“The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.” — Dr. Hunter S. Thompson
Google recently stripped over two billion views away from videos uploaded by major labels RCA, Sony, and Universal. The embarrassing punishment comes after YouTube discovered the record companies had made arrangements with services like Fiverr that specialize in falsely boosting the popularity of content.
That practice runs directly against YouTube’s policies, which clearly state “the purchase or gaming of subscribers, views or any other channel feature” to be a violation of its terms of service. “If views from a video are considered artificially inflated — whether as a result of spam, malware bots and other suspicious or non-user initiated actions — the video and/or channel may be suspended,” it says. And inflated they were: Universal instantly lost over one billion views. Sony’s overall count plunged from 850 million all the way down to 2.3 million. RCA saw a less drastic (but equally humbling) fall from 159 million views to 120 million.
So far as I can tell, Fiverr does not actually specialize in this sort of thing, though it’s not inconceivable that there are Fiverr users who watch videos endlessly as part of their gigs. And I suspect that there are other factors involved:
In a strategic move, Universal, Sony and EMI in 2009 jointly put their music videos in the VEVO basket with the belief that by aggregating the videos, they could command better advertising rates as well as grow viewership.
That meant high-profile videos that once lived separately on the Universal and Sony YouTube channels have been relocated to VEVO. As a result, the views that those videos received during their time on the dedicated label channels were taken away in YouTube’s latest “clean up” effort.
So how many of those vanishing views are due to VEVO, and how many to finagling? YouTube, of course, isn’t talking.