion with all the distribution companies – big and small, major and independent – and we all need to be honest about our experiences, in order to stop this. Unfortunately, this has not happened yet.
One potential solution: We could, as a global industry, develop a global database of individuals who are found to be abusing the streaming platform, and then block them from moving from one distribution company to another. I appreciate that there are legal (privacy) challenges in creating this database. But we need to find solutions, whatever they may be, and have an attitude of what can be done to address this scourge on our business.
It’s also clear that the streaming platforms themselves are part of the problem.
In our experience, these services are, in general, less willing to have a meaningful discussion about streaming scams, and don’t share enough information. It also seems that every platform has very different criteria for what it considers to be fraudulent. We understand that some standards must be kept confidential to prevent people from trying to “beat the system”, but this presents another frustrating impediment to the ultimate goal: stopping live streaming scams.
“Unlike other platforms that don’t give us any information, Spotify has provided its account with a simple tool that helps us at least keep an eye on this issue.”
However, Spotify gives us a great report that lists all the content that they consider abusing their system. We use that to automatically remove content from all other platforms. It’s not perfect: sometimes original content gets flagged – content that gained popularity not via shady automated services and fake platform users, but via genuine marketing.
Difficult to balance. But unlike other platforms that don’t give us any information, Spotify has provided to its credit a simple tool that helps us at least keep an eye on this problem – and make a small impact on a much larger problem.
I once had lunch with some senior people from a major record company and outlined these problems to them. I told them they have more power than us to stop the scam/outright fraud issue – especially when it comes to requiring anti-fraud tools/reviewing “proportional” payment model items as part of their licensing agreements with large streaming platforms. They told me, understandably, that they didn’t see it as their problem – that their artists had not engaged in fraudulent streams.
However, they did not see the bigger picture. The global royalty-paying pot for all legitimate rights holders in music – be it artists, labels, distributors, songwriters, producers, publishers, etc. – is lowered by artificial broadcasting.
“When Sir Lucien wrote what he did in his note this month – not only from his point of view, but from an industry level as well – it was for us welcome news and long overdue.”
Stopping individuals and gangs who successfully abuse the current streaming business model is essential to ensuring that today’s true artists get the money they deserve for their music. Simply.
When Sir Lucien wrote what he did in his note this month – not just from his point of view, but industry-wide as well – it was for us welcome news and long overdue.
Perhaps now, finally, we can work towards industry consensus on this pressing threat. Perhaps the real change will now come to the aid of all real, hardworking artists.Music business around the world