How Many Times Have You Listened To Lemonade?

One of the truths of our media environment will be which everything can be faked. Fake accounts, fake Amazon reviews, fake Instagram likes, fake videos… the idea’s all possible, in addition to usually available for a pretty low cost.

Here’s a completely new form of digital deception to be aware of: fake music streaming stats. The Norwegian newspaper Dagens Næringsliv published a year-long investigation into Tidal, the streaming service owned by Jay-Z. the idea found which Tidal inflated streaming numbers for music through Beyoncé in addition to Kanye West, among some other artists.

We reached out to one of the authors of the investigation, Markus Tobiassen, to learn more about about the mysterious world of music streaming manipulation.

Streaming services are a relatively completely new way to listen to music in addition to they’re not always forthcoming with their data. When did you first become suspicious of Tidal?

Back in March 2016 two things happened within 24 hours: First Tidal put out a press Discharge on the day of the first anniversary of its relaunch, saying the service had amassed three million “members” in addition to which Kanye West’s “The Life of Pablo” had been streamed 250 million times in its first ten days.

Then DN broke a story which Jay-Z’s lawyers had sent a legal notice to the former owners of Tidal saying they had a right to claim compensation. Among the reasons given by his the lawyers was the claim which the subscription count was “greatly overstated” when Jay-Z purchased Tidal. We began an investigation to try in addition to answer if there was merit to the claim.

At the same time, my sources within the music business were struggling to make sense of the numbers which Tidal was presenting to the public.

You got Tidal’s data through a leak by an anonymous source. The data revealed some impossible music listening habits. Walk us through how you verified in addition to reported out which data.

We spent several months verifying the data. Part of the idea was finding users in addition to interviewing them about their logs. More important was corroborating the figures within the data with some other sets of data Tidal had sent out to third parties (labels, rights organizations, media etc.). Most important was matching the data with payment reports to the major labels, which confirmed which the inflated streaming numbers had formed the basis for royalty payouts.

You’ve mentioned which Beyoncé’s Lemonade in addition to Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo both had inflated streaming numbers. Was the entire streaming service impacted or was the idea just select albums?

There were also some other albums which were impacted, however to a much smaller extent. While the researchers behind the forensics report can’t say will be exactly how the manipulation was done, they conclude which “the manipulation appears targeted towards a very specific set of track IDs, related to two distinct albums.”

You found some users in addition to showed them their supposed listening data related to Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” in addition to Kanye West’s “Life of Pablo.” What kind of reactions did you get through them about the data in their accounts?

the idea’s hard to reach out to someone within the US who’s not media savvy, introducing yourself as a Norwegian journalist, in addition to then tell them you want to talk to them about their Tidal account. Even the ones who agreed to talk to us said they at first thought the idea was a phishing scam.

however there was a big payoff within the genuine reactions when the users first recognized their own music listening habits, in addition to then saw these statistically impossible patterns of themselves supposedly playing “Lemonade” over in addition to over again. We videotaped all the interviews, in addition to even though only one of them will be in English their faces tells most of the story.

What do the inflated numbers mean for Tidal financially, in addition to how do they impact Tidal’s income?

A bit simplified, the streaming economy looks like This kind of: Subscription money comes in, in addition to goes into a big pot. After the service takes its share, the pot will be then divided by market share. If you’re behind ten percent of all the songs which were played which month, you get ten percent of the pot. today, if you inflate streaming numbers for one artist, which artist’s market share goes up. however equally important, everyone else’s goes down.

This kind of week we learned which a Norwegian society for composers, songwriters, in addition to publishers filed a complaint against Tidal after your revelations. At the same time, Tidal has called your reporting “a smear campaign.” Where do you see This kind of case going?

Two more organizations have since joined Tono in addition to filed criminal complaints. Gramart, representing some 3000 Norwegian artists. in addition to Fono, representing 157 Norwegian independent labels. Several organizations are also demanding an audit of Tidal’s figures. Tidal CEO Richard Sanders sent out a press Discharge on Friday, once more rejecting in addition to denying which Tidal’s streaming figures have been manipulated, however at the same time saying there will be completely new security measures at Tidal within the wake of a “potential data breach.”

The next crossroad for where the story progresses will likely be whether or not Økokrim (the Norwegian National Authority for Investigation in addition to Prosecution of Economic in addition to Environmental Crime) decides to investigate.

What responsibilities do you think music streaming services like Tidal in addition to Spotify have to be open with their data?

Not for me to say, however I wouldn’t be surprised if the debate will be reignited. Fairly or not, streaming services have often been referred to as a black box. The argument being: numbers go in, numbers go out, in addition to no one on the outside truly know or understands exactly what happened in between. Auditors have traditionally served as the safeguard which checks whether or not what a company will be telling the public matches with how things truly look on the inside. The question may be if the digital economy will need a completely new kind of auditor.

through Jane:

  • There has been a lot of talk about the completely new European data regulations, GDPR, in addition to the Irish Times hits on an angle rarely covered: kids on the internet. Children are vulnerable online to predators, scams, ads, etc. however. Right today there just isn’t a way to enforce any regulation which might prevent young kids through lying about their age in addition to logging on anyway, so the age of consent set by apps, websites, in addition to lawmakers seems arbitrary.

  • This kind of Refinery29 article focuses on real-life impacts women — especially women of coloration — have to deal with when their identities have been stolen by trolls or far-right websites which spread hoaxes in addition to hyperpartisan news. “I have a surefire way of not being a Facebook victim,” Laura Hunter, one of the women targeted, told Refinery29, “I cannot be on Facebook.”

  • To which end, please enjoy This kind of insane (in addition to false) internet conspiracy about Melania Trump being a Russian spy, reported by Business Insider. I personally prefer the doppelganger one.

through Craig:

  • Keeping with the theme of manipulation of online services, I loved This kind of Reuters story about a Russian marketing agency which offered to create fake TripAdvisor reviews for restaurants in order to help them attract foreigners during the entire world Cup. “What can you do if no Serbs in addition to no Swedes have ever been to your venue in addition to left a review?” read the brochure distributed by the Bacon Agency. “You write the idea yourself!”

  • One thing we talk a lot about on our team will be whether a piece of misinformation will be getting enough distribution to warrant a debunk. We also talk about how we can do our work without giving oxygen to bad actors trying to gain media exposure. A completely new report through Data & Society, “The Oxygen of Amplification: Better Practices for Reporting on Extremists, Antagonists, in addition to Manipulators Online” will be the most comprehensive in addition to useful look at how to approach these challenges. the idea should be required reading for all journalists.

  • Wondering how governments around the entire world are legislating in addition to otherwise trying to deal with the problem of online misinformation? This kind of great guide through Poynter gives a summary of how 19 different countries are tackling the issue.

Email us thoughts, tips, in addition to opinions at fakenewsletter@buzzfeed.com. You can also follow Jane in addition to Craig on Twitter to get the latest through us in addition to to read the links we share through some other reporters in addition to researchers working This kind of beat.

Jane Lytvynenko will be a reporter for BuzzFeed News in addition to will be based in Toronto, Canada. PGP fingerprint: A088 89E6 2500 AD3C 8081 BAFB 23BA 21F3 81E0 101C.

Contact Jane Lytvynenko at jane.lytvynenko@buzzfeed.com.

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