I Call Bullsh*t on Your Mixtape’s Download NumbersPosted by Nathan S. on 06/27/11 | Filed under Top Stories, Features
For the record, I use the term "bullshit" lovingly. I truly believe most artists who pass around these figures are simply young, don't know any better and are so eager for proof of their popularity that they don't question where these numbers are coming from. There are some, though, who do know better and are d-bags. Let's start with the now infamous (in rap blog circles) example of Bow Wow's "Green Light 2" mixtape.
Despite the fact that no one cares about Bow Wow anymore, the project had next to no promotion and he released it without any support from a major site, Mr. Wow claimed that his mixtape had garnered 1.1 million downloads in just 24 hours, a statement that's so insane it actually makes my head hurt. Long story short, if Bow could get that many downloads in such a short time he wouldn't be releasing random fucking mixtapes - Jay-Z would be asking him for a guest feature.
More specifically, the mixtape was put out via LimeLinx and hosted by DJ Ill Will and DJ Rockstar, who I obviously have no hesitation in calling out. Like WSHH's video counts, LimeLinx is the worst offender when it comes to bogus download counts.
Sadly that kind of Bow Wow fuckery has become the norm, with artists routinely claiming 50,000, 100,000 or even 500,000 downloads. Everyday I get at least one "yo, check out my mixtape, it got 97,000 downloads!" from some rapper I've never heard of. Sorry guy, but no it doesn't.
The most common way of gaming the system is to either set the counter to automatically increase, regardless of actual traffic, or count pageviews instead of downloads. That allows someone to simply hit refresh on their browser and rack up the "downloads" on their project. The easiest way to test this is to simply find a page with a download counter, hit refresh, and see if the number jumps.
Let's use a real example. I'll go over to DatPiff and look at their homepage. Hmmm...I've never heard of Kid Ink and his "Daydreamer" mixtape has over 25,000 downloads. (Absolutely no shots at Kid Ink, his project was literally the first that caught my eye on the homepage.) Let's take a look at the numbers:
And now I refresh my browser.....
So in the literally two seconds it took my browser to refresh 60 people visited the page, 18 listened to the project and 14 downloaded it? Those aren't astronomical numbers, but they're pretty hard to believe. And if that was just a few seconds you can see how a project could rack up 500K in just a few days. Again, I don't want to make it seem like I'm calling out Kid Ink personally, he likely has no idea what's going on, but this is pretty indicative example of the current state of the game.
The problem with these inflated numbers is two fold. First, it makes artists think they're far more successful than they are. I know I sound like a dream crusher here, but I don't want to see people quitting their jobs thinking they've got millions of fans when in reality they've only got a few hundred. In the end it's better to have a real sense of your popularity. And two, it does a disservice to everyone who operates legit. When it looks like anyone can throw out a mixtape and get 20K downloads it makes artists who may be actually more successful, but more honest, look like failures.
So what are realistic numbers? Honestly, if you're a relatively unknown artist 1,000 downloads is a success. For a thousand people to ignore everything else that's going on and take the time to listen to your music, that's huge. A really successful project from a new artist, or a moderately good one from a mid-level artist, might hit the 20,000 range. And if you are getting around 50,000 legit downloads trust me, the major labels (who only follow real numbers) will be blowing up your phone.
There. If that makes just one artist decide to not to release a project off LimeLinx, or stops one artist from sending me a "I got 100K downloads in four minutes!" email this will have been worth it. This fuckery has to stop.
UPDATE: I knew this would happen when I wrote the piece, so to emphasize again...this article is not about Kid Ink. I literally picked his project at random. Are his numbers legit? I don't know - at a glace they look unrealistic and the screenshots above are in real time, but ultimately I have proof and no real idea. Regardless, to focus on Ink would be to miss the point of the article. This isn't about one site or one artist, this is about an epidemic.