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Hacker Spoofs Track Plays To Top Music Charts 157

Posted by samzenpus
from the what-is-that-noise dept.
mask.of.sanity writes "Stand aside P!nk, Niki Minaj; you've just been beaten by a music generator. One Aussie security expert curious about the fraud mechanisms at play on streaming services like Spotify uploaded garbage music tracks and directed three Amazon virtual machines to click the play button 24/7 for a month, earning him top spot in online music charts and $1000 in royalties."
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Hacker Spoofs Track Plays To Top Music Charts

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  • by Sockatume (732728) on Thursday October 31, 2013 @05:39AM (#45288979)

    I thought that's where the tunes came from in the first place.

    • by spokenoise (2140056) on Thursday October 31, 2013 @05:51AM (#45289009)
      Yep, all your tunes are belong to us!
    • by 91degrees (207121) on Thursday October 31, 2013 @06:00AM (#45289031) Journal
      Hi grandpa. I think what you meant to say was "It's just noise! It all sounds the same and I can't understand the lyrics. And get of my damn lawn!"
      • by Sockatume (732728)

        In all seriousness, aren't most pop songs written by committee* before the performer gets involved?

        *Admittedly, usually a pretty talented committee

        • by Thanshin (1188877)

          In all seriousness, aren't most pop songs written by committee* before the performer gets involved?

          Would you prefer the committee to sing their own songs or the average singer composing their own songs?

          I don't see much advantage in having the composer and the singer being the same person. I care about the final product.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Yeah me too, but I also like a bit of a variety. It's the same goddamn committee that writes everything, hence everythings sounds the same.

          • by Sockatume (732728)

            Jim Steinman wrote Meatloaf's best work, but Jim Steinman wasn't twelve people.

            • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 31, 2013 @07:11AM (#45289239)

              Jim Steinman wrote Meatloaf's best work, but Jim Steinman wasn't twelve people.

              Proof that you're wrong:

              * "Jim Steinman" is twelve characters.

              * Most people in the music industry could be described as "characters".

              * Therefore "Jim Steinman" is twelve people in the music industry.

              • by Kozz (7764) on Thursday October 31, 2013 @10:35AM (#45290337)

                Jim Steinman wrote Meatloaf's best work, but Jim Steinman wasn't twelve people.

                Proof that you're wrong:

                * "Jim Steinman" is twelve characters.

                * Most people in the music industry could be described as "characters".

                * Therefore "Jim Steinman" is twelve people in the music industry.

                I thought the first impossible phrase that jumped out at me was "Meatloaf's best work".

            • ...but Jim Steinman wasn't twelve people.

              No, but he certainly didn't miss too many meals!

              cheers,

          • by Hognoxious (631665) on Thursday October 31, 2013 @07:32AM (#45289319) Homepage Journal

            Would you prefer the committee to sing their own songs or the average singer composing their own songs?

            I'd prefer them to all fall off a cliff.

            • Here's an amazing thing:

              * YOU are not required to listen to music you don't like.
              * There are MANY people who *DO* like the music you don't like.

              Are you saying that you propose forcing *YOUR* musical taste on everyone else?

              The simple solution is to quit BITCHING about the shit you don't like, and simply ignore it.

              Time to move on.

              • * YOU are not required to listen to music you don't like.

                I go in shops. I travel by public transport. So yes I am.

                * There are MANY people who *DO* like the music you don't like.

                One, argumentum ad populum.

                Two, I'm quite aware of them. They're usually in the same subway car as me, apparently with their headphones inside out.

                So yes, again, I fucking am required to listen to it, you fat nonce.

          • by realityimpaired (1668397) on Thursday October 31, 2013 @08:01AM (#45289405)

            Would you prefer the committee to sing their own songs or the average singer composing their own songs?

            I don't see much advantage in having the composer and the singer being the same person. I care about the final product.

            Since the advent of autotune, most pop acts are not chosen for their ability to sing, they're chosen for their ability to look pretty. There aren't a lot of singer/songwriters in *that* genre, but once you get out of it, you'll find the majority of the *really* good stuff is performed by the same person or people who wrote it: performances are more visceral when the performer has an emotional connection with what they're playing.

            So you can have your fake plastic people performing fake plastic songs. Personally, I'll avoid the pop music genre, and stick with artists who actually deserve the name.

            • So you can have your fake plastic people performing fake plastic songs.

              There are occasionally some really good songs in the plastic everyday trash pop genre too. It might not be good art, but it might be good entertainment. You don't always need the steak with potatoes and salad but just the bag of candy (what an analogy...).

              My rules are only: do anything that you want, but stop this stupid overproducing of albums. Don't record 128 tracks in the DAW just because you can and then apply the kind of dynamic range compression of which only purpose is to fill the audio signal with

              • by drinkypoo (153816)

                There are occasionally some really good songs in the plastic everyday trash pop genre too. It might not be good art, but it might be good entertainment.

                Nah, it's still good art, it's just not as much on the part of the "artist" and more due to the efforts of technicians. Commercial art is still art!

            • by oobayly (1056050)

              So you can have your fake plastic people performing fake plastic songs.

              Nothing wrong with fake plastic trees though.

            • by Whorhay (1319089)

              I think that the performance artist having a closer connection because they also wrote the lyric and tune helps but isn't absolutuley necessary. Just like in acting, a really good performance artist should be able to create that kind of emotional connection to a song when appropriate, even if they didn't write it originally. I get really annoyed when people complain about some band playing music that another composed, and playing it differently. Hell I knew a guy that didn't go to concerts because he didn't

          • by msobkow (48369)

            Maybe so, but I have a lot more respect for a talented artist who comes up with their own lyrics as well as having the pipes to sing them.

            More at issue is "lyrics by committee", which produce the same results as any committee: homogenized crap.

          • Except that all the really good music was written by the bands. Queen wrote their own shit. ZZ Top. Aerosmith. Scorpions (I don't like Scorpions personally, but yeah... okay, they're good). Sonata Arctica. Iron Maiden. Johann Sebastian Bach. Greenday. Lard.

            Compare that to, uh. Bieber. Or Beyonce [yachtclubmag.com].

            • by Nyder (754090)

              Except that all the really good music was written by the bands. Queen wrote their own shit. ZZ Top. Aerosmith. Scorpions (I don't like Scorpions personally, but yeah... okay, they're good). Sonata Arctica. Iron Maiden. Johann Sebastian Bach. Greenday. Lard.

              Compare that to, uh. Bieber. Or Beyonce [yachtclubmag.com].

              You do realize you are comparing rock/metal groups ('cept for Greenday) with pop music, right?

              2 different types of music. Usually 2 different types of fans.

              • Michael Jackson.

              • by mjwx (966435)

                Except that all the really good music was written by the bands. Queen wrote their own shit. ZZ Top. Aerosmith. Scorpions (I don't like Scorpions personally, but yeah... okay, they're good). Sonata Arctica. Iron Maiden. Johann Sebastian Bach. Greenday. Lard.

                Compare that to, uh. Bieber. Or Beyonce [yachtclubmag.com].

                You do realize you are comparing rock/metal groups ('cept for Greenday) with pop music, right?

                Pretty much all good music is rock/metal, thats why he used those examples.

                Very few pop artists actually write their own music, even fewer can sing. All of the very, very rare exceptions I can think of are Latin and I think this is derived from the fact they had to start out as street performers (pretty much like rock bands doing backyard gigs).

                Nine people wrote Baby for Justin Beiber, it took 17 for "imma be" for the black eyed peas, How many did it take for Bohemian Rhapsody? Just one (Freddy Mercur

                • by Nyder (754090)

                  Except that all the really good music was written by the bands. Queen wrote their own shit. ZZ Top. Aerosmith. Scorpions (I don't like Scorpions personally, but yeah... okay, they're good). Sonata Arctica. Iron Maiden. Johann Sebastian Bach. Greenday. Lard.

                  Compare that to, uh. Bieber. Or Beyonce [yachtclubmag.com].

                  You do realize you are comparing rock/metal groups ('cept for Greenday) with pop music, right?

                  Pretty much all good music is rock/metal, thats why he used those examples.

                  Very few pop artists actually write their own music, even fewer can sing. All of the very, very rare exceptions I can think of are Latin and I think this is derived from the fact they had to start out as street performers (pretty much like rock bands doing backyard gigs).

                  Nine people wrote Baby for Justin Beiber, it took 17 for "imma be" for the black eyed peas, How many did it take for Bohemian Rhapsody? Just one (Freddy Mercury). Which one do you think we'll still listen to in another 20 years. Yes I know that Bohemian rhapsody is nearly 40 years old, this is my point, how many people under 25 know who sung "the loco-motion" without googling it? and that was hardly an obscure song/artist. Pop music is mass produced and expires quickly.

                  funny you should mention loco-motion, seeing as the song was written by 2 people, and not by the original singer. If you bothered to do a little checking, Little Eva, who sung the song first, was the babysitter for Carol King, who along with Gerry Goffin (King's husband). So this song you are using as an example, wasn't writing by the singer, but was written for the singer.

                  Nice example.

                  Look, Pop music is different then Rock music. Always has been. Pop music is made to please the most people possible,

                  • by Nyder (754090)

                    And here is how King & Goffin are typical music industry assholes, taken from the wiki:

                    Another bit of the conventional lore is that she had received only $50 for "The Loco-Motion." However, although she never owned the rights to her recordings, it seems $50 was actually her weekly salary during the years she was making records (an increase of $15 from what Goffin and King had been paying her as nanny). In 1971, she moved to South Carolina and lived in obscurity on menial jobs and welfare, until being rediscovered in 1987.[3] She died of cervical cancer in 2003.

                    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Loco-Motion [wikipedia.org]

                    Like I said, great argument to support your side.

        • by rusty0101 (565565)

          "Joe" from Tom Petty. Who needs lyrics when you can find a good looking girl who can play a guitar lick?

      • by Atzanteol (99067)

        You forgot "And they don't have the *meaning* that songs in *MY* day had..."

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      By deus, why is this modded Insightful and not Funny?

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Music generator plus oversexed or overmedicated singer: professional music
      Music generator plus hacker: garbage music

  • OMG (Score:4, Funny)

    by Big Hairy Ian (1155547) on Thursday October 31, 2013 @06:10AM (#45289065)
    What's James Blunt going to do now?????
  • by Joining Yet Again (2992179) on Thursday October 31, 2013 @06:13AM (#45289073)

    This sort of thing is so 1999, however.

    These days most sponsors just trust their ad broker to correctly report genuine clicks and withold payment for fraudulent clicks. Because there would be no incentive for an ad broker to under-report genuine clicks, and underreporting by even 100 clicks per sponsor when you have hundreds of thousands of sponsors won't gain you a couple of extra million dollars here and there.

    • by wvmarle (1070040)

      It is not that most advertisers have much choice than to trust their ad broker. Most web sites sell all their ad space to a single broker, and can't be bothered at all selling ad space directly.

      • I think it's absurd that sponsors don't demand a separation of roles of tracker and broker, with consortium control / a lot of auditing on the first.

        • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Thursday October 31, 2013 @08:33AM (#45289515)

          You've obviously never worked with Marketing people before. It's just one giant clusterfuck of lies. Marketing has to prove their department is worth keeping so they want to inflate the number of clicks they got just as much as the vendor does. Remember the "Got Milk" campaign? One of the largest and most recognized ad campaigns in history and milk sales went DOWN while it was going on. It did more for the stars that showed up in the adds than it ever did for the milk industry.

          • Oh, I've worked with them. They're far better at salesmanship than I'll ever be. I give the client the truth, and the marketing department gives them everything else.

          • by N0Man74 (1620447)

            Remember the "Got Milk" campaign? One of the largest and most recognized ad campaigns in history and milk sales went DOWN while it was going on. It did more for the stars that showed up in the adds than it ever did for the milk industry.

            But just imagine how much more the sales would have gone down without the campaign!

  • by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Thursday October 31, 2013 @06:17AM (#45289089) Homepage

    Hacker (n.) Spoofs (n.? v.?) Track (n.? v.?) Plays (n.? v.?) To (prep.) Top (adj.? v.?) Music (n.) Charts (n.? v.?)

    • by wvmarle (1070040) on Thursday October 31, 2013 @06:32AM (#45289119)

      Learning reading comprehension helps, too. No issues for me understanding what they meant with that headline. And I'm not even a native English speaker.

      Now if it were a sentence like "buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo" I'd understand your problem with it.

      • Now if it were a sentence like "buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo" I'd understand your problem with it.

        Indeed - without the proper noun correctly identified, it's meaningless.

        I could parse it too, but that doesn't mean it's well written. Good communication is mostly the responsibility of the speaker.

      • by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Thursday October 31, 2013 @07:06AM (#45289221) Homepage

        Learning (v.? n.?) reading (v.? n.?) comprehension helps too.

        Gah!

        No issues for me understanding what they meant with that headline. And I'm not even a native English speaker.

        Well, good for you. Maybe it helps that you're not a native English speaker, and are less familiar with the alternate meanings of some words. I happen to have a very good handle on the written word, so maybe that's why I'm overly sensitive to these things.

        My point is not that the headline is more likely to be misread than read correctly (although I suspect this particular one might be), but that ambiguity can and should be avoided regardless.

        • by Ken D (100098)

          So... all words that can take the role of multiple parts of speech should be banned? or what?

          • Who said anything about banning? I'm just suggesting that people who write headlines for online news sites take a little more care and don't string potentially ambiguous words together.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward

          "but that ambiguity can and should be avoided regardless"

          I thought you said you were good with the written word? Certainly you know that no native human language passes as a regular language because they're all horribly ambiguous and context sensitive. So much so, that it really is impossible to avoid. I mean, hell, anything can be turned into an innuendo if you add proper inflection. But on a less dirty area the word "lead", is that a collar, a position in a race, a soft heavy metal? Read, is that som

          • by wonkey_monkey (2592601) on Thursday October 31, 2013 @08:21AM (#45289461) Homepage

            So much so, that it really is impossible to avoid.

            Of course it isn't.

            Ambiguous:

            Prostitues appeal to Pope

            Less ambiguous:

            Prostitues make appeal to Pope

          • by Agent0013 (828350)
            Good point all but for the lead pipe example. A little knowledge of history and you would know that lead was used for pipes back since the Roman days if not before. In fact, people used to grate a block of lead onto their food much like we might do with parmesan cheese nowadays. And the lead poisoning wasn't such a big deal. Well eating it would probably be bad, but for the pipes it wasn't so bad. The hard water deposits coat the inside of the lead pipes and then there is no more lead in the water.
        • My point is not that the headline is more likely to be misread than read correctly (although I suspect this particular one might be), but that (c.? a.?) ambiguity can and should be avoided regardless.

          Ambiguity fail.

        • by mjwx (966435)

          Learning (v.? n.?) reading (v.? n.?) comprehension helps too.

          Gah!

          No issues for me understanding what they meant with that headline. And I'm not even a native English speaker.

          Well, good for you. Maybe it helps that you're not a native English speaker, and are less familiar with the alternate meanings of some words. I happen to have a very good handle on the written word, so maybe that's why I'm overly sensitive to these things.

          My point is not that the headline is more likely to be misread than read correctly (although I suspect this particular one might be), but that ambiguity can and should be avoided regardless.

          His English is fine, the headlines English is fine. Yours is terrible if you cant understand context, which is central to the English language.

          Words in English have multiple meanings and connotation depending on where and how they are used, if you didn't understand what the GP meant by "Learning" and "Reading" then your English is just not up to the task. You seem to be treating English as a language free of ambiguity that only has one definition per word, this is horribly, horribly wrong. Context is imp

      • For today's ten thousand [xkcd.com], to "buffalo" means to bully. "Buffalo" is also the name of a city in New York, and a synonym for bison, so the sentence "Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo" means "Bison from Buffalo (that are bullied by other bison from Buffalo) bully still other bison from Buffalo", or "It's tough being a herd beast in Upstate New York". [wikipedia.org]
    • by Atzanteol (99067)

      Ignore the trolls - this is indeed a *terrible* headline. I had to re-read bits a few times to make sense of it as well. "Track Plays" should probably be in quotes or hyphenated or something to indicate that it's a single "thing."

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Although a good take on the modern music services and how to increase your rank, go back 10 years and hoards of people were paid to buy multiple copies of CDs and prior to that Vinyl. It shows given enough thinking how a modest amount of effort could keep you in pop tarts and coffee.

    • hoards of people were paid to buy multiple copies of CDs

      How can you buy CDs when you're in a big heap with a dragon sitting on top?

    • by Dogtanian (588974)

      go back 10 years and hoards of people were paid to buy multiple copies of CDs and prior to that Vinyl

      That's certainly true; it's been going on since the 60s, apparently. In the late-80s heavy metal spoof "More Bad News", they go into two shops and buy multiple copies of their own record. [wikipedia.org]

      However, bear in mind that if they were caught doing this (something that they supposedly cracked down on from the 80s onwards) they were likely to be banned from the charts- something that was also parodied in More Bad News when their manager tells them they've been banned because "some idiot apparently" went into a shop

  • by IamTheRealMike (537420) <mike@plan99.net> on Thursday October 31, 2013 @06:27AM (#45289107) Homepage

    The fact that services don't have automated play de-spamming system should not come as a big surprise, given the pathetic earnings available. That's not research worth doing. But the outcome is - just $1000 for a track being played 24/7? No wonder artists all think Spotify is a sick joke. They won't have to automate anti-abuse systems until the amount they're dishing out to artists goes way, way beyond that paltry amount. It's not even worth gaming their charts right now.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 31, 2013 @06:46AM (#45289159)

      $1000 for just three "listeners" playing the songs 24/7 for a month. That's 3*30*24=2160hours, so about 50ct per hour played. 50ct is probably more than the royalties on a single CD which the buyers can play as often as they like. If I had 50ct for every hour someone used my software, I'd be a rich man.

      • by MiniMike (234881) on Thursday October 31, 2013 @09:13AM (#45289709)

        The actual amount earned in the study is arbitrary. He could have just as easily set up more virtual machines and multiplied the amount, if those were the only source. Also it's not clear if the payment was only from his clicks, or if it includes clicks from unsuspecting listeners who were drawn by the artificially high rating, so your calculation of 50 cents may be off.

      • "If I had 50ct for every hour someone used my software, I'd be a rich man."

        Me too, and I then could use the money to hide from the people who had to use my software for hours...

        Ask Bill G about people continuously buying software in the silly hope that it will stop wasting their time (Ok, not so silly anymore, XP and 7 are decent OSes for the casual user)

    • by sootman (158191) on Thursday October 31, 2013 @11:34AM (#45290911) Homepage Journal

      > $1000 for a track being played 24/7? No wonder
      > artists all think Spotify is a sick joke.

      Old news. Check out this chart [mashable.com] from 3 years ago.

      Another fun fact: Spotify has 20 million songs. Twenty percent of them -- four million songs -- have never been played. [marketingland.com]

    • by jovius (974690)

      From our small indie label recent listings: Spotify stream play unit compensations go from $0.0004 to about $0.009. Spotify easily creates most of the plays however. Imagine artists who get only fraction of that because of royalty agreements... Spotify is a great site for music discovery.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Avril Lavigne was doing this before it was cool.

  • by Bruce66423 (1678196) on Thursday October 31, 2013 @06:44AM (#45289149)
    Once upon a time it was possible to raise your position in the charts by buying the record in the shops that reported sales, and there was a small industry dedicated to this... Good to see certain traditions haven't been killed by computers!
    • (And then returning them to the stores that don't)

    • Don't forget the trick of packaging 2 copies of the music into one disc case, so that a single album sale counted as two. The "top seller" metrics have always been gamed one way or another. If anything is surprising about this research, it's that no one else was already gaming the system this way; if someone were I doubt he would have achieved the number one spot so easily.

  • by jamesh (87723)
    garbage [youtube.com]
  • Gaining money (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 31, 2013 @06:45AM (#45289155)

    Actually earning money by doing that is only possible because of a bad compensation model. Currently they just lump all the money from users into a big pile, and then divide that pile by the percentage amount of how much each artist was played. This screws the smaller artist over, because they get nothing, this leads to them dropping away from these kinds of services eventually.

    I pay spotify $5 per month. If I listen to only one artist, that artist should get all my money(minus spotify cut). If I listen to nobody, my money should be divided like it is now. If I listen to 5 different artists, my money should be divided amongst them. That way I would actually support the artists that I like, and not lady gaga and justin bieber and random hackers.

    • Re:Gaining money (Score:5, Interesting)

      by hairyfish (1653411) on Thursday October 31, 2013 @08:16AM (#45289447)
      Seems odd they they can't adopt your model, I mean they have logs of every song played by which users so it should be trivial to allocate each user's contribution directly to the artists. In fact they could take it a step further and have user charts to see who gave the most money to which artist, then fans could compete with each other to see who is the biggest fan by who pays their favourite artist the most. Then the artist could reward their biggest fans with a phone call or something or a back stage pass. The technology is there to make this work, fans win, the artists win, if only the money grubbers that own the copyrights had more interest in making it work.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Those logs are for the NSA only.

    • That is exactly what they do, only rounding is involved. $60 minus spotify rounds to zero.

      Or are you saying a $45 payment for a year would make a difference?

      Depending on the people involved, it may take $1000 to $5000 to mean anything.

      The current method allows adding obscure and unknown acts, with a reasonable threshold built in naturally.

      Most importantly, the payments are not for services rendered. This is how all of the music industry works, and they run risks on angering the MAFIAA. Imperfect compensatio

  • Was the sound from "Metal Machine Music"?

  • Story (Score:5, Informative)

    by Barny (103770) <bakadamage-slashdot@yahoo.com> on Thursday October 31, 2013 @07:01AM (#45289203) Homepage Journal

    The poster should probably have linked this http://youtu.be/PomBYSELEPE [youtu.be] which is the guy himself giving his talk on what he did and why.

    Some funny stuff.

    • by PPH (736903)
      I didn't understand the part about "I'm never gonna give you up."
  • I'm guessing the answer is "no", but other than running a zombie network, could he have actually made a profit at this? Or are the EC2 instances more expensive than the compensation he got for it?

    • In addition to the other guy's comment, spotify pays around half a cent per streamed track. So currently the answer seems to be "yes". Which is kind of absurd, but interesting. There are lots of shady ways to make money though. Probably best not to think too much about them.

  • by msobkow (48369) on Thursday October 31, 2013 @07:57AM (#45289387) Homepage Journal

    You mean you can stuff an internet ballot box?

    The shock! The horror!

    You mean the internet can be full of fraud and lies?!?!?!

    Who'd a thunk it. :P

  • by damn_registrars (1103043) <damn.registrars@gmail.com> on Thursday October 31, 2013 @10:02AM (#45290031) Homepage Journal
    All he needed to add was some random monologue (preferable to be very angry monologue) and it would fit right in with the top 40.
  • by kju (327) on Thursday October 31, 2013 @11:27AM (#45290829)

    At least his latest album is still available, and you can hear 30 seconds out of 31 seconds of each track here: http://www.7digital.com/artist/kim-jong-deux/release/a-kim-jong-christmas [7digital.com]

    Maybe I'm crazy but I actually found the music not too bad. It's weird music but it seems to have something...

    • by kju (327)

      Addendum: And really, the "un-holiday party mix" is nearly on-par with some of the electronic shit popular these days. Rerecord it with better samples and maybe add some effects and nobody would think it is a troll track.

  • People love Shirley Manson. She truly is talented and beautiful. What's not to like?

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