Russ Talks Labels Artificially Boosting Major Artists’ Streams: ‘Everyone in the Industry Knows’

Russ continues to take aim at major record labels.

After claiming his album streams were intentionally undercounted, the New Jersey-born rapper shed more light on the purported practice of buying fake streams. Russ addressed the topic during an appearance on Andrew Schulz’s Flagrant podcast, where he asked to explain some of the shady tactics that improve chart performance.

“How are they tricking us?” Shulz asked. “Because I see these people that go crazy, right? Album goes No. 1 but then they can’t fill up a show. So the math is not mathing.”

Russ said Shulz’s skepticism was completely on point, as the issue of “fake streams” was so pervasive in the industry that it had become an open secret that “everyone in the industry knows is going on.”

“It’s a real thing,” the 31-year-old said. “Here’s the deal, when you talk to these people—’cause I’ve talked to these people, ’cause I’ve been like, ‘What is this? How are y’all doing this?’ They never disclose the mechanics of how they actually fake the streams. There’s like, you know, rumors of streaming farms or [they’re] delving out fucking computers in third-world countries and hacking the backend to make it look like it’s an IP from the U.S. All this nutty shit. But the reality is the labels are spending money and you know, devil’s advocate, they’re treating it like a marketing expense. Because, in a sense, it almost is.”

Russ alleged labels are spending money on fake streams instead of traditional marketing methods, like buying billboards. However, he clarified that labels are only using these tactics on high-profile talent.

“They’re not doing it with like up-and-coming artists who you wouldn’t believe it. … Let’s say your song has 500 million streams, organically. But let’s say with fake streams now you’re at 900 million,” he said. “No one’s gonna sit there and be like, ‘This is more like a 500 million-stream song.’ … They’re not doing it to the dude across the street and giving him a billion streams. They’re doing it to people who really can get half a billion, but let’s just pump it to get 900 million.”