While Spotify plans to begin penalizing record labels and distributors for egregious cases of streaming fraud, Apple Music quietly rolled out its own enhanced anti-fraud protections — including hitting repeat offenders with “financial corrections” — more than a year ago, according to an email obtained by from billboard which the platform sent to music industry partners in March. Apple Music’s internal metrics show that the policy has already led to a 30% drop in streaming manipulation.
In the March email, the streamer defined manipulation as “intentionally, artificially creating plays for copyrights, rankings and popularity” as well as “delivering deceptive or manipulative content, such as an album of 31-second songs.” “In October , we launched new tools and policies designed to prevent manipulation of Apple Music streams,” the email explained. “Since we launched the new tools, manipulated flows represent only 0.3 percent of all flows.”
That 0.3 percent figure is lower than the statistics cited by some of Apple Music’s competitors. A Spotify spokesperson told a Swedish newspaper earlier this year that “less than one percent of all streams on Spotify were determined to be manipulated,” while Deezer said it found 7 percent of plays to be fraudulent. (However, this comparison only goes so far because each service may define fraud differently, and not all of them have ad-supported tiers.)
In a statement, an Apple Music spokesperson said the platform “takes stream manipulation very seriously. Apple Music has a team of people dedicated to tracking and investigating all cases of suspected tampering. Sanctions include cancellation of user accounts, removal of content, termination of distribution agreements and financial corrections.
When Apple Music sent an email to industry partners in March, the streaming service noted that “despite the low rate [of fraud]manipulation remains a widespread and persistent problem: that 0.3% of streams come from more than 85,000 albums across hundreds of record labels.
As a result, the email shows the company outlined a tougher anti-fraud policy in October 2022, promising to take “corrective action against content providers with repeated and significant stream manipulation.” This push for reform has worked for some — half of the distributors that were flagged for fake streaming have reduced manipulation of their content by more than 45 percent, the company said.
To help record labels and distributors understand where fraud is occurring, Apple Music’s email said the platform has started sending daily reports detailing “streaming content provider albums being reviewed.” “After each review,” the email continues, “we remove manipulated streams and release legitimate plays. At the end of each month, content providers also receive a report with all excluded streams.” (According to one distribution company executive, Spotify has now also increased the reporting it provides to labels and distributors, “adding a new dimension to seeing repeat infringers.” )
“All of this happens before Apple Music pays royalties and charts,” the email notes. “We block infringers from the main benefits of stream manipulation and redirect rewards to valid content plays.”
The past six months have seen a wave of companies publicly commit to reducing fraud. More than half a dozen distributors formed a “global task force aimed at eliminating streaming fraud” in June. And when Deezer announced a new partnership with Universal Music Group in September, Michael Nashexecutive vice president and chief digital officer of UMG, promised that “scams and games that serve only to deprive artists of their due compensation will be aggressively addressed.”