In yesterday’s post about the Hot Songs of Summer 2013, I noted that some songs were attracting a very passionate fan base. In particular, the song Miss Movin’ On by Fifth Harmony was an extreme outlier, attracting more than twice the number of plays per listener than any other song.
Based on this data I suggested that the Fifth Harmony was going places – such high passion among their listeners was surely indicative of future success. But now I am not so sure. Shortly after I made that post I learned that our crack data team here at The Echo Nest were already on to some Fifth Harmony shenanigans. Yes, Fifth Harmony is getting lots of plays, but many of these plays are due to an orchestrated campaign. Fifth Harmony fans are encouraged to go to music streaming sites such as Spotify and Rdio and stream Miss Movin’ On (aka MMO) 24/7. Here are some examples:
There are a number of twitter accounts that are prompting such MMO plays. The campaign seems to be working. 5H is moving up in the charts. Just take a look at the top songs on Rdio this week, Miss Movin’ On is number two on the list:
But what effect is this campaign really having on Fifth Harmony? Perhaps Fifth Harmony’s position on the charts is a natural outcome of their appeal, and is not a result of a small number of fans that stream MMO 24/7 with their computers and iPhones on mute. Can we see the effect that The Harmonizers are having? And if so, how substantial is this effect? The answer lies in the data, so that’s where we will go.
Can we see the effect of the Harmonizers?
The first thing to do is to take a look at the listener play data for MMO and compare it to other songs to see if there are any tell-tale signs of a shilling campaign. To do this, I selected 9 other songs with similar number of fans that appeal to a similar demographic as MMO. For each of these songs I ordered the listeners in descending play order (i.e. the first listener is the listener that has played the song the most) and plotted the number of plays per listener for the 10 songs.
As you can see, 9 out of 10 songs follow a similar pattern. The top listeners of a song have around a thousand plays. As we get deeper into the listener ranks, the number of plays per listener drops off at a very predictable rate. The one exception is Fifth Harmony’s Miss Movin’ On. The effect of the Harmonizers is clearly seen. The top plays are skewed to greatly inflate the total number of plays by two full orders of magnitude. We can also see that the number of listeners that are significantly skewing the data is relatively small. Beyond the top 200 most active listeners (less than 0.5 % of the Fifth Harmony listeners in the sample), the listening pattern for MMO falls in line with the rest of the songs. It is pretty clear that the Harmonizers are really having an effect on the number of plays. It is also clear that we can automate the detection of such shilling by looking for such non-standard listening patterns.
Update – a reader has asked that I include One Direction’s Best Song Ever on the plot. You can find it here.
How big of an impact do the Harmonizers have on the overall play count?
The Harmonizers are having a huge impact. 80% of all track plays of Miss Movin’ On are concentrated into just the top 1% of listeners. Compare that to the other 9 tracks in our sample:
Percentage of listeners that account for 80% of all plays
|Fifth Harmony – Miss Movin’ On||1.0|
|Lorde – Royals||14.0|
|Karmin – Acapella||16.0|
|Anna Kendrick – Cups||17.0|
|Taylor Swift – 22||14.0|
|Icona Pop – I love it||15.0|
|Birdy – Skinny Love||25.0|
|Lana Del Rey – Summertime Sadness||15.0|
|Christina Perri – A Thousand Years||21.0|
|Krewella – Alive||17.0|
A plot of this data makes the difference quite clear:
I estimate that at least 75% of all plays of Miss Movin’ On are overplays that are a direct result of the Harmonizer campaign.
What effect does the Fifth Harmony campaign have on chart position?
It is pretty easy to back out the overplays by finding another song that has a similarly-shaped plays vs listener rank curve once we get beyond past the first 1% of listeners (the ones that are overplaying the track). For instance, Karmin’s Acapella has a similar mid-tail and long-tail listener curve and has a similar audience size making it a good proxy. It’s Summer Time rank was 378. Based on this proxy, MMO’s real rank should be dropped from 45 to around 375. This means that a few hundred committed fans were able to move a song up more than 300 positions on the chart.
The bottom line here is that an organized campaign for very little cost has harnessed the most passionate fans to substantially bolster the apparent popularity of an artist, making the artist appear to be about 4 times more popular than it really is.
What does this all mean for music services?
Whenever there’s a high-stakes metric like chart position some people will try to find a way to game the system to get their stuff to the top of the chart. Twenty years ago, the only way to game the charts was either by spending lots of money buying copies of your record to boost the sales figures, or bribe radio DJs to play your songs to boost radio airplay. With today’s music subscription services, there’s a much easier way to game the system. Fans and shills need to simple play a song on autorepeat across a a few hundred accounts to boost the chart position of a song. Fifth Harmony proves that if you have a small, but committed fan base, you can radically boost your chart position for very little cost.
Obviously, a music service doesn’t like this. First, the music service has to pay for all those streams, even if no one is actually listening to them. Second, when a song gets to the top of a chart through shilling and promotion campaigns, it reduces the listening enjoyment for those who use the charts to find music. Instead of finding a new song that got to the top of the chart based solely (or at least mostly) on merit, they are listening to a song that is a product of a promotion machine. Finally, music services that rely on user play data to generate music recommendations via collaborative filtering have a significant problem trying to make sure that fake plays don’t improperly influence their recommendations.
So what can be done to limit the damage to music services? As we’ve seen, it is pretty easy to detect when a song is being overplayed via a campaign and these overplays can be removed. Perhaps even simpler though is to rely on metrics that are less easily gamed – such as the number of fans a song has instead of the total number of plays. For a music subscription service that has a credit card number associated with each user account, the number of fans a song has is a much harder metric to hack.
What does this say about Fifth Harmony fans ?
I am always happy when I see people getting excited about music. The Fifth Harmony fans are really excited about Miss Movin’ On, the tour and the upcoming album. Its great that the fans are so invested in the music that they want to help the band be successful. That’s what being a fan is all about. But I hope they’ll avoid trying to take their band to the top by a shortcut. As they say, it’s a long way to the top if you want to rock n’ roll. Let Fifth Harmony earn their position at the top of charts, don’t give them a free ride.
And finally, a special message to music labels or promoters: If you are trying to game the music charts by enlisting hundreds of pre-teens and teens to continuously stream your one song: screw you.
Update – I’ve received **lots** of feedback from Harmonizers – thanks. A common theme among this feedback is that the fan activities and organization really are a grassroots movement, and there really is no input from the labels. Many took umbrage with my suspicions that the label was pulling the strings. I remain suspicious, but less so than before. My parting ‘screw you’ comment was in no way directed at the 5H fans, it was reserved for the mythical music label marketeer who I imagined was pulling the strings. I’m hoping to dig in a bit deeper to understand the machinery behind the 5H fan movement. Expect a follow up article soon.
#1 by 5H on September 13, 2013 - 3:05 pm
MMO Music Video = 9,372,981 views (July15) / Royals Music Video = 9,725,584 (June 18).
MMO #34 Radio.
MMO 1st week: 37,000 digital.
On US iTunes charts, Miss Movin’ On peaked at number 1 in music videos and number 19 in US singles
Yeah, BB Hot 100 is all about streams…
#2 by Paul on September 13, 2013 - 3:16 pm
never said it was all about streams. As you know the Harmonizers are also playing youtube videos 24/7, are calling and texting radio station request lines, and pre-ordering and double pre-ordering the album.
#3 by 5H on September 13, 2013 - 3:26 pm
so you mean that Harmonizers are manipulating streams, sales and radio stations? Ok then …
#4 by Paul on September 14, 2013 - 8:51 am
yes. Based on the traffic on the twitter update accounts, I see that fans are calling into radio stations, and pre-ordering the album to help boost 5H.
#5 by 5H on September 14, 2013 - 9:10 am
“calling into radio stations, and pre-ordering the album to help boost 5H”. C-A-L-L-I-N-G I-N-T-O R-A-D-I-O S-T-A-T-I-O-N-S, P-R-E-O-R-D-E-R-I-N-G- T-H-E A-L-B-U-M? You do realise how ridiculous you’re sounding right?
#6 by Paul on September 14, 2013 - 9:20 am
5h – hah – yes – i posted that comment before I finished my thought. Of course there is nothing wrong with fans calling into radio shows and pre-ordering an album. But when it is a campaign, even if it is totally fan organized, it is still manipulation.
#7 by 5H on September 14, 2013 - 10:14 am
Ok, I’m done.You clearly know absolutely NOTHING about “fandoms”. Manipulating: https://twitter.com/CodySimpson/status/351811435170504704
#8 by Paul on September 14, 2013 - 10:17 am
5h – I don’t understand your point
#9 by kianna cornelious on September 13, 2013 - 3:30 pm
I’m a fan of them and this is very true we want them to be on the top but saying screw you is wrong we just want them to have the best
#10 by Paul on September 13, 2013 - 3:38 pm
Hi Kianna – sorry, I was unclear, the ‘screw you’ is not meant for harmonizers. It is meant for commercial music promoters that try to engage fans to do their work for them.
#11 by Connie on September 13, 2013 - 4:31 pm
The label has never enlisted any fans. We are just passionate fans who are willing to do anything to help out 5 talented, humble individuals. I’m sorry to see you write about our fandom in such a negative fashion; but I assure you, we are not the only fandom to stream songs. How unfortunate to have stumbled upon this. We will just have to continue to work hard and preservere. The girls deserve it.
#12 by awsomeolives on September 13, 2013 - 4:39 pm
It’s unfortunate that our fandom is picked apart in this fashion. I understand your interest to investigate, but I find it unfair that we are once again being singled out and somewhat bullied against. I apologize, but we are very passionate fans who are willing to do anything to ensure these 5 talented, humble individuals succeed. They (and we) have to work so much harder to get nearly any recognition. And I assure you, there are other fandoms who does streaming as well, it is not just us. I’m saddened to have stumbled upon this. I’m glad their single sold fairly well, so they aren’t just written off. Lastly, I want to point out that the label never once enlisted any of our help to promote the girls. We did this all on our own because we acknowledge that hard work pays off (albeit being overzealous). It may backfire on us, but it’s still a reflection of our dedication. Thank you for reading.
#13 by Paul on September 14, 2013 - 8:24 am
awsomeolives – thanks for the feedback. Yes, 5h fans are passionate, that’s a great thing. I’ve heard from many folks now that the label has not been involved in the fan promotion campaign. I’ve updated my post to reflect that. — Paul
#14 by awsomeolives on September 13, 2013 - 4:56 pm
Sorry, thought my first message didn’t go through, so I re-typed. =)
#15 by divalllyy on September 13, 2013 - 3:37 pm
So when smilers, directioners, and beliebers do it it’s ok, we have worked our asses of, requesting the song, buying it, and promoting these girls. I will fuck you up.
#16 by Paul on September 13, 2013 - 3:39 pm
Fifth Harmony – putting the ‘harm’ in harmony since 2013.
#17 by divalllyy on September 13, 2013 - 3:41 pm
What the actual fuck
#18 by Sally on September 13, 2013 - 3:51 pm
what are you trying to say?
#19 by Paul on September 14, 2013 - 8:26 am
divallyy – what am I saying? I’m just making a little joke about you harming me since you threatened me. That’s all. — Paul
#20 by AngelEEca (@fizzharomy) on September 13, 2013 - 3:40 pm
shout out to mah haterz:i go to one of the most expensive schools in miami on an academic scholarship #sorryboutit
#21 by no on September 13, 2013 - 3:53 pm
SO MUCH EVIL IN THE WORLD!!!!!!!!!! LETS KILL FIFTH HARMONY AND THEIR STUPID ASS FANS.
#22 by MsHarmonizer on September 13, 2013 - 3:58 pm
Hey Paul. I really appreciate you took time to investigate and do your research on the matter. I took some time too to read your article so please, read what I have to say. I find that your article is well written and in some ways I understand where you’re coming from.
I just want to clarify that 5H promoters/managers/label in NO WAY had tried to get us to do things for the girls. We, harmonizers, as you can probably tell are a very dedicated fan base and WE try our best to promote the girls in every decent, proper, legal way we can. Not because they tell us, but because we admire they work, their vocals and charisma. That being said, I believe that overplaying a song to get it on the top so others can potentially notice it isn’t bad. I see it as promotion. It doesn’t hurt anybody. Smilers, directioners, beliebers and selenators do it with VEVO, in ways much more outrageous. They don’t get called out on it because it isn’t bad either. It doesn’t hurt anybody. It’s just promotion.
Another thing I’d like to mention is, Fifth Harmony’s success hasn’t come off those streams, as much as we’d love to. Sales and radio play are minimally affected by our efforts. We try to do our best requesting but, let’s face it: the radio airplay position Miss Movin On has as of right now isn’t solely based on our requests. Please don’t take the song credit away. I guess what I’m trying to say is yes, we overplay the song for promotional purposes but the song itself has earned its current status. Not everything is manipulated and Fifth Harmony has great talent. We’re just trying to give them a push, not a shortcut. Thank you.
#23 by Paul on September 13, 2013 - 4:27 pm
Thanks for the thoughtful reply. I indeed appreciate fans and fandom, and have been a music fan all my life. I do wonder whether managers or labels had any hand in this. Some of the twitter accounts that were encouraging 24/7 plays looked very official to me. I certainly understand fans wanting to help boost their favorite artist, and I’m not criticizing them at all. I don’t like the idea of paid music marketers enlisting fans in an astroturf campaign. I don’t have any direct evidence of that taking place but I worry that it might be.
As a music data company, our job is to look at all the data that is out there about music and use it to help understand music and music fans. Seeing fan armies like the Harmonizers tells us much about how much passion 5H fans have for the group. But we also need to make sure that we take organized campaigns into account when we try to make sense of the data. This article is all about trying to understand why MMO was such an outlier in our data. Not a criticism of the fans or the group, just a somewhat detached analysis of data.
#24 by dani (@harmonoodle) on September 13, 2013 - 4:34 pm
No, Paul. These accounts you call official are actually FAN update accounts. Fifth Harmony, Epic Records, and Syco Records have not even mentioned Rdio. We do it ourselves as promotion.
#25 by S on September 13, 2013 - 4:46 pm
I can see where you might fear that music marketers are using fans to boost their artists but I can assure you that is not the case with Fifth Harmony. If anything, harmonizers are the one’s taking that initiative to go above and beyond what the labels and industry are expecting of us.
I also happen to be one of the people that helps run an account you mentioned in your post and I know that none of these accounts are by any means official AT ALL. Having a very “official” presence is simply a choice we make as to how we like to present ourselves.
#26 by awsomeolives on September 13, 2013 - 4:55 pm
No, it just isn’t true. I’ve been their fan since day one and I followed all of the major fan accounts before the girls even announced that they were signed. If you investigate further, you’ll find that most of them are fangirls/boys from Brazil or Canada, and they are often young and still in school. They often lament that owning a fan account is a full time job and that they don’t have time to do homework, etc etc. I’m not trying to defend the label in any way, but in all honestly, they have never encouraged us to stream their songs. They may encourage us to request the song on the radio, which is fair enough, but that’s it. Again, our dedication and the effort we put into the girls may seem like someone is bribing us to do it, but it really is just because we’re that passionate about the girl’s success. I work full time and I go to school, yet I still find time to request the song and stream and help in any other way. Hope this helps!
#27 by vanessa on September 13, 2013 - 6:23 pm
Lol Paul trust me none of Epic’s faculty members are smart enough to come up for a plan like this for any of their artists. I honestly don’t even think Epic knows what’s required for a song to be a success besides buying it and radio play. They even lack knowledge on how to promote an artist correctly. The whole streaming thing is a way for Harmonizers to promote the girls because we want them to be successful in this business, we’ve seen them work their butts off for an opportunity like this and we also see that Epic isn’t really doing their job correctly with them.
#28 by Paul on September 13, 2013 - 9:53 pm
vanessa – thanks for the info. I’ve heard this from a number of 5H fans now. — Paul
#29 by Sam on September 13, 2013 - 4:01 pm
Why was the song compared with songs of a “similar” genre and not songs from artists with extremely passionate fans? It seems it would be better to make an analysis using songs like Best Song Ever by One Direction and We Can’t Stop by Miley Cyrus. It would say more to make a statement about how the industry is shifting to a fan driven market. The internet has changed the way that people interact with artists and this has also changed the length of time that usually takes to break out a new band/artist. Therefore it would be a more complete analysis if you studied songs based on the fanbase and not the genre.
#30 by Paul on September 14, 2013 - 8:45 am
Hi Sam – Good suggestion. I’ve made a new plot that includes the best song ever.
Click here to see a full sized version of it. As you can see, One Direction follows the pattern of all the other songs. The only outlier is MMO.
#31 by G on September 13, 2013 - 4:11 pm
wait…are you mad at an group for…having fans? i’m confused here.
#32 by Paul on September 14, 2013 - 8:31 am
G – not at all. I hardly ever get mad. Does it sound like I’m mad when you read the post? — Paul
#33 by Hiii on September 13, 2013 - 4:13 pm
I’d have like you to choose more songs with artist that have passionate fans and i’m quite sure we won’t be the worst #JustSaying
#34 by Paul on September 13, 2013 - 4:21 pm
Suggest some, and I’ll have a look. But if you look at this chart, you’ll see that the song that sticks out most for having the most listens per fan is MMO.
#35 by Sam on September 13, 2013 - 4:31 pm
The only reason it sticks out is because of the small number of fans. Miley, One Direction, Selena, and Justin have been around for some time now. If you do a twitter search on Wrecking Ball VEVO, you will come across people using the same gaming strategies. The fan behavior is relatively the same, Justin and One Direction in particular owe a large part of their success (and rapid rise to fame) to concerted fan efforts over social media.
#36 by Paul on September 14, 2013 - 9:22 am
Hiii – I’ve made a new plot that includes One Direction’s Best Song Ever
Click here to see a full sized version of it. As you can see, One Direction follows the pattern of all the other songs. The only outlier is MMO.
#37 by mynameis on September 13, 2013 - 4:22 pm
” by spending lots of money buying copies of your record to boost the sales figures, or bribe radio DJs to play your songs to boost radio airplay ” so for you this is a better?
#38 by Paul on September 13, 2013 - 4:29 pm
no, not at all.
#39 by mynameis on September 13, 2013 - 4:35 pm
Then i’m confused. How could a new artist breakthrough in the Music Industry with dedicated fans ? I agree that it might not be fair for other artist that work as hard as our girls but we just love them so much that we want the best no matter what. I really really don’t think that nowadays a new artist can blow up without playing games
#40 by Nicole (@Nicole5H) on September 13, 2013 - 4:25 pm
I took this entire article as a compliment. Thank You :) #FifthHarmonyArmy
#41 by Paul on September 14, 2013 - 9:23 am
#42 by Adele Momako (@adelemomako) on September 13, 2013 - 4:36 pm
Paul, are you kidding??? All the other fandoms are doing the same thing, why did you single Harmonizers out: What about biebers, smilers, directioners, monsters. I am a fan of 1D and gaga, their fans are doing the exact same thing. Why don’t you talk about them instead??? What did the girls from Fifth Harmony ever done to you to make you hate them this much? I, for one have never followed these update accounts(maybe I should), and i have never seem those tweets. I check news from the official 5h twitter & facebook, but I watch their video all the time, I also play Miss Movin On on Rdio & Spotify sometimes. What’s wrong with that??? Harmonizers love 5h and they want to help out, so do all the other fandoms, they want to support their artists. There is nothing wrong with that. What I don’t understand is why did you bother to take all these time to dig out all these accounts’ tweets??? Did the 5H girls ever done anything to harm you personally?? That’s why you hate the girls so much, you had to talk about them, instead of other artists/bands????? These girls from fifth harmony are so sweet, nice, warm, funny and super talented. We, as fans could watch the videos as many times as we like and play the song on Rdio or other streaming services whenever we want to. I also play other artist’s songs on Rdio too, nothing wrong with that. Are you a fan of other artists?? that’s why you are jealous of the fifth harmony girls?????? Please, i know you are older than me, but please don’t me a hater. Hating people is not good for you. I will pray for you..
#43 by S on September 13, 2013 - 4:52 pm
Calm down, he wasn’t attacking anyone LOL
#44 by Paul on September 14, 2013 - 9:31 am
Hi Adele – thanks for taking the time to comment. I don’t hate Fifth Harmony or their fans. In fact, whenever I see an artist with very passionate fans, I pay close attention. I think fan passion is a strong indicator that an artist will be successful. I spend a lot of time looking a data to try to understand more about artists. I look at data such as how many fans an artist has and how often those fans engage with that artist. Most artists follow a predictable pattern, but Fifth Harmony wasn’t following this pattern. This made me look more closely to see if I could understand why Fifth Harmony was breaking the pattern. It has nothing to do with whether I like them or not. I wrote about them because there is something very unusual about them and their fans.
#45 by Harmonizerprobs on September 13, 2013 - 4:41 pm
None of the accounts you looked into are paid. This is a grassroots campaign, the label isn’t investing as much in them as much as we’d like. Those accounts are fan accounts, teenagers are good at photoshop. I appreciate your perspective, but I have to respectfully say that you’ve got it wrong and it seems you misunderstand the mindset of this new generation of fans. This is a response to being fed up with a ,pmusic machine held together by back door radio play deals.
#46 by awsomeolives on September 13, 2013 - 4:58 pm
Yes. This. We are all upset that the girls aren’t promoted as much as their counterpart (Emblem), so we are making up for what they’re lacking. It really is as simple as that.
#47 by Sarah_tlv on September 13, 2013 - 4:46 pm
Thanks for mentioning the Harmonizers. We will rule the world. LOL..Shout out to Ours Haterz!!
#48 by car on September 13, 2013 - 4:52 pm
I just don’t find your last message to promoters and music labels relevant because all of the tweets you showed are from fan run accounts typically run by the audiences that you claim are being exploited by the labels. This was definitely an interesting read, but the “campaign”, as you call it, was completely fan initiated
#49 by carralouise on September 13, 2013 - 5:17 pm
I’ve literally been laughing for what I’m guessing to be about 10 or 15 minutes. Did you actually waste your time searching up tweets posted by fans helping to promote Fifth Harmony? Like, how much time exactly did you WASTE doing that? And then all these graphs and excessive “information”??? HOW MUCH TIME did you waste? And then here I go throwing my time away to comment about what I just read. First of all, Fifth Harmony are new artists, they’re not going to get anywhere on their own especially being signed to a record label that doesn’t have as much money as you might think. Therefore we THE FANS have to help them as much as we can. Obviously, we are fans of them so we ARE (believe it or not) going to listen to their music on Youtube, VEVO, Spotify or whatever! There’s no problem with keeping them on repeat to boost views or maybe even the little it does help for Billboard. Plenty of fanbases do it, it’s not illegal. Have you ever heard of the VEVO record??? How do you think the views are gained? They do it to help the artist they love and support… You seem to have spent so much time basically stalking this “campaign” that we Harmonizers apparently have set up, that you don’t even notice how HARD Fifth Harmony work for their success. They stayed up several hours through the night in the recording studio to get their songs just right and they’ve been touring almost every night since July 15th (which have all been causing them to get an average of 3-5 hours of sleep most nights) and while doing all this they’ve been promoting themselves in interviews, at award shows, etc. And finally, a special message to the sad man who wrote this article: If you are wasting your time stalking “hundreds” of assumed pre-teens and teens to write an article about some “manipulative campaign” they’re using to hear their favorite song by their favorite artist on the radio: screw you.
#50 by Paul on September 14, 2013 - 9:41 am
hi carralouise – thanks for your concern about how much time I’m wasting. I don’t consider it wasted at all. I enjoy what I do, and writing about passionate fans is part of that. I seem to have somehow offended you by describing what I see in the data. Why is that? Did I get something wrong? Let me know and I’ll correct it. And as for stalking I don’t think a single twitter search for “mmo spotify” qualifies as stalking. — Paul
#51 by Ashley Lee on September 13, 2013 - 5:24 pm
Paul, I run a fan update account and was told by people who work for Epic Records to use my update account to give orders to teens about how to go about streaming the song with a U.S. IP address. We were instructed to tell them how to go about buying the upcoming EP with U.S. itunes accounts. Just this week, we were told to get fans to pre-order the EP with dummy itunes accounts.Most of the fans can’t afford the EP but pre-ordered it. Most of the fans are from outside the United States, so that may be why they encouraged us to tell fans in other countries to buy the EP with a U.S. itunes account when it comes out October 22. But really what can you do? nothing because most, if not all, fandoms are engaging in this practice.
#52 by jen on September 13, 2013 - 5:44 pm
if your being truthful what is your update account?
#53 by awsomeolives on September 13, 2013 - 5:59 pm
Yeah, what’s your update account? I follow nearly every single one of them. Your lies are outrageous. LOL
#54 by Jas on September 13, 2013 - 5:59 pm
Anyone with half-decent brain cognition could see that this is a phony comment. It’s rootless satire, except it’s not at all funny. It’s actually really sad.
#55 by S on September 13, 2013 - 6:02 pm
I don’t know who you are but you’re definitely trolling LOL
#56 by Mani on September 13, 2013 - 6:02 pm
i know all the people who run the 10 big fan accounts our fandom has and non of them is called . get a fucking life. are you a Rdio software engineer too?
#57 by Mani on September 13, 2013 - 6:03 pm
non of them is called ashley**
#58 by Jessica on September 13, 2013 - 6:09 pm
This is obviously the funniest lie I’ve read. Do you honestly think Epic would be that smart, I mean they use Word Paint to make Fifth Harmony’s twitter icon as promotion for Miss Movin On a few months back. Honestly if anything you said was true then why did Epic choose the Harmonizer fandom when they could’ve easily talked to Cher Lloyd’s fandom, they’re much bigger and her new single came out just this month yet not doing well on the radio or itunes chart. Also If the itunes thing you said true, then why is the EP pre-orders charting higher in other countries than the US. If epic did try to manipulate us into making fake itunes accounts then the EP would be higher then any other country and not in the top 30. I think you’re just a hater whi either dislikes Fifth Harmony or the Harmonizers fandom
#59 by Paul on September 13, 2013 - 9:57 pm
Jessica – thanks for the feedback. Indeed, I’ve heard from a number of 5H fans like you who have very little good things to say about Epic. I’m really not a hater, just trying to better understand what’s going on. — Paul
#60 by Jessica on September 13, 2013 - 10:35 pm
I didn’t think you were the hater Paul lol i was calling the ashley girl a hater because she was writing false information
#61 by Hale on September 13, 2013 - 6:16 pm
That’s such a lie wtf… I actually really hoped Epic was this helpful lol
#62 by Paul on September 13, 2013 - 9:54 pm
Thanks Hale. I’ve heard from a few 5H fans that say the same thing, that Epic is not very capable or helpful. — Paul
#63 by Sally on September 13, 2013 - 7:24 pm
Would you mind showing those DM? or those conversations? i mean what you’re saying is serious.
#64 by Paul on September 14, 2013 - 9:42 am
can you provide any more info about this?
#65 by awsomeolives on September 14, 2013 - 1:53 pm
Pigs will fly if this Ashley Lee actually comes back and give us the “DMs” she’s talking about and the “account” she owns.
#66 by Steven on September 13, 2013 - 5:58 pm
Paul, if I’m being honest, while I understand what you’re trying to say, I think you’re being a bit disrespectful to the fan update accounts. As I run one myself, I can assure you we have NEVER been instructed by Epic to do anything – everything we tweet about is our choice, and it’s purely because we want to see 5 girls that we admire and look up to be successful in the industry. The reason lots of these accounts look “official” is because they are so dedicated to helping 5H that they choose to make their accounts look official. Epic has had absolutely no hand in this, and the fan accounts aren’t being “pawns” as you said in an earlier comment – they are simply trying to help out an artist that they truly love and admire.
#67 by Paul on September 13, 2013 - 9:58 pm
Steven – noted. I’ve heard this many times now. I’m going update my post to reflect the sentiment. Thanks for the feedback — Paul
#68 by vanessa on September 13, 2013 - 6:46 pm
I’m pretty sure Smilers used the same tactic, how do you think Wrecking Ball got into the billboard without it being out on itunes yet nor being played on the radio, I mean it looks peculiar if you think about it. It’s also interesting to see how the wrecking ball video got more views than One Direction when of the people were disturbed by it or anything to do with Miley at the moment. I even bet there’s more Directioners than Smilers out there.
#69 by Paul on September 14, 2013 - 9:45 am
Yes, I’m sure this happens quite often. It is interesting to see it with Fifth Harmony since they are still relatively unknown when compared to Bieber, One Direction. That’s one of the reasons why the fan activity is so noticeable.
#70 by Sam on September 14, 2013 - 4:24 pm
Do you honestly find it normal that Miley Cyrus’ video “Wrecking Ball” that was released on Monday has 85 million views and counting? Do a search on twitter and you’ll see multiple fans giving instructions on how to open up the video in many tabs and refreshing before the video finish. The point that you continually seem to miss is that these practices are far from original or novel. The difference is that back in 2009/2010 streaming services like Spotify and Rdio weren’t around so the behavior wasn’t as easily tracked. How do you think that Justin Bieber (before Gangnam Style) had the most viewed video on YouTube while also having the most disliked video on YouTube? While Miley had the platform of her Disney show, One Direction and Justin owe their success to a very small group of extremely passionate original fans. Justin went from being an unknown Canadian boy to selling out Madison Square Garden in less than 2 years. Love for these particular bands/artists (the ones who are able to garner extremely passionate fans) has an infectious nature, by getting their favorite band more exposure they succeeded in growing their respective fanbase. Over time, as the act is successfully broken into the market and becomes more well-known the percentage of extremely passionate fans (the 1%) grows making the artist’s song blend in with the other songs on the market.
#71 by Bel3 on September 13, 2013 - 6:59 pm
How is this any different than us picking up the phone and nagging our local stations. WE can call them too every day and every night and request the song to be played. But as we learned some radio stations will not listen to us. They want to blow up “Blurred Lines” why dont you run data on Radio playing the same 5 songs every hour on the hour. How is that fair to the average dedicated fan!? We learned radio play is influenced by numbers and rankings. So that brings us to where we are. We will not stop helping Fifth Harmony!! Its all about them!! So you can take your data findings and smoke it! and “screw you too”
#72 by Paul on September 13, 2013 - 9:52 pm
Hi Bel3 – thanks for the comments. Indeed, radio stations have a lot of power about deciding what we listen to. And I have written about it. Read this post here
I hope you continue to help promote 5H, they seem like a very talented group of young women that have a bright future in front of them. And as for the ‘screw you’ comment, that was directed at any music labels that may be involved in organizing this campaign, not at any of the 5H fans. I’ve been assured by many 5h fans today, that the label is not involved, and this is indeed a true grassroots phenomenon. — Paul
#73 by Ramsey on September 13, 2013 - 7:19 pm
I have read your whole article at least three times and I can honestly say I still do not know what the issue is here. We are fans who are purely promoting Fifth Harmony. Please tell me how people are supposed to be introduced to new music if it isn’t on the charts? I am very sorry us Harmonizers do not have enough money to purchase ads or other forms of promotion. We do what we can, and that is stream and request. I do find an issue with you taking time out of your day and wasting your knowledge to basically bash Fifth Harmony. I know you will deny that you did not intend this article to have a negative impact on the girls’ success but I think we both know that it does. Obviously the article has already been read by many people and whats done is done, I am just asking you to think about what you are posting next time because this one article could seriously hurt 5 young girls who just want to live their dream. Thanks if you read this, whatever if you don’t. I would love to hear your comment back and hopefully you can fully explain to me what your purpose was when writing this article. oh and as a man once said “screw you”?
#74 by Paul on September 13, 2013 - 9:46 pm
Hi Ramsey – thanks for the comment. Let me try to explain a bit more about what I do. I look at music data all day to try to make sense of it. I look for pattern in the data and then use the data to do things like recommend new music to people. When I see unusual patterns, I take a closer look. I saw one of these unusual patterns with 5H. 5H was getting many more plays than they should, based upon all of the data. Taking a closer look led me to understand that there was this campaign to promote 5H being organized on twitter. I’m not bashing fans or 5H, I’m just trying to understand this unusual pattern in the data. When I find something interesting, I like to write about it, thus the blog post. I really don’t think my article will have any impact on 5H, I wouldn’t worry about that. And as for the ‘screw you’ comment, that was directed at any music labels that may be involved in organizing this campaign, not at any of the 5H fans. I’ve been assured by many 5h fans today, that the label is not involved, and this is indeed a true grassroots phenomenon. — Paul
#75 by nat on September 13, 2013 - 7:36 pm
Paul, I find it inconsistent that you will write an article with graphs and charts and then follow it with statements like “some of the twitter accounts that were encouraging 24/7 plays looked very official to me”. A more professional approach would be to actually interview some of the owners of these accounts before you make such accusations. I have been following many 5H update accounts for a long time and can tell you these accounts are genuine grassroots 5H fans coming from all around the world, who attend performances and meet and greets just like other harmonizers, make fan dedication videos, etc. If you had done more research you would have realized that on the contrary we Harmonizers actually felt from time to time that Epic was not doing enough earlier on to promote the girls and we have been trying to make up for this with our dedication. If anything, it is also more the other way around, i.e. that we Harmonizers are the ones trying to push Epic to do more promotion for the girls!
Also just a kind remember that being an outlier does not automatically mean that something is “not real” – this is a common misconception. As a marketing analyst/statistician myself, may I just point out that the curves that you have shown for various songs are all “non-random” curves already by their very nature, showing various degrees of “80/20” rules at work, which is a normal occurrence – there are always active and even rabid fans who play their favorite songs way more than less active fans and casual listeners. Who is anyone to say that only “80/20” behaviors up to a certain threshold from the average are “acceptable”? Do you feel that songs with steeper Gini coefficients due to more active fandoms (Directioners, Lovatics, Smilers, Swifties, Selenators, Arianators, Mahomies, Little Monsters, Katy Kats, etc) should all get their traffic figures adjusted down? This would not be a fair reflection of the genuinely “above average” love and dedication that these new generations of engaged social-media savvy fandoms have for their favorite artists.
#76 by Paul on September 13, 2013 - 8:01 pm
Hey nat – thanks for the thoughtful comment. Some answers to your comments:
This is a blog post, not a scientific paper. That means I get to put my opinion in wherever I want to. Having been around the music industry as long as I have, I am naturally suspicious about how labels will sometimes market music. I’m still suspicious that this grassroots campaign has a little astroturf mixed in. Thus my comment. I’m convinced that the fans are genuinely rooting for 5H, but I’m still concerned that there may be someone behind the curtain pulling some strings.
I have attempted to contact one of the main update account owners to get their perspective. I haven’t received any response yet, but I’m hoping I will. Thanks for the stats lesson, we can all use more stats. I do believe that if we are going to use play counts to create charts that we should work hard to make sure that the play counts are real. If someone is playing a track but is not actually listening to it, it shouldn’t count. I’d rather have a popularity chart show me what people are actually listening to, not what was played overnight on mute.
#77 by Jas on September 13, 2013 - 8:49 pm
Which account did you contact? Just curious since I’ve personally dealt with people from the two major update accounts you screenshotted above (5HOnTour & 5HRealm), and these accounts were started way BEFORE Fifth Harmony signed with Epic Records. Another one you screenshotted quite often isn’t even an update account (CrayCray45H) but what we call a “personal fan account.” She just happens to be a very passionate fan. She was also active way before Fifth Harmony was signed by Epic Records.
You should also know that the strategy being used to stream the songs were not original ideas by these particular update accounts, but strategies that most fandoms have been using via word-of-mouth for years. It has taken months for the Fifth Harmony fandom to get a solid plan in place. And the main owner of 5HRealm has done a lot of his own independent research on how sales, radio, and Billboard works, over the last few months. No one from Epic Records is feeding these accounts any info, and much of the info these accounts obtain can be easily traced back to “normal” fan accounts. You can’t claim suspicious activity simply on the grounds that the fans are organized, knowledgeable, and efficient To put it quite simply, we aren’t as stupid and gullible as you’re subtly implying that we are.
#78 by Paul on September 13, 2013 - 9:35 pm
Thanks Jas – I have an email interview setup with one of the update accounts that you mentioned, so I should be able to do a good followup. Thanks for the info about 5HRealm.
I’m not claiming suspicious activity based on fan activity, my suspicious are mainly because of the long history of sketchy promotion tactics used by the music industry (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Payola). One of the commenters has indicated that he/she ran an update account and did receive guidance from the label, until I can put that to rest, my suspicious remain.
#79 by Sam on September 13, 2013 - 8:54 pm
If you truly want to understand the spirit behind this phenomenon, I would suggest that you watch “Crazy About One Direction”, link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nM5U2yiJILs
This documentary exhibits the dedication fans can exhibit in order to promote their favorite band. These fans feel as if they have a connection with these artists and go to great length to see them succeed. As you say, you have been in the music industry for quite a while; it seems quite strange that you seem to be generally unfamiliar with this fan behavior.
#80 by Paul on September 13, 2013 - 9:28 pm
Hey sam – thanks for the comment and the link. I’m quite aware of how motivated fans are and I’m sure that true 5h fans are hitting all those play buttons and are calling all of those radio stations.
#81 by Nat on September 13, 2013 - 9:07 pm
Fair enough Paul, I appreciate your concern. Think it would be better though for your to focus on proposing new rules for play counts. If music providers change the rules for counting plays/views, then we Harmonizers have no issue with this. If fans try to game the system, one simple explanation is that it is because there is incentive for fans to do so (to support the girls). It doesn’t necessarily mean that someone from the label is pulling the strings though. Update accounts to some extent copy one another and also try to co-ordinate themselves as much as possible to have more effective impact. And frankly to be honest, even if there is someone from the label prodding some people on, at the end of the day do note that it is still the genuine & unpaid 5H fans who are doing the actual radio requests, streaming the music, watching the video, and buying the single/EP. I myself have never joined a fandom before and I am proud to call myself a Harmonizer! I am proud to have voted my fingers off like crazy on Popdust polls and the like. I personally have supported the girls via multiple formats – I’ve bought a physical copy of their single, a digital copy from iTunes, I stream their single on Spotify, and watch the video on Vevo – I don’t believe this makes me a bad person! It is just a sign our dedication. Cheers!
#82 by Jas on September 13, 2013 - 10:18 pm
Thanks for the response, Paul. I share your suspicions on the music industry although I assure you that in, in this case, all the “sketchy promotion” is fan-initiated. But I’m interested to hear your follow-up. I’m 100% sure the comment by the person calling herself “Ashley Lee” is not an honest comment. Just read those last two lines–they are dripping with rhetorical irony. All of these things she claims Epic Records told her to do are tricks that fandoms have been using for years that I saw making the rounds on fan forums and tumblr way before the update accounts on Twitter got a hold of them. As I’m sure you will discover, this individual will be unable to provide any proof for her claims and likely won’t be returning to this blog. An anonymous, dead-ended internet comment isn’t evidence or much of a lead, so I hope if (when) this “lead” inevitably turns up empty, you’ll consider it case closed.
#83 by Bella3 on September 13, 2013 - 7:56 pm
Thanks for showing everyone what passionate and dedicated fans can accomplish!! Fifth Harmony Army!! Woo hoo!!!!! We appreciate it! LOL
#84 by Paul on September 13, 2013 - 9:35 pm
you are welcome! lOL
#85 by I am disappoint on September 13, 2013 - 9:14 pm
your desperation in finding out about a digital media conspiracy is sad and a little offensive. IT CAN’T BE POSSIBLE THAT TEENAGE GIRLS ARE SMART ENOUGH TO BE GOOD AT MARKETING. of course not. You’d rather believe in a conspiracy.
#86 by Paul on September 13, 2013 - 9:23 pm
i am disappoint – hah, funny comment. I would never underestimate teenage girls. I have updated my post based on all the fine 5H feedback like yours – here’s the addendum – Update – I’ve received **lots** of feedback from Harmonizers – thanks. A common theme among this feedback is that the fan activities and organization really are a grassroots movement, and there really is no input from the labels. Many took umbrage with my suspicions that the label was pulling the strings. I remain suspicious, but less so than before. My parting ‘screw you’ comment was in no way directed at the 5H fans, it was reserved for the mythical music label marketeer who I imagined was pulling the strings. I’m hoping to dig in a bit deeper to understand the machinery behind the 5H fan movement. Expect a follow up article soon.
#87 by DM on September 13, 2013 - 10:28 pm
Hey Paul, I’m curious… What is exactly your intention or point of doing this article? Because at the end, I see you have concluded things by saying harmonizers shouldn’t do this and that, or as you call it taking a shortcut. And that sounded to me like you are unhappy with how things are going with 5H or harmonizers. I wanna give you a suggestion, instead of looking at this on a single perspective, why don’t you research on other fandoms. You maybe ignore other fandoms because the numbers are big, but you should focus on the timeline. The time when they were rising to fame. For example, 1D before they get this big and tell us if there are any similarities. What you see here right now, is the change in music scene. That’s why some videos can reach 20 million views a day. For example, Miley have asked Smilers to keep watching Wrecking Ball and I’m sure they did too. Or you can check other songs that you think have similarity with MMO. So instead of focusing of the streams of one fandom, why don’t you focus on general what technology have affected the music industry now.
#88 by Paul on September 14, 2013 - 10:14 am
DM – thanks for the comments and suggestions. My main intention of the article to highlight the fact that fans, being fans, will do what they can to affect the charts. Music companies like Rdio, Spotify and Vevo should at least be aware of this activity to improve the listener experience. If, for instance, Rdio says that MMO is the #1 song on the chart, this is great for 5H fans, but if it is #1 on the chart because of the work of only a few hundred very dedicated fans, and it really would otherwise be at position 50, then this is bad for everyone else. Maybe Lorde or Birdy will never get a listen by a potential fan because of this. I don’t think it is wrong for fans to do this in general, but I do think it is important for music services to try to present the most accurate view of what is really going on in the music world.
Here’s an example of why this is important. A few years back, on the music site Last.fm a group of fans organized to tag Paris Hilton as a brutal death metal artist. The result being that anyone who listened to a Paris Hilton station on Last.fm would also hear the most extreme forms of death metal. It was a good joke, except if you were a Paris Hilton fan. Imagine, if instead of Paris Hilton, these music vandals picked on Fifth Harmony – so that whenever a fan tried to listen to Fifth Harmony on an internet radio station like Pandora they also heard extreme death metal. To make sure that their listeners had a good listening experience, Last.fm had to work hard to identify this organized vandalism of Paris Hilton and remove it. This is the same situation – music sites like Rdio and Spotify need to be on the lookout for any kind of manipulation and if necessary take steps to undo it, in order to give the best listening experience.
You can read more about the Paris Hilton vandalism here:
#89 by Kendra M. on September 14, 2013 - 10:42 am
go back to comments the past two months on @5Hontour or @5Hrealm and see that they are telling us how to stream a song we don’t even like and we get called unloyal or fake fans if we don’t stream the song for 24/7 or buy a lot of copies of Miss Movin On. These update accounts said to buy several copies of the ep even though we are teens we aren’t exactly rich.There are a lot that will be asked to be gifted the ep. and that guy Richard that runs 5hrealm doesn’t sound like a teen he knows too much about radio and how to cheat with streams and itunes. he yells at us if we don’t request a song. Richard sounds like an adult because of the way he writes and he dms scott and people from epic records and says he has inside information. he always says i know, but can’t reveal info. he has his own account now but i forgot the twitter handle. just search 5hrealm you find it. I never had to cheat in the Demi Lovato or the Lana Del Rey fandom I wasn’t yelled at or told I was a fake fan. like how is fifth harmony going to get popular when they pissed off almost every fandom like mixers, directioners, cher lloyd fans, emblem3 fans. nobody in those fandoms wants to buy fifth harmony music because of how rude other harmonizers can be. I like fifth harmony and support them and I followed these update accounts to see pictures of them on tour or get linked to interviews or articles but the update accounts have changed because Miss Movin On isn’t moving up on radio or selling. basically its a flop. so now they tell us to buy and stream and its on us if the girls fail. the 5H fandom is a clique they get rid of you if they want. that’s what happen to my friend a couple months ago. some of the fans turned on her.
#90 by dani (@harmonoodle) on September 14, 2013 - 11:16 am
“telling us how to stream a song we don’t even like” it’s time for your to swerveeeeee
#91 by Paul on September 14, 2013 - 12:10 pm
I did notice that shortly after I published this blog post that ‘Richard’ (a.k.a. @5hRealmCreator) took is twitter feed private. Makes me curious. I wonder if any other fans have insights about Richard.
#92 by Rachel on September 14, 2013 - 12:45 pm
yeah he doesn’t sound like a teenager. sounds like he’s older mainly because I follow many male harmonizers who are teens and I know how they talk and I’ve seen their pictures. This dude Richard I haven’t seen his pics. and I dont know half of the stuff he tweets about. dont understand what rdio is.
#93 by awsomeolives on September 14, 2013 - 1:43 pm
My goodness, Kendra, can you be anymore melodramatic? 5HonTour and 5Hrealm never told anyone they’re a fake fan just because they couldn’t afford a copy of MMO. They encourage the ones who CAN afford it to buy the songs a couple of times IF they wish to. Not everyone’s a teen. I work full time and was gladly able to gift the song to 8 other fellow Harmonizers who couldn’t afford it. They were all SUGGESTIONS; they never yelled at anyone for not buying the song. If anything, you tell those accounts you can’t afford the song, they’ll find someone else who can afford it (like me) to gift it. Had I known you couldn’t afford the song, I would have (and still can) gift it to you. But to be honest, I doubt you’re an actual harmonizer. The way we interact is nowhere near how you describe it.
Yes, 5Hrealm used to give us a hard time about not requesting, but only because we all complain about the song’s charting position, yet we don’t put the effort in to request. I do the same thing. I go on the MMO vevo channel and tell the ones who are complaining to stop and to be proactive and start requesting the song. If more people hear it on the radio, the song will naturally move up the charts. That’s the simple message Richard was trying to send. And speaking of Richard, he’s an intelligent student who loves to research how the music business works. If you can do it, Paul, then Richard can too. He worked his butt off to study how the radio and billboard charts work, so please let’s not belittle him by saying he’s an “insider” from Epic. Go investigate 5hrelam and you’ll see that he DMs the people from Epic to give suggestions as to how the girls can do better, not the other way around. Richard takes our opinions and what we want from the girls and he relays the message to Epic. I see nothing wrong with that! He also set his personal account on private because people like you are trying to dissect every single one of his tweets. I do not blame him.
This is all getting so ridiculous and tiring.
#94 by awsomeolives on September 14, 2013 - 1:46 pm
Rachel, he’s not a young teenager. LOL He’s a university student, so I’m going to assume he’s around 18-21. Just because he’s knowledgeable and smart doesn’t make him suspicious. I find this hilarious that the young teens are weary because they’re so used to the teenager babbles.
#95 by Jas on September 14, 2013 - 12:15 pm
Richard is an 18-21 year old student living in Texas. There are plenty of harmonizers above the age of 16, unlike other popular fandoms. Just because we’re older, that makes us not real fans, but paid hacks of the record label?
The fact that you brought up Emblem3 makes it obvious that you are an Emblem3 fan because very few people consider them relevant in the context of powerful “fandoms.”
Paul, I don’t know if you know this yet, but Fifth Harmony is a group from the last season of the X Factor USA. That’s where their passionate fans come from. Emblem3 also competed on this season and came in fourth, while Fifth Harmony came in third. There’s always been a bit of a fierce fanwar between these two fandoms. Just helping you to put this comment into perspective and to spot the ulterior motives.
If this comment was from an honest actor, he/she wouldn’t have said Miss Movin On wasn’t moving up on radio. Just checked this morning, and it has a positive bullet; both its spins and its audience impact are at an all-time high. It gets an average of 150k+ hits on youtube every day, and has been on the Billboard Hot 100 since the week of its release (ie, if it “wasn’t selling” how could this be?). And the fans still love “Miss Movin On,” so saying the fanbase doesn’t like the song is another dishonest statement. A simple twitter search will also prove that a lie.
#96 by Dkkdks on October 20, 2013 - 11:56 pm
I just don’t get your point, if an artist has fans that are dedicated to do promotions and work their butts off to request their song that is a mark of a successful artist, artists are nothing if they don’t have a strong fan base and i think harmonizers is a strong fan base
#97 by Andrew Darwitan on November 2, 2013 - 8:59 am
“To do this, I selected 9 other songs with similar number of fans that appeal to a similar demographic as MMO.”
I’m not sure about this part. Other than possibly Taylor Swift, the other artists do not usually appeal to the same teen-pop fanbase. Teen-pop fans are known to be extremely “passionate” about the artists they love (e.g. setting up fanpages, naming their fanbases to boost solidarity, reading up on the personal lives’ of the artists, collecting anything the artists release from singles to perfumes, jumping into defense on the artists for even the slightest hint of constructive criticism), while fans of the likes of Lorde / Icona Pop usually have more diverse taste and they listen to these artists for the music (not so much for the “celebrity construct” behind the artists).
I think a more interesting comparison will be to artists like Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, One Direction; although to be frank it won’t be easy to find those sort of artists with a fanbase size comparable to Fifth Harmony (maybe someone like Victoria Justice? I don’t know)