Monday 15 October 2018

Beta digital column

Don't let the web bots fool you

Niall Byrne

'Don't believe the hype." It's a phrase bandied about in many situations when it comes to new music.

Hype used to come from press reviews, hyperbolic magazine articles in the lead up to a release. Now it includes metrics from the world of online. Youtube view counts, Facebook likes, follower numbers on Instagram and Soundcloud plays are all signifiers of the modern music cycle. We're all guilty of it. Hell, I'm referencing the same thing this week.

These numbers impress the industry who are looking for self-starting bands with readymade fan-bases that they can take and market to a larger audience and make money from. These numbers legitimise the content, the new artist in question. We don't want to get left out of the conversation. So we participate in the views so we don't get left behind. But this system can be gamed. That is what we must remember. Sites like Ytview offer Youtube counts, likes, subscribers, comments and more. Fake and real Twitter followers to boost your numbers are offered on SocialFormula. A multitude of sites offer Facebook Likes as a commodity. And Soundcloud? Even that's not immune. Cloud Dominator and Soundcloud Manager are services which claim to increase plays through automatic bot behaviours.

In April this year, Kevin Ashton showed just how easy it is to dupe people with a Twitter account called Santiago Swallow that utilised a mashup of three different faces for the avatar, cunningly placed a follow tick in the header image and generated tweets using pre-assigned keywords. He then bought followers on and in under 12 hours, Ashton had a score of 754 on Kred, a site which tracks social influence of social media users. Thousands of genuine users followed the account, wondering exactly what was going on. No doubt these tactics have been used to kickstart many a campaign to create a certain level of base activity in order to convince real people of a song or video's virality. It's already happened in Ireland with Jacob Povolotski, a self-proclaimed "meme-troller" who artifically generated millions of views for his terrible rap song Yasha Swag earlier this year. The song was picked up by outlets like who wrote about its popularity.

When it comes to online hype, just remember, trust your ears, your eyes and your brain. It's the art that's the message not the medium. Don't automatically believe the hype.

Irish Independent

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