For my music channels on YouTube I receive music and video submissions daily. They’re mostly from unknown musicians and you never know when you’re going to find a great new artist. I always browse through the submissions and see if there’s any good stuff I could feature on my channel.

Now since these artists are usually unknown, their YouTube view amount is in the range of 0 to 5,000. Going above 1,000 is already a great start by the way.

Lately however, I’ve been getting videos by many unknown artists with 50,000 to 100,000 views.

So are these unknown artists breaking through right at the moment they email me? I must be a really lucky guy.

But no, too bad. They’re just buying their YouTube views.

There’s websites now selling YouTube views. These websites often control zombie-nets, which are virus-infected computers located all around the world. Some of these zombie-nets control up to 1,000,000 computers. After you pay those websites, they will queue your video up in all these computers and your video’s views will rise quickly to the amount you paid for.

Besides it being completely unethical, it’s also quite obvious to spot when someone bought views.

I did a count of the views/likes/comments on my videos and on average if I have 100,000 views, I usually have about 1,500 likes and 300 comments. This means 1 in 66 people likes the video after watching it, and 1 in 333 people comment on it. These are the metrics you should think of, and they don’t differ that much from non-music videos either.

The last video I received had 100,000 views, 50 likes and 20 comments. That means, 1 in 2000 people liked it, and 1 in 5000 people commented on it. Imagine this. 100,000 people watch a video. 20 people comment on it.

It. Does. Not. Actually. Happen.

I don’t like it that people are doing it. It’s unethical and unfair behavior. Content creators on YouTube like myself work our asses off to create the best videos for our audience. Views are simply everything, it’s simply the most important metric for success on YouTube. It’s just not possible to compete with videos that get attention because they receive 100,000 fake views in the first day. In the long-term it deters content creators from putting effort into producing videos and significantly hurts the YouTube creators ecosystem.

It’s not just views however, people are buying subscribers too.

In this chart anyone can spot what is happening. In two different moments in a matter of days, the channel adds 1,000 subscribers. The first increase is executed considerably more undercover (with a delay effect) than the second abrupt increase. Nonetheless, you’d expect YouTube to be able to spot both of these events right?

From a technical standpoint I see the challenge for YouTube to solve this. If you have 100,000 different computers in a zombie-net automatically open up videos, how are you going to know if they are human or not? You can’t really have people enter a CAPTCHA before they watch a video right?

YouTube is working on this though. They’ve been closing down zombie accounts by the thousands every day and this means that the fake views people buy, are actually removed as well. So buying these views is hardly sustainable, as they’ll just disappear and the video will then decrease in views again.

To everyone buying their views, I’d just like to tell them what my parents always told me as a kid. In life there are no shortcuts, you have to put the hours in, work for it and then you get it in the end. Or you may not. Taking a shortcut might help you on the short-term but is not sustainable on the long-term. And often cheating the system will come back to bite you later.

Make great things and people will flock to it like bees.

P.S. I’m on Twitter too if you’d like to follow more of my stories. And I wrote a book called MAKE about building startups without funding. See a list of my stories or contact me. To get an alert when I write a new blog post, you can subscribe below: