An anonymous reader shares a report: The Billboard charts have long been the gold standard by which musicians measure their success, but as recent tantrums by the likes of Nicki Minaj have highlighted, the rising influence of streaming services is upending that model — and giving die-hard fans a way to manipulate the data. A recent release by the Korean pop group BTS prompted its superfandom, millions strong across the globe, to do just that by launching a sophisticated campaign to make sure the boy band reached No. 1. The strategy employed by the so-called BTS Army went largely like this: Fans in the US created accounts on music streaming services to play BTS’s music and distributed the account logins to fans in other countries via Twitter, email, or the instant messaging platform Slack. The recipients then streamed BTS’s music continuously, often on multiple devices and sometimes with a virtual private network (VPN), which can fake, or “spoof,” locations by rerouting a user’s traffic through several different servers across the world. Some fans will even organize donation drives so other fans can pay for premium streaming accounts. “Superfans of pop acts have long been doing this sort of thing,” said Mark Mulligan, managing director of the digital media analysis company MIDIA Research. “But if a superfan has decided to listen nonstop to a track, is that fake? If so, how many times do they have to listen to a track continuously before it is deemed
‘fake’?” One BTS fan group claimed it distributed more than 1,000 Spotify logins, all to make it appear as though more people in the US were streaming BTS’s music and nudge their album Love Yourself: Tear up the Spotify chart, which in turn factors into Billboard’s metrics.
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