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Aussie security expert is top of the pops

by on31 October 2013

How to fix your Amazon charts

A Melbourne security professional has sent 'garbage' tunes to the top of online music charts by spoofing track plays. Peter Filimore has accrued hundreds of thousands of plays for his tunes hosted in online music charts, and beaten P!nk, Nicki Minaj, Flume and chart topper album The Heist. He even made $1,000 in royalties in the process.

Filimore compiled music from clunky electronic MIDI files and later by applying algorithms that squashed together public domain audio. He then bought three Amazon compute instances and wrote a simple bash script to simulate three listeners playing his songs 24 hours a day for a month. It didn’t matter that online listeners thought the tunes were horrible. What he was curious about was whether fraud detection mechanisms were used across music services like Spotify, Pandora and CDBaby worked. Needless to say they didn’t.

Telstra's MOG and Spotify would both ban his account early in his research, but Filimore suspected the crackdowns were not automated and someone heard it was made up. Filimore then compiled the tunes from public domain works using Wolfram Alpha and created an album dubbed Kim Jong Christmas. The new music appeared less obviously-fraudulent than the MIDI tunes but its festival carols and blasting 90's techno fusion went down like lead balloon.

But for a cost of about $30, Filimore gain a slow trickle of royalty payments from the fixed resource pool that online streaming services used to pay the many thousands of artists for the clicks their tunes generate. He thinks it was because services lacked automated analysis and instead relied on user reports to detect fraudulent music. Needless to say he is offline now.

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