No, The Major Labels Didn't Fake 2 Billion YouTube Views
from the manipulations... dept
The record labels have a long history of knowing how to manipulate key numbers to their advantage. Look how labels have manipulated the various charts over the years and you’ll find that it’s a big part of how they do business. So it probably struck little by surprise to hear that the labels were now being accused of massively manipulating YouTube view counts to make certain songs look a hell of a lot more popular than they really are. The only problem? It’s not actually true.
The DailyDot — who normally does a fantastic job — broke the story that got most of the attention, reporting:
Google slashed the cumulative view counts on YouTube channels belonging to Universal Music Group, Sony/BMG, and RCA Records by more than 2 billion views Tuesday, a drastic winter cleanup that may be aimed at shutting down black hat view count-building techniques employed by a community of rogue view count manipulators on the video-sharing site.
Universal’s channel is the one that took the biggest hit. According to figures compiled by the YouTube statistics analysts at SocialBlade, the record company’s YouTube channel lost more than 1 billion views from its preexisting tally of 7 billion views Tuesday.
Lots of other publications then picked up on the Daily Dot version and suddenly the story was everywhere — in particular claiming that the labels were being punished for faked video views. Only problem? That’s not really true. The report suggests that YouTube has begun a big campaign against view inflation by YouTube users across the board. That part is true. But the untrue part is that the major labels were faking so many views. Instead, it turns out that most of the issue was just that the labels had moved their videos from YouTube to Vevo — the online video site that the labels had started a few years ago (built on top of YouTube technology). As Billboard notes, the “de-spamming” effort did delete about 1.5 million views from Sony and Universal Music videos — so there may be some funny business, but that’s tiny compared to the 2 billion views that disappeared. But the reason those went away was much more mundane:
The answer comes in the second way that YouTube changed its view count. The company recently decided to remove view counts for videos that are no longer live on the channel, or so-called “dead videos.” For Universal and Sony, that meant thousands of music videos that over the past three years slowly have migrated to the VEVO channel, which is jointly owned by the two companies. A senior label executive confirmed the migration….
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.
In other words, those views happened; they weren’t “faked” or even double counted when they went on to Vevo. But because the videos are no longer on the channel, YouTube considers them “dead videos.” They still live on in YouTube, just under a different channel.
Considering how many people have been sending this story over, I know lots of people would like to believe Sony Music and Universal Music faked 2 billion views and were now being punished for it, but it’s just not the case.