The music industry is constantly evolving and adapting - with ever more ways of promoting your music and getting heard as an artist.
In this article I'll explain:
✅ Identify exactly how to tell if a website is selling fake or real music promotion
✅ Explain how to spot fake or bot streams, immediately
✅ Explain how to spot fake, junk playlists, immediately
✅ Explain how Boost Collective is 100% compliant with your distributor policies
You work hard for your music and want to invest your budget wisely. And I hope that by the end of this article, you can gain insight and make the most informed decision.
Let's dive in:
How do we keep our music promotion 100% compliant with companies like Spotify, distrokid, and beyond
At Boost Collective, we work day and night to help artists get heard - and this is reflected in our reviews:
We, like other legitimate music promotion companies - work hard to get real artists real results, time and time again.
To help promote you and your music, we pitch and add you to playlists that are grown entirely through advanced advertising campaigns on Instagram, TikTok, and Facebook to drive REAL listeners and targeted audiences to them.
Eg. Rap playlists will be pushed via advertising to Spotify listeners that LIKE rap music.
This means that we connect the RIGHT listeners to the RIGHT music; in an entirely organic way.
NONE of the playlists we use are linked up to any form of bot farms, AI streaming, or anything that Spotify or your distributor deems illegal.
Keep in mind: Boost Collective IS a music distributor; so we enforce these anti-botting rules alongside Spotify and other distributors like Distrokid - we are literally forced to provide compliant music promotion.
we talked to Spotify directly to verify
To make sure we are playing within the rules, we spoke to the source; Spotify directly.
Here is what they said:
You heard it here - you, the artist, will NOT be penalized by being added to playlists that are grown by ads - which is what we exclusively do.
A reminder - we promote ALL artists that purchase from our website the same way we do for our label-level signed artists; I put down some case studies below.
Boost Collective 1) IS a music distributor that gets HURT by bot streams (we get penalized for it) and 2) works with major artists to get exposure (case studies below).
To summarize: using Boost Collective's music promotion is safe, and reliable, and will not get you in any trouble with Spotify or your distributor.
But let's dive in more - I really want to nail this point home and help you know as much as you can about this subject :)
As a bit of a background, we at Boost Collective built an entirely native platform for artists to promote their music, and also distribute their music to all major DSP's, like Spotify and Apple Music:
We've spent tons of time and effort doing what we love most - which is helping artists succeed. It's a dream job, building technology solutions for music artists. In fact, here's the team that makes the magic happen:
Distributors are Spreading FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt) - watch out.
A new thing that distributors like DistroKid rolled out in an effort to counteract bot streams is a warning message they display if they detect bot streams on your music - it looks like this:
To think that a major distributor says ‘Promo services are wack’ is a slap in the face to every independent artist in my opinion, for several reasons:
If all promo services are ‘wack’, what about any label that promotes their artist’s music? A LABEL inherently is a ‘promo’ service. They take a cut of an artist’s record and promote it. Are labels also forbidden now?
They say: ‘Any service that promises to promote your music on Spotify is a scam’ - oh, does that also include Spotify’s very own Marquee?
What about Groover - a music promotion platform that raised funding and is literally partnered with TuneCore and UnitedMasters to promote music - are they scams as well?
As we showed you above, Spotify DOES LET you promote your music if it's through a 100% legit method of promotion (like Boost Collective provides).
We aren't the only ones speaking out about this - artists are also calling out DistroKid for scaring artists into not promoting their music at all:
Here's a Reddit thread we found as well:
The issue is putting real and fake music promotion services in the same bucket
DistroKid just doesn't want to get in trouble with DSP’s and realistically it doesn't matter to them whether you make any royalties or streams.
After all, they are a distributor - they don’t care how many streams you get, you already paid them for distribution.
Starting in 2024, Spotify will start charging distributors like DistroKid $10 per track which has over 90% of their streams generated by bots.
And of course, DistroKid would rather not deal with this by just blanket-statement preventing all artists from wanting to promote.
Which I find funny because DistroKid recently launched a playlist contact list tool for their 'Ultimate plan' users to use to reach out to playlist owners:
It seems to be a basic scraper tool that finds the contact info of Spotify playlists.
Mind you; NONE of these playlists are vetted; there is NO way for you, the artist to know which of these playlists are using bots to juice up songs or not.
And of course, any of the playlist owners you do hit up for a placement will ask for money.
But since DistroKid is merely giving you the contact info only, they look like the good guys giving you a 'way to get heard' without ANY repercussions if you, the artist end up on a botted playlist found through their scraper tool.
It’s a lot easier for them to tell you to stop all promotion efforts via scare tactics like the ones found above than to find meaningful solutions to help you get heard.
And I get it - distributors like DistroKid need to protect against bot streams and indeed weed out the bad actors trying to game the system.
But scaring away legitimate artists investing time and money into honestly promoting their music through legitimate means does nothing but prevent more artists than ever from getting exposure.
It hurts the real companies that work hard to get real results for artists.
A very easy fix to this is to:
1) Avoid all blanket statements that are false and serve only to scare artists
2) Consider helping their customers find legitimate music promotion services with recommendations and educate artists on how to tell if a service gives out fake results or not (instead of us having to write an article to help you!)
Ultimately, these warnings do nothing but scare away artists from getting heard and hurt legitimate companies like us trying to help connect artists with fans in a legitimate way.
Artists We’ve Promoted - Real Case Studies
An easy way to determine if you’re looking at a real or fake music promotion service is their testimonials and case studies.
Does the website proudly display real artists and the results achieved?
Or do you have generic testimonials that are hard to verify?
Let’s go through a few case studies of artists we’ve promoted, step by step. Keep in mind, that we promote the artists in these case studies the exact same way as any artist that purchases from our website - with the same playlists, attention to detail, and strategies.
The first case study is a song we promoted from Kelsey Olivia:
We started out as we do with every artist we get orders from - listen to their song in full, and determine which playlists would be the best possible fit for them.
We then added her to the playlists we had that best fit her music. Then, we closely monitored her Spotify for Artists analytics and made adjustments as needed.
Artists that purchase campaigns from us have the option to provide us with view-only access to their Spotify for Artists account so we can ensure we're giving them the best results by clicking this button on their Boost Collective account dashboard:
As you can see, the stream count is relatively stable over the course of a month - which is indicative of organic, natural growth. Kelsey is seeing consistent listeners from the playlists we added her to:
Whereas when you get bot or fake streams, you usually get a huge bulk of listeners in a short span of time (maybe just days or a week), and then an almost instant drop-off with no residual results (eg. no increase in followers, listeners on other tracks, etc):
As you can see in this screenshot right above, there is no real consistency, but huge swings in stream count day-to-day, rather than the gradual and slow upward climb you get with a real campaign - you don't want to see this.
Sure, fluctuations over WEEKS or MONTHS are fine, but going from almost 2k streams generated on Monday to 289 streams on Thursday is sus.
The goal with our promotion is that through gaining listeners via playlist exposure, you end up getting algorithmic support from Spotify, that keeps the momentum growing long after you were initially added to playlists.
This is exactly what happened with AUGY.
After consistently playlisting him through our playlists, he started to take off - and now, after over 6 months of consistent playlisting, the algorithm has taken over and is now doing all the work:
We're particularly proud of AUGY - when we first met him, he had sub-1,000 monthly listeners on Spotify. He's come a long way - not only lots of talent, but a genuinely fun guy to be around and jam with!
I encourage you to take a step further - actually, DM any of the artists you know who have used Boost Collective before and ask them for their honest thoughts - whether it's AUGY or anyone else.
This is usually the easiest way you can tell if a music promotion company is legit or not.
Any artist with a decent following and fanbase would almost NEVER promote or support a fake music promotion company - either for themselves to use or to recommend to anyone else.
Here’s a running list of just some artists that you could DM on Instagram right now and ask what they think of Boost Collective:
Here's another great success we've been having so far for our guy DMAD. I especially like this one since it shows just how powerful playlisting is - we're still in the stage of pushing him hard with playlists, but you can see, that the Radio is a growing source of streams.
Over time, this song will hopefully get picked up by the algorithm or even a few editorials.
Again, notice that gradual daily stream count - there are no crazy spikes or dips since the song dropped.
Remaining Compliant with Streaming platforms
More than ever before, artists must have trustworthy and reliable 3rd party options for promoting their music.
We get it - all fake and fraudulent bot streaming companies must be stopped (it hurts us too), but clamping down on ALL music promotion services and preventing artists from getting real exposure hurts all independent artists.
As an artist, you should NEVER be limited to only using Spotify's own promotion options. For many artists, they just don't work.
How many times have you tried pitching your music to editorials and got nothing? It's because Spotify will almost always only promote major/signed artists in their editorials. Same with Discovery mode - for more artists, it yields little results.
We think that as an artist, you should have the choice to pay for reliable music promotion from 3rd parties; it should be your right to choose how you can promote your music.
We make big efforts to stay compliant with terms of services so that you can have a worry-free experience with Boost Collective.
Specifically, we work to comply with these rules Spotify sets out for artists:
And we agree with them - anyone guaranteeing you streams is likely a scam.
Boost Collective campaigns DO NOT guarantee streams; we pitch your music to the most relevant playlists that are ad-grown and try our best to have you added. If the pitches don't work or we can't pitch your music for any reason, no hard feelings, we shoot you a full refund.
We have estimated results from past campaigns we are confident in achieving for you, so you can see a ballpark of what you'll see with a Boost Collective campaign - but we remain within the rules.
how to Spot Fake Music Promotion Services
And so now, more than ever before, it's important that you, an artist, know how to tell a fake promotion service from a real one.
There are real companies out there that have seriously helped artists get a foot through the door that is worth trying. Companies that give you REAL exposure, REAL streams, REAL results.
So here's an in-depth guide to know exactly if you're dealing with a real or fake music promotion website:
Check their website - Here's what a legit site has
Look for all of these when you're on a website - a real company will have all of these on their website:
✅ Link to an external reviews page
✅ Easy access to their help center or support email, usually in their FAQ section or footer
✅ Screenshots of actual artist results promoted front and center
✅ Actual testimonials of REAL artists proudly displayed on their page (bonus points if it's a video testimonial), (even more bonus points if it's an artist with a decent following)
✅ A website that functions well and natively on both mobile and desktop
✅ You have to actually search your song and it appears before making a purchase
✅ There is a clearly written-out guarantee or refund policy
✅ A way to log in and check your campaign progress after purchase
As long as the page you're trying to sus out has close to almost ALL of the above, you're going to be okay.
The overall idea is - did this company put a lot of thought or effort into their site (probably legit)? Or does it look like a simple, templated page littered with grammar mistakes and odd peculiarities (probably not legit)?
Do they put faces to the name?
Fake companies generally hide from making any content with themselves (the actual people running it) in it. Real companies tend to have videos on YouTube, TikTok or Instagram with members of their team in them.
social media presence is non-existent or fake
A fake company will either have no followers or social media accounts or accounts with tons of fake accounts, generic content, etc.
It's pretty easy to sus out - just do your research and it becomes pretty clear.
they sell all kinds of numbers or stream counts (eg. Soundcloud promo, Instagram promo)
Companies that sell numbers on other platforms are generally fake and should raise an eyebrow - eg. a company that sells Spotify streams alongside Instagram followers and Facebook Page likes.
The cost is (unbelievably) cheap
Fake promo companies can promise and guarantee a ton of bot streams for a low cost, well, because it's a lot cheaper for them to run a bot farm than an actual business.
Legitimate companies need to spend tens of thousands of dollars (or more) per month building up their promotion infrastructure. This can include:
- Building a trustworthy site and user experience (eg. being able to track your campaigns)
- Paying playlist curators to review, rate, and pitch music to
- Build, manage, and curate playlists and curator relationships
Here are some very suspect-looking results and costs that are almost guaranteed bots or scams:
All legitimate companies have quite similar pricing and results - here are some legitimate agencies and their pricing per results:
The reality is that you'll never make the money back in streaming royalties from a real music promotion campaigns - the point is to increase your discoverability, engage the Spotify algorithm to favor your music, and gain real fans.
The easiest rule of thumb: usually, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
The playlists you were added to are crap
Knowing the quality of playlists is super important in determining if you got added to something legit or not.
This information will be especially useful if you are pitching to playlist curators and want to make sure their playlists are legit.
✅ The playlist you were added to matches your song's vibe and genre
If you got added to an EDM playlist as a Jazz artist - that's a red flag. Have a listen through the playlist and see if it matches the kind of music you have.
Real playlists that get results must be carefully curated to have the right vibe, so if your song doesn't match or the songs on there are all different kinds, the playlist is probably junk.
As a listener of a playlist, why would you listen to a playlist that is all over the place?
Eg. a running playlist should have hype, energetic kind of music. A 'calm studying' playlist should not have heavy metal.
We work hard to ensure you get added to playlists that exactly match to the best of our ability your genre and style - that's how you actually end up getting fans.
✅ The playlist has a crazy amount of songs on it (over 400+)
Got added to a playlist in slot 1,658? Good luck getting streams. If you are getting any, they're probably fake.
We make sure our lists are tight - we almost never have over 200 songs on playlists, and that every customer has at least some time in the top 10-30 slots.
✅ Don't get fooled by high follower counts - it can mean nothing
Playlists that have tons of followers could have fake followers or amassed a ton of followers years ago and have since died in active listeners.
Do not get fooled by followers. Use Spot On Track to analyze a playlist's followers over time - it'll tell you immediately if a playlist is fake or real.
Here's a fake playlist:
This playlist has almost 100k followers on it - but suspiciously has no historical data - meaning it probably amassed a ton of fake followers in a short span of time.
Here's another likely fake playlist:
As you can see, the follower count is FLAT - absolutely no growth except for huge, sudden dips. These dips are from Spotify deleting the fake followers, and then the playlist owner immediately buying more followers to cover up for the loss.
And once the fake followers are added, the count stays exactly flat, since no real people are actually discovering or listening to the playlist.
Here's an example of a REAL playlist:
As you can see, it slowly, gradually gains followers - meaning people are naturally discovering it. This is the organic growth you want to see.
Are All Spotify Playlisting Services Fake?
As I hope you can tell so far by the results I've laid out, you can't group all music promotion services (fake and real) in one bucket.
The skepticism among upcoming artists in the music industry that ALL Spotify playlisting services are inherently fraudulent, employing bots to artificially inflate stream counts - I hope you can now tell - is false.
This misconception stems from the bad apple in the market who have used such tactics, leading to a generalized mistrust of all playlisting services.
The Reality of Playlisting
In truth, legitimate Spotify playlisting services offer a vital avenue for artists to gain exposure and reach new audiences. Playlisting, when done right, is about curating a selection of songs that resonate with the specific tastes of an audience, thereby promoting organic discovery and genuine engagement.
The Importance of Real Audiences
Platforms like our own have emphasized the value of real audiences. They point out that being featured on playlists with actual listeners can lead to organic growth, increased visibility, and potentially attract the attention of music labels and Spotify's editorial team.
This approach is far removed from the notion of bots and fake streams, focusing instead on matching music with the right listeners.
Spotify’s Own Position
Spotify itself, while warning against fraudulent stream-generating practices, does not categorically denounce playlisting services. The platform’s main contention is with services that use bots or other artificial means to generate streams. As long as the playlisting service abides by organic and ethical methods, Spotify recognizes it as a valid promotional tool.
Boost Collective’s Ethical Approach
We like to think that Boost Collective stands out for its commitment to authenticity. We ensure genuine listener engagement, a practice in line with Spotify's guidelines, ensuring that artists get the promotion they deserve without risking their reputation or violating platform policies.
Ultimately, Boost Collective connects LISTENERS with ARTISTS. That’s our Job. We help listeners of Spotify playlists discover RELEVANT music that would best appeal to them, helping listeners discover new talent, and increasing user engagement on Spotify.
The Bottom Line
The narrative that all Spotify playlisting services are fake and bots is a gross oversimplification. While it's crucial to be wary of services offering unrealistic promises, it's equally important to recognize the value of genuine playlisting services. These services play a critical role in music promotion by connecting artists with real audiences, fostering organic growth, and enhancing visibility within the Spotify ecosystem.
Will Spotify Take Down My Music for Using Playlisting Services?
Understanding Spotify's Policies
Spotify's policies are designed to protect both artists and listeners from fraudulent practices, which include the use of bots to artificially inflate stream counts. However, there's often confusion about how these policies apply to playlisting services.
The Distinction Between Legitimate and Illegitimate Services
Spotify distinguishes between legitimate playlisting services, which promote organic discovery and engagement, and those that employ bots or other unethical methods. The former plays a crucial role in the music ecosystem, offering a legitimate pathway for artists to reach new audiences.
The Consequences of Fake Streams
If an artist is found to be using services that generate fake streams, Spotify may take actions like withholding royalties, removing the content, or even suspending the account. These measures are part of Spotify's efforts to maintain a fair and credible platform.
That's why it's so important to do your research and use a trusted source of promotion (see above our recommendations).
How Boost Collective Aligns with Spotify’s Standards
Boost Collective's approach to playlisting aligns with Spotify's standards for organic growth. By focusing on real audience engagement and avoiding the pitfalls of artificial stream inflation, Boost Collective offers a service that not only complies with Spotify's policies but also truly benefits the artists.
Navigating the Promotion Landscape
Artists looking to promote their music on Spotify should seek out playlisting services that emphasize organic growth and audience engagement. By doing so, they can effectively increase their visibility on the platform without the risk of negative repercussions.
Summary: Use Trusted Sources, And You'll Be Fine
The fear that Spotify will penalize artists for using playlisting services is largely unfounded, provided these services are legitimate and ethical. Artists need to be discerning in their choices, opting for transparent services that prioritize genuine listener engagement.
don't get fake streams, ever. it's not worth it.
In its ongoing effort to maintain a fair and authentic music ecosystem, Spotify has been unequivocal in its stance against fake streams. The streaming giant has implemented sophisticated detection systems to identify and penalize those who use or promote fake streaming practices.
Impact on Distributors and Artists
Distributors and artists using bots face serious consequences, including the withholding of royalties and the removal of music from the platform. Spotify's actions are not just punitive; they are part of a broader strategy to protect the integrity of the platform and ensure that genuine talent and effort are rewarded.
Why Bot Usage is Counterproductive
The use of bots is not only ethically questionable but also counterproductive in the long run. Fake streams can lead to a temporary boost in numbers, but they lack real engagement and can harm an artist’s reputation and relationship with both fans and platforms. Real success in the music industry is built on genuine connections and sustained growth.
Boost Collective's Stance Against Bots
Boost Collective aligns with Spotify's stance against bots and fake streams. The company understands that sustainable artist growth is rooted in genuine promotion strategies that attract real listeners. Their methods are designed to enhance an artist’s presence authentically, ensuring compliance with Spotify's policies and fostering long-term success.
The Bigger Picture
Spotify’s actions against fake streams highlight the importance of transparency and authenticity in the music industry. Artists and distributors are encouraged to focus on strategies that create real connections with audiences, a philosophy that Boost Collective champions and incorporates into its suite of services.
How Boost Collective Promotes Artists Organically
Unique Approach to Playlist Promotion
Boost Collective differentiates itself in the music promotion industry by owning and actively managing a network of exclusively ad-driven playlists. This unique approach guarantees that the streams are generated from real users, effectively countering the prevalent issue of bot-generated streams.
We also like to track our customer's Spotify For Artists accounts and monitor the campaign on an ongoing basis to make sure they get the best possible results.
Driving Genuine Traffic through Advertising
A key component of Boost Collective's strategy is the use of targeted advertising to drive traffic to these playlists. This method ensures that the listeners are genuine music enthusiasts, interested in discovering new artists and tracks. The use of ads also allows for reaching a wider, yet still relevant, audience beyond the existing followers of the playlists.
Ensuring Authenticity and Engagement
By focusing solely on playlist promotion and employing advertising to enhance reach, Boost Collective provides a service that is both effective and transparent. This approach ensures that the streams artists receive are from genuine listeners, fostering authentic engagement and growth.
Boost Collective’s specialized focus on playlist promotion through ownership and targeted advertising presents a reliable and ethical alternative in the music promotion landscape. This strategy ensures that artists benefit from real audience engagement, setting a standard for authenticity in the industry.
How to Spot Fake Spotify Streams on Your Music
The integrity of music streaming data is crucial for artists, labels, and platforms alike. Identifying fake streams is essential to maintaining the authenticity of the music promotion process. Here's an in-depth look at how to spot fake streams:
A key indicator of authenticity in streaming data is the streams/saves ratio. Normally, the savings should be around 6-10% of the streams. If the ratio falls to 3% or less, it suggests that the streams might be artificially inflated, likely through bots.
The balance between streams and listeners also provides insights. A solid stream-to-listener ratio is above 2. Above 3 is awesome, and then above 4, and you're most likely going to hit the algorithm on Spotify. Anomalies, such as a high number of streams with a disproportionately low number of listeners, can indicate bot activity, as bots often play a song only once.
The device used for streaming can also reveal discrepancies. Since most music consumption happens via mobile devices, a desktop stream percentage over 20% can be a red flag, suggesting the involvement of bots.
Considering Spotify's user base, premium accounts typically generate more streams than free accounts. A significant skew towards streams from free accounts might raise suspicions of inauthentic streaming activity.
Fans Also Like
The 'Fans Also Like' section on an artist’s profile should typically show similar artists or genres. Discrepancies here, such as unrelated genres or a lack of this section despite a large fanbase, can hint at bot-generated streams.
The authenticity of playlists is crucial. Playlists with many followers but only unknown songs, missing covers, and strange names are suspect. A genuine playlist typically has a balanced ratio of streams to listeners and is curated by someone with a credible profile.
Earlier in the article above we cover what to look for to tell if a playlist is legit or not.
Monthly Listener vs. Follower
The ratio of monthly listeners to followers provides further insights. Generally, followers should be about 5% of the monthly listeners. Deviations from this norm, without a reasonable explanation like inclusion in a major playlist, can be a sign of manipulation.
Listener & Follower Development
The pattern of an artist’s listener and follower growth can indicate authenticity. Abrupt, massive spikes in these numbers might indicate bot use, whereas a slow, steady increase is typical of organic growth.
Origin of Streams
Finally, the geographic origin of streams can be telling. Bot farms often operate from regions where Spotify is not officially available, using VPNs to generate streams. An excessive number of streams from unlikely or obscure locations can be a clear sign of fake streams.
Support the real music promotion services - who we know 100% are running real music promotion
As much as we like to think of these companies I'm about to list below as our competitors, we are on the same team - we all work hard to get you, the artist, exposure.
Fighting against fake and bot streams is a mission we all commonly share. And like us, they are all made up of music lovers and artists, that work full-time to give you the best possible experience.
So, for the good of our industry, I'm going to shout out all the other companies that are doing REAL work to help artists out - all these companies below actively fight bots and any sort of fakery:
That's us! We're based out of Toronto, Canada with an emphasis on serving US and North American artists. You can track your campaign and order more through your Boost Collective account. We'll place your music on playlists quickly, closely monitor your campaign results, and make adjustments as your campaign progresses.
You can also distribute your music to Spotify, Apple Music, and all other major DSP's with your account.
Based out of the US, Omari is a down-to-earth, genuine, and honest guy who's been in the game as long as we can remember. He's great - and his team does a good job at adding you to relevant playlists.
Another European company based out of France, these guys do a good job at offering a submission platform where you buy credits to pitch to curators.
Another solid option that we've tried out and know for sure is that they get solid results.
Please consider supporting any one of us in the list above and help us fight bot streams and fake music promotion services :)
A conclusion: Authentic Music Promotion in a Dynamic Industry
In an era where music promotion is rapidly evolving, distinguishing between genuine and fake services is more crucial than ever.
While skepticism is understandable given the rise of unscrupulous services, companies like Boost Collective are a testament to the integrity and effectiveness of authentic promotion strategies.
By focusing on real audience engagement and ethical practices, Boost Collective, alongside other reputable companies, stands as a bulwark against the tide of fake promotions.
For artists navigating this complex landscape, the key lies in careful research and aligning with services that prioritize genuine growth and audience connection.
I hope you found this at least a bit insightful - keep being awesome, make more music, and happy promoting!