Global Music Industry Puts New Pressure on Piracy and Fraud

In two necessary moves this week, the music industry is taking on both music streaming fraud and music piracy, aiming to curb threats to its livelihood in the digital age.

In Germany, the IFPI and German trade organization, Bundesverband Musikindustrie (BVMI), have jointly shut down one of the world’s most popular stream ripping sites, Convert2MP3.

And, around the globe, music streaming companies, including Spotify, Amazon and Deezer, have banded together to form a coalition to stop a growing army of online bots inflating music-streaming listening figures.

Popular Stream Ripping Site Shut Down

For stream ripping, IFPI confirmed in a statement that popular audio ripping site Convert2MP3 is shut down as part of a settlement from a 2017 lawsuit. Convert2MP3 allowed people to download audio files from YouTube links and other sources and, according to the IFPI, had 684 million visits from around the world this past year.

The IFPI has marked piracy as a threat to the music industry for a number of years. Its 2018 Music Consumer Insight Report said that 38 percent of people globally consume music through copyright infringement and, for those who infringe, stream ripping sites like Convert2MP3 are the most popular option.

Table: A Short History of Music Piracy

1992MPEG-1 Audio Layer 3 (MP3) format is officially published
October 1998Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is passed in the United States in fight against file sharing or file-sharing technology
May 1999Napster launches to easily share files for free on a peer-to-peer (P2P) network
December 1999Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) files a lawsuit against Napster for being a “haven for music piracy”
June 2002Napster ceases operation
2003Apple iTunes launches gaining almost $70 million of legal Internet music salesin under one year
September 2003The Pirate Bay emerges as a leading file-downloading site
2009The Pirate Bay is prosecuted and found guilty. Founders are sentenced to prison.

Industry Coalition Forms to Fight Fake Streams

For fake streaming, a coalition of 21 technology groups, record labels and music publishers have aligned around a “code of best practices,” a collective effort two years in the making by the biggest players in music to combat stream manipulation.

The group, which also includes Warner Music and Sony Music, warned that “industrial-scale” impersonation of users by “troll farms” was distorting perceptions of what music is popular and vowed to thwart such manipulation by weeding out the bots from the music fans. 

Variety reports that 3-4% of all officially counted music audio and video streams are illegitimate, while Rolling Stone estimates that fake streams could be costing artists $300 million a year.

Meanwhile, Streaming platform Tidal is currently being investigated in Norway over streaming inflation. Sales figures for two of 2016’s biggest albums – Beyoncé’s Lemonade and Kanye West’s The Life Of Pablo – were reported to have been deliberately inflated by 320 million plays.

Also joining the coalition are Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Universal Music Publishing Group, Kobalt, Concord, IMPALA, Merlin, the International Confederation of Music Publishers, National Music Publishers’ Association and Recording Industry Association of America.

The End of Spotlister: What to Know

Spotlister was a pay-to-play service that connected artists with independent Spotify playlist curators, in many cases music bloggers. It required artists to pay to have their music considered, depending on the site of the playlist, among other considerations.

  • Founded in 2015 as a third-party vendor of playlist curators, claiming as many as 1,500 with a cumulative reach of 12 million followers
  • Artists, managers and labels would buy credits from the company for $2 each to get the curator to listen to it. The larger the following the playlist, the more credits a curator would charge
  • Spotify took issue with third-party curation and shut down Spotlister by deactivating its API
  • Spotlister announced closure in March 2018, briefly reopening and reclosing under the name Jamlister.