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back to article Aussie bloke hacks way to top of music charts with MIDI-based tunes

A security engineer has successfully hacked his way to the top of the music charts in Australia with songs whose quality can only be enjoyed while on Class A drugs, apparently. Peter Fillmore told SC Magazine that his fake artist account had gobbled up nearly one million hits before it was taken offline. The Melbourne-based …

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Anonymous Coward

Makes you think....

... how many of the other tracks in the charts might be rigged by more sophisticated plugging.

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Re: Makes you think....

a lot of the chart rigging is very unsophisticated - back in the latter days of actual singles (late 1970s onwards) albums outsold 45s by 1000:1 and the charts were only compiled across a small range of shops, so gaming them was as simple as the label sending out staff to hoover up copies at specific branches.

Then when they were based on shipped product, labels would pay a few outlets to buy in caseloads of naff singles, to be returned quietly later on. Other labels wiuld simply lie about how many they'd shipped.

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Re: Makes you think....

I'm not really into music, as such (I have never bought a tape, LP, CD or MP3 in my life). But it's been obvious for decades that the charts have ZERO correlation to what people are actually listening to.

Honestly, shouldn't things like The Beatles, Elvis etc. STILL be in the charts somewhere without having to re-release something? The charts are based on what the record companies tell you has sold a lot recently. That's as good a recommendation as saying that the iPhone is the best phone (which will get you about 20% of people agreeing, and the 80% of the market that are actually on Android disagreeing vehemently).

Charts are there to sell you things - it's an advert, masquerading as statistics. Hell, they didn't include digital downloads AT ALL until very recently. Same as if a song gets onto the radio, it means nothing about how good or popular it is (or else most radio stations would have to listen to requests and thus would become 24-hour latest-boy-band stations), and correlates more to how much the record companies WANT to sell it (which is usually a negative correlation with it actually being any good).

Why anyone would think that any sort of chart of music is at all helpful in music, I don't know. Where would Beethoven "rank" on such a chart? (Hint: Nowhere, because the record companies can't make money from selling it) It's all a load of nonsense. Unfortunately, like designer labels, "modern" art, and what phone to buy, there are people out there who think it's some kind of indicator of what's in fashion at the moment and so religiously buy it BECAUSE they've heard the name in the charts.

The rise of online music services shouldn't be because they provide "a chart", but because they introduce you to things you'd NEVER find in the chart. But, still, 99% of the world are idiots from my point of view. I don't see any other explanation for why X-Factor is a TV show, or Apple are still in business.

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Pint

Re: Makes you think....

Icon says it all because you deserve a beer for that comment

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Re: Makes you think....

"Honestly, shouldn't things like The Beatles, Elvis etc. STILL be in the charts somewhere without having to re-release something?"

They should have never been in the charts. Seriously I dont no noone who listens to that kind of stuff

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Re: Makes you think....

'Where would Beethoven "rank" on such a chart? (Hint: Nowhere, because the record companies can't make money from selling it) '

Mighty good, then of Deutsche Grammophon, et al. to keep him available. A search ffor "Beethoven symphonies" on Amazon yields about 38 thousand results. I will agree that the volume isn't likely to be there.

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Re: Makes you think....

@Lee D - I don't think you understand the point of music charts. They are not to list the most popular songs ever, or which songs people are actually listening to. The latter being impossible to measure across the industry, only for individual, online services. The only thing that can reasonably be measured across the entire industry is what is being bought. Old songs/albums that get re-released can and do get charted.

Of course it is used for marketing. People are notorious for staying safe and doing things that are popular rather than taking a risk and forming their own opinion and it feeds directly into that.

But it has benefits for the consumer as well. People who are into keeping up with modern music, and why else would you listen to radio/streams that play chart music, get a continually updated list of what is popular currently. Going by sales is arguably better than any generic algorithm for measuring what is popular. When my mother tells me she wants to new CD by artist X for xmas I don't go and look them up alphabetically and try to guess which of 10 albums might be the newest one. I go to the chart corner and get the one I find there by that artist and know there is a huge probability that I have the right one.

The same goes for any chart of any genre and/or commodity. It is a tool to show similar, recent things in a given category, not a recommendation.

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Re: Makes you think....

Do you ever look at the film charts in the paper and wonder why 'Iron Man 9' is at the top rather than Casablanca? no? thought not. Please stop this wilful ignorance, this pretending to not know why something exists simply because you disagree with it.

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Re: Makes you think....

"99% of the world are idiots from my point of view"

You Sir, are an optimist bordering on bonkers. Even five 9's is probably overly generous.

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Re: Makes you think....

I suppose the original value of the charts was to help record shops decide what to stock. Vinyl records consumed quite a lot of space and capital (before vinyl, shellac 78s consumed even more), so retailers would want to maximise their stock turnover by concentrating on the fast-selling titles.

It's all changed now. First of all, there's the "long tail" phenomenon where big online retailers can carry massively diverse stock, and then with the change to music downloads there's no relation between sales and stock volume, and the stock occupies negligible space.

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Joke

Re: Makes you think....

"There hasn't been a genuine number one since the beatles split up"

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Re: Makes you think....

I suppose the original value of the charts was to help record shops decide what to stock.

If memory serves, the charts were first created when a DJ phoned round a couple of their local record stores to see what people were buying.

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Re: Makes you think....

The KLF got fed up of the recording industry for this rigging years ago, which is why they ended up quitting the music industry in 1992 and vowing never to return under the name of The KLF (they kept that deal for about 5 years - when in 1997 they came back as 2K or the artists forever known as the Justified Ancient of Mu Mu, and did a one off gig, and song called K The Millennium - taking the mick out of the Millennium Dome and offering to build a pyramid with one brick for every person alive in 2000 at Loch Ness whilst 'king the Millennium)

Now of course Bill Drummond has fully realised that all recorded music is rubbish, he has destroyed his entire CD collection and only makes music as part of his "The 17" art work project where groups of 17 people turn up to make a noise

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Dr?

Re: Makes you think....

Not forgetting he burnt pretty much every penny (£1million) he ever made from music. Although he admits regretting that one.

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Happy

"You can't sing, you can't play, you look awful. You'll go a long way."

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Alien

"alien invasion, what on earth are we going to do"

"ahhhhhhhhhhhghhhhh!"

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Anonymous Coward

So he's complaining that he wasn't caught quickly enough?

Because he was caught...

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Re: So he's complaining that he wasn't caught quickly enough?

He was caught due to the piss-poor nature of his music. Had it been an artist with a face and some bearable music (and a large record house name behind them) there wouldn't have been so many complaints. Even toning down how often it was played by his bots could have made it less noticeable.

Excuse me, I have some music to write...

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Proof that the GreatUnwashed sheeple ...

... have absolutely no clue about art. My take, anyway. ::shrugs::

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Re: Proof that I'm really cool..

...I can take a story about faking plays on Spotify and use it as an excuse to look down my nose at everyone.

My taste, like everything else in my life, is perfect.

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Re: Proof that the GreatUnwashed sheeple ...

Eh... sorry Jake, where do the Sheeple enter into the story? I don't get it.

1/ Man programs bot to play nonsense songs to the extent that they reach the bottom of the charts; this goes on due to lack of automatic detection (some get manually reported and removed);

2/ ???

3/ Sheeple!

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Re: Proof that the GreatUnwashed sheeple ...

Is Jake the Son of Eadon ? Can he beat Eadon's downvote record ? Does he even realise that's what us sheeple think of him ? Stay tuned...........

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Pint

X Factor

Another key thing Fillmore noted from his research was that gaming the system did not require "artists" to have any musical ability whatsoever.

So, this bloke has just reverse-engineered Simon Cowell's business model.

Here's a cold one for you, mate!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: X Factor

Regardless of what you might think Simon's artists do have to be likeable in order to succeed. Some winners of the X Factor have sunk without trace because they don't have personality. Pop music has and will always be 'trashy' because it is music for the yoof and that face changes every few years.

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IT Angle

Re: X Factor

Say what you will about the guy, but you can't deny his commercial nouse: his business model, right back from his A&R days, has only ever been about entertaining people for a few minutes, and extracting maximum revenue from that. He's been very good at it.

Whenever I watch X Factor (which is a VERY rare occurrence) I always remember that all the flash, the show, the staged argy-bargy, it's all about ONE thing: maximum eyeballs for the advertising.

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I've been working for years on a similar system

to fake upvotes in the register. They catch me every time.

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Joke

MIDI tunes?

He should have gone for the Hammond Organ.

Certified platinum.

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Re: MIDI tunes?

Obligatory Klaus Wunderlich reference:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVFm9-VWL6A

He was the artist who composed the music for the popular TV series "Bavarian Reports Mode"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ylz-uUIBuqY

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bjKGAWDIkmA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UD6hnwVcBzA

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Austrian Death Machine

Have to say Austrian Death Machine have already cornered the commando based song titles, such as this

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jrbYlRBq6jw

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Re: Austrian Death Machine

Have to say, Arnocorps had it cornered many years earlier.

Now who is your daddy and what does he do?

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I don't know if this is kinda cool because it messes with the system, or kinda scary because it messes with the system. I think I might have even come across one of these tracks (although I come across a lot of legit music on spotify, pandora, and torch music that has about the same level of quality!)

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The System exists to be messed with!

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"fake tunes"

Pretty meaningless statement. Isn't it more noteworthy that he set up ghost accounts to listen to his tracks, and thus make them popular? The fact that the tunes were utter gash, is neither here nor there - most of the charts is utter gash, to me, but someone likes it (unless they're all ghosts too?).

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Re: "fake tunes"

If you think about it, he set up ghost AI accounts to listen to ghost AI music.

How long before we have a ghost Internet populated entirely by fake ghost-bots tweeting and faceborging each other with no human intervention, and fake chanbots being monitored by aggressive NSA-bots?

Or has this happened already?

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Re: "fake tunes"

Except that the article did state that when he forst ran the test, the meat-space users flagged it as fake, so the system locked him out. When he added even the slightest bit of an attempt(-ish) at musicality, the users reviewed him poorly, but did not flag his "music" as much; thus reducing the variable of "user feedback" from the test of automated checking.

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Sadly...

...I suspect that his fake bad tunes, are probably better than what's currently being produced by those who like to call themselves "musicians".

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Zot
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He should have got a musician friend or some local band in there.

Instead he did some dreadful random mess with maths software. It would have been a great experiment if he had forced the popularity of an unknown band to actually be popular just with fake chart exposure.

A wasted opportunity.

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Judas Unrepentant*

It's just unfortunate that he didn't even need to fake *good* music for it to work...

*) Listen to it if you haven't. Not all music is cr*p this days...

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Pint

Fillmore also made .... roughly $1,000 in royalties

That's more than most of the poor-starving legitimate Top 40 musicians usually make.

At least, according to some of the Underpaid Musicians propaganda I've seen.

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Anonymous Coward

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Payola

The game's the same... It's just the players include bash scripts now.

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Anonymous Coward

OK, now atch some vunder-kurchen

from Germany actually mix up techno singles using those phrases sampled from the "Commando" movie. And for to actually hit the top of the charts.

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