You’ve probably never heard of him and YouTube apparently wants to keep it that way. Despite smashing the one-day viewership record, YouTube declined to acknowledge Bollywood rapper, Badshah.
His video for “Paagal,” which was released on July 10, received over 75 million views in one day. The total surpassed “Boy With Luv” by Korean boy band BTS, who set the record in April. YouTube took to Twitter to actively celebrate the band for their achievement.
On the same day Badshah leapfrogged BTS, YouTube Music made no mention of the new record. They were busy quietly tweeting about relatively unknown artists.
In fact, “Paagal” doesn’t show up anywhere on Youtube’s “Global Top Music Videos” from July 5 -11. The number one video only received 58.7 million views.
So why would YouTube want to wipe the Bollywood rapper from their records?
Some claimed that Badshah and Sony had used shady techniques, such as bots and server farms to cultivate the views. It wouldn’t be shocking as the music industry has been buying views for years. In 2012, YouTube stripped Universal Music Group, RCA, and Sony of more than 2 billion views. Sony lost 850 million views in the process, bringing its total view count to a measly 2.3 million. Badshah, coincidentally, has been signed to Sony since 2012.
According to an article by billboard.com, Badshah went on Instagram stories to explain that he had used google ads, not bots, to acquire the views.
“What some people call fake views are not fake views. They are google ad words. It’s a way of promoting your video, we bought ad words all around the world so that people could see the video all around the world.”
This technique, according to an article by Bloomberg, is still widely-used amongst record companies.
“The incident has led to scrutiny of what many in the music industry say is a common practice—buying tens of millions of views. When releasing a new single, major record labels will buy an advertisement on YouTube that places their music video in between other clips. If viewers watch the ad for more than a few seconds, YouTube counts that as a view, boosting the overall total. Blackpink and Swift, among others, have done it. Badshah just took it a step further.”
Even though buying ads is considered to be acceptable, while buying fake views is not, fans of BTS don’t seem to care. They took to Twitter to highlight the band’s organic rise to the top.
The Badshah controversy raises the question of what should truly count as a view. If purchasing ads that get viewed for a few seconds count, then Warren Buffet or any other billionaire could theoretically become the most popular musician on the planet. Meanwhile, artists who go viral organically may never get the recognition they deserve.
YouTube, and parent-company Google, might have to make choices that cut into their ad revenue if they care about honest statistics. If they want to give a trustworthy representation of popularity, perhaps they should look into using a trustless, blockchain technology.