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Artists 101

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Should I pay for streams?

Paying for streams is a mistake new artists often make, and does not equal having fans. Labels and DSPs can easily spot fake streams, and those fake streams aren’t translating to concert tickets sold, merch bought, or real-life people who rock with you. Focus your efforts instead on making quality music and content, and converting listeners into genuine fans. And always remember: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

“Oh, no. Anything that’s like, ‘Hey, I’m paying you a thousand dollars for a billion plays,’ the DSPs are gonna catch it and discount those plays. Two, it actually is fraud, and you are running the legal risk of getting charged with fraud. It’s a full-on crime, you know?”

—Greg Norman, Major Label Attorney

“Never, ever, ever pay for streams, followers, likes, or any kind of artificial engagement. Doing so is both a mistake and a waste of money. Fake followers don’t buy stuff and fake streams will get you banned from streaming services. It’s difficult enough to build an audience on any platform. Why make it harder by paying for something that is not helpful, if not actually harmful?”

—Mark Tavern, Music Industry Educator

“No, do not do this. It is a scam.”

—Adam Freedman, Entertainment Lawyer

“No, because you’re not gonna get anything out of that but a song that has one million streams. Paying for streams doesn't create fanbases.”

—Ryan Hobbs, Pandora

“There’s no reason to do that, and it doesn’t do you any good. A million streams is small potatoes in terms of your profile. A lot of artists have a million streams that are very low profile. There’s no way that’s a good idea, in any regard, period. It’s just wasting money. Take the money you would’ve used and buy a new piece of gear, a nice dinner, literally anything else. It doesn’t represent anything and there’s no A&R who thinks, ‘This artist has one million streams on this one song, and all of their other songs have one thousand streams, we should definitely check them out!’”

—Anna Bond, Head of Creative and Partnerships, Songtrust

“Don’t do that—you should want to win your streams.”

—Liz Eason, Label Services, Vydia

“In general, the whole concept of paying for streams is certainly frowned upon by DSPs and distributors, partners of the DSPs, and more often than not, they’re hollow streams. Meaning, maybe they’re successful at pumping up their streaming numbers a little bit. Does that mean they can sell more tickets? No. Does that mean they have a more engaged audience buying merchandise? No. These things tend to have a way of evening themselves out.”

—Seth Faber, Head of Artist and Label Strategy, Stem