By Shivangi Chawla
Recently , Mumbai police blew the lid off one of the music industry’s worst- kept secrets: the widespread practice of buying millions of fake views, likes and subscribers on streaming services and social media platforms. On 8 August, the Mumbai Mirror reported that according to police officials, rapper and producer Aditya Prateek Singh Sisodia (better known as Badshah) had confessed to paying a company Rs 72 lakh in exchange for 72 million fake views on the music video for his 2019 single Paagal. The police claim he wanted to set a world record for the most number of views on YouTube in 24 hours. His song ‘Paagal’ achieve that feat when it released last year, registering over 75 million views in 24 hours. But it turned out to be a pyrrhic victory for the rapper, who had to admit to buying YouTube advertisements to inflate views . These rumours are being repeated and broader investigations are done by police that proves ‘Social Media Marketing fraud’. Badshah has denied all allegations against him but even if this turned out to be true , the rapper may feel justified wondering why he’s being singled out .
Here are some numbers to demonstrate the scale of the problem.
In 2013, Italian security researchers and bloggers estimated the underground market for fake Twitter followers alone could be worth between $40-360 million. At some point that year, as much as half the traffic on YouTube was from bots, according to The New York Times. YouTube responded with a mass deletion of fake accounts that wiped out over three billion inauthentic views. Particularly hard hit were a number of music accounts, especially Lady Gaga, whose videos were stripped of a combined total of 156 million views. This spring-cleaning, and subsequent investment into anti-fraud measures, reduced the number of fake views but couldn’t eliminate them entirely. A quick Google search throws up scores of websites—including Indian ones—openly advertising “easy” ways to gain views and followers, often charging less than a hundred rupees for a thousand views.
Musicians and labels aren’t the only ones buying, of course. But particularly in the case of YouTube views, musicians are amongst the most dependable customers.
This is because of the way views have become a key currency on YouTube, still by far the most important streaming platform for musicians. A higher view count doesn’t just make your video seem more popular than it is. Views are a key metric for YouTube’s algorithms, especially when it comes to search result rankings and recommendations, which have a direct impact on ad revenue. Fake views can give a video a quick visibility boost, giving it a better chance of attracting more organic views. More importantly, YouTube views have increasingly become an important metric for how the music industry defines success. This is true whether you are a superstar with millions of views, or a young independent. An events management company focused on independent music, YouTube and social media numbers were often the first things clients looked at when choosing which act to give a platform to and how much to pay.