Are streaming farms becoming a part of the Nigerian music ecosystem?


The term "streaming farms" is undoubtedly as well-known as any A-list artist in the Nigerian music industry.

In recent times, Nigeria's music industry has been plagued by a concerning practice known as streaming farms. These clandestine operations, fueled by software bots and an army of smartphones, artificially inflate the play count of songs, gaining significant traction across the nation. While some artists view it as a way to boost their prospects for success, this phenomenon poses a grave threat to the integrity and fairness of Nigeria's music landscape.

The emergence of streaming farms came into the spotlight in 2022 during a Twitter feud between two prominent Nigerian musicians, BNXN (also known as Buju) and Ruger. In the midst of their heated exchange, BNXN accused Ruger of employing streaming farms to amass fabricated streams, sparking a larger debate about the authenticity of their stardom. BNXN expounded on the matter, asserting, "There are streaming farms in Nigeria now. A room where your label bosses pay money to get your songs up by automation, no real fans, no real people, just a facade. Y'all make the people who really work for this bleed and your day is coming."

BNXN's allegations gained further credibility as industry insiders and a shocking report by QZ revealed a Bulgarian collective that defrauded Spotify of $1 million in royalties through the exploitation of streaming farms. This unscrupulous group created fake Spotify accounts and playlists, using bots to generate plays for their songs. These artificially inflated stream counts resulted in higher royalties, deceiving both the streaming platform and the artists involved.

However, the problem extends beyond Spotify alone, as streaming farms have gained traction on Apple Music within Nigeria. Similar methods are employed to manipulate stream counts, propelling songs onto the highly coveted Apple Music Top 100 Nigeria charts.

The utilization of streaming farms presents a grave predicament for Nigeria's music industry. It provides an unfair advantage to artists willing to invest resources in generating fabricated streams, distorting the music market in the process. This unjust practice not only hampers the prospects of genuine artists striving to succeed through talent and dedication but also compromises the overall quality of music produced.

In response to these alarming circumstances, it is crucial for both the Nigerian government and the music industry to take stringent measures to combat the prevalence of streaming farms. Initiatives should prioritize educating artists and record labels about the perils associated with these services. Additionally, robust mechanisms must be devised to detect and penalize individuals caught engaging in these deceitful practices.

Why are Nigerian artists using streaming farms?

One may wonder why Nigerian artists resort to streaming farms. The motivations behind their utilization are multifaceted. Nigeria's music market is fiercely competitive, driving artists to seek ways to elevate their profiles and improve their chances of success. Streaming farms offer a quick and convenient path to achieve these objectives by artificially inflating stream counts for specific songs.

Financial gain also serves as a driving factor. Streaming services compensate artists and record labels based on the number of streams their music accumulates, making artificially inflated stream counts an enticing strategy to boost earnings. In an industry where major players frequently offer lucrative advances, streaming farms provide a means for artists to secure substantial financial gains through inflated numbers, thereby exaggerating their influence.

Moreover, the prevalence of streaming farms allows artists to create an illusion of immense popularity and success. By artificially boosting their streaming statistics, artists can project a false narrative of widespread acclaim, significantly impacting their perceived value in the industry. This inflated perception often leads to more lucrative deals, endorsements, and increased bargaining power when negotiating contracts with labels and promoters.

Lastly, the fear of being left behind can drive certain artists to engage in streaming farms. In an industry where many artists resort to these services, the temptation to participate, even if contrary to personal beliefs, becomes overwhelming. The desire to avoid falling behind becomes a powerful motivation for some artists.

Have streaming farms been normalised?

Regarding the normalisation of streaming farms, perspectives on the matter are subjective. While numerous label executives publicly denounce and disavow the usage of these bots and illicit methods to manipulate the system, they themselves are not entirely exempt from engaging in such practices.

Undeniably, the strategic utilization of streaming farms to amplify rollouts heightens the probability of artist discovery. While this writer abstains from naming individuals, we have witnessed this strategy yield favourable results for several street-pop and hip-hop artists in recent times.

Yet, with industry leaders allocating funds for streaming farms and the considerable number of inquiries made by industry acquaintances, friends, or even myself, regarding these services, it appears that we have reached a juncture where this reprehensible act is veering toward normalization. At present, this writer aligns with the sentiment expressed by Adeayo Adebayo of Pulse Nigeria, positing that streaming farms are comparable to abominable fruit that seemingly everyone is consuming.

What is the future of streaming farms?

The future implications surrounding the usage of streaming farms constitute a fiercely debated topic, featuring compelling arguments on both sides. However, the potential detriments inflicted upon Nigeria's music industry by these services are irrefutable. By inflating stream counts, artists are capable of distorting the market dynamics and enjoying an unfair advantage. This state of affairs impairs the prospects of legitimate artists while concurrently compromising the quality of music produced.

Presently, we are witnessing instances where artists with limited influence and songs featuring marginal appeal ascend the charts, bolstering their positions through the amplification of their accomplishments on Instagram and Twitter blogs, as well as through the efforts of influencers, thereby fostering a buzz within the industry.

The continued employment and exploitation of streaming farms are expected as the competition to retain relevance and unearth new talents intensifies within the industry. Regrettably, until addressed, the predicament posed by streaming farms will persist as a formidable obstacle to the growth and prosperity of Nigeria's music industry.