YouTube Closes Paid Spin Loophole
First, a little background on this one. This past Spring Billboard reweighted its “Spin” algorithm to account for more music being consumed via audio and video streaming services. In Billboard’s new formula 1,250 subscription streams count as one album sale, and on the free side 3,750 streams count as one album sale. So the more times a song is streamed the more albums an artist can claim they’ve sold.
Since implementing this new system some savvy music promoters have figured out that if you run a video of a song on YouTube within a paid for pre or mid-roll ad, the song gets credit for a spin. This has created an incentive to buy more ads on YouTube to run music videos in, and effectively buy your way up the charts. In July this problem boiled over when Indian rapper Badshah tallied 75M views in just 24 hours. At the time industry insiders suspected the rapper’s spin total was inflated with artificial views. Bloomberg later reported that Badshah’s team purchased advertisements that either embedded or promoted the video. This led to a dramatically increased view count.
At the time YouTube decided not to acknowledge the record-breaking numbers. Then last week YouTube moved to close this loophole. According to a company blog post they’re no longer counting “advertising views” for calculating its music charts. Instead, ranking for top-watched music videos will be based on organic plays. This effectively eliminates the chances that a Badshah 2.0 situation could happened again.
This whole situation is an interesting example of how the modernization of the music industry can create an unintended negative consequence. I’m sure this won’t be the last time we hear about individuals gaming our new digital music ecosystem.