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“Counterfeiting Attention in the Streaming Economy” examines the unintended effects of the platform model, as musicians and other actors have sought to turn streaming’s peculiar economic incentives and infrastructural limitations to their advantage. Three case studies are considered. One concerns so-called musical spam, especially knockoff cover versions of popular hits that siphon off from the originals a portion of the attention (and royalties) they might otherwise accrue. A second concerns the procurement of so-called fake streams from third-party services, automated scripts, and clickworkers disproportionately located in the Global South. The third case study examines the 2017 “fake artist” controversy that Spotify ignited. Together, the different forms of imposture evidenced in these three cases illuminate a more fundamental imposture underpinning the streaming economy, as platforms pass off quantitative metrics as qualitative judgments, equating digital signals with the engagement they allegedly index.

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