Inside ‘Black Market’ Where Artists Can Pay for Millions of Streams

Inside ‘Black Market’ Where Artists Can Pay for Millions of Streams


The music industry is famous for being hyper-competitive, but in the summer of 2019, the biggest companies — from major labels to streaming services — briefly united around a common cause: signing a code of conduct condemning streaming manipulation, a practice that inflates artists’ numbers on platforms like Spotify and Apple Music and potentially reduces payouts for smaller acts.

“Streaming manipulation has been an unfortunate blight on the industry over the past few years,” declared John Phelan, director general of the International Confederation of Music Publishers. “There is a black market for pay-for-play.”

Not long after the code of conduct was signed, various members of the Blueprint Group — a high-powered management and distribution company that works with…



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