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Artist Battles Nightmarish Catalog Takedown Over Allegedly Fraudulent Streams: ‘No Idea If This Was Malicious or Not’

music streaming fraud

Photo Credit: Derick Daily

With Spotify’s new royalties model – including streaming-fraud penalties for distributors – in full swing, a singer-songwriter says his work was abruptly ripped down due to false fake-stream allegations.

Benn Jordan, who releases music as The Flashbulb, took to social media to shed light on the unfortunate situation, word of which was spread in an early report from Ars Technica. Additionally, the Our Simulacra act provided a detailed account of the less-than-ideal episode on a Gumroad page through which fans can purchase his discography for a price of their choosing.

TuneCore-distributed Jordan launched that page in the wake of the alleged fake-stream allegation(s), which, per his description, resulted in the February 10th pulldown of all his releases. As recapped by the musician, the DSP mass-removal impacted some 23 albums not only on Spotify, but Apple Music, YouTube Music, “and virtually everywhere music is sold or streamed.”

“Spotify has accused me of ‘streaming fraud’ and reported it to Tunecore,” Jordan wrote of the circumstances surrounding the teardown, communicating as well that he’d signed on with the Believe-owned distributor about 17 years back.

The artist also posted to social media what looks to be a TuneCore support professional’s February 11th response to questions.

“TuneCore has been notified that Spotify has identified and removed a high amount of streams from your royalty calculation due to evidence of abnormal streaming activity on one or more of your releases,” the relevant message reads. “We performed an additional internal investigation and confirmed this evidence. As a result, all of your releases have been taken down from all stores.”

As noted, Jordan remains adamant that he didn’t, in fact, commit streaming fraud – indicating instead that the unexpected obstacle arrived after he’d offered “a tip to short” Spotify stock and made other seemingly critical comments about the platform.

Meanwhile, TuneCore head Andreea Gleeson responded directly to Jordan on Twitter/X, disclosing in this follow-up message plans “to make further expansions” to the “senior” weekend-support team members who handle “nuanced topics.”

Notwithstanding these points, the issue appeared to be (mostly) resolved at the time of this writing, with 15 albums from The Flashbulb live on Spotify. However, just 13 albums were available to stream on Apple Music; 2021’s Seven Quarantine Poems was listed on the latter service but not Spotify, to name one of the differences.

Though TuneCore has in some ways been made out as the villain, the distributor was (and is) presumably attempting to remain vigilant against fraud – and stay on Spotify’s good side given the aforesaid threat of per-track fake-stream fines.

In a statement, TuneCore specified that it had “discovered that an error was made in our notification system” – an error that resulted in Jordan’s not being “properly contacted” or receiving “a warning or opportunity to validate the activity on his account.”

Moreover, the distributor said it was “actively evolving…processes for handling streaming fraud” in order to “more effectively protect the reputation of” artists while still curbing actual fake streams.

Bigger picture, the episode underscores the far-reaching effects of Spotify’s major-label-molded compensation framework for recordings – and raises questions about the impact of disputed streaming-fraud allegations on the careers of indie and unsigned acts moving forward. (Once again at the time of writing, Spotify didn’t appear to have commented publicly on the subject, including its abnormal-consumption findings for The Flashbulb uploads.)

Of course, for several reasons, the majors needn’t be overly concerned about fake streams reaching their artists’ work; the use of their distribution offerings to upload allegedly stolen music is another story.

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