Real Voter Fraud: How Chiodos rigged their way to a record deal
The Chiodos reunion has become one of our community’s most anticipated events. The members still aren’t sure how far their reformation will go, but given their by-any-means-necessary wherewithal toward their music, everyone is expecting big things.
In the band’s early days, guitarist PAT McMANAMAN (second from right) was anxious to make things happen for his band of brothers. Thanks to his masterful coding skills, he helped get his band noticed by an A&R rep from Equal Vision Records. The secret behind the signing? Rig the “Top Artists” chart on PureVolume with some clever code-hacking to make Chiodos their number-one slotting artist.
After years of remaining silent on the subject, McManaman finally opened up to AP in a lengthy email about how Chiodos played the system to then become part of the system.
Way back in December of 2003, an awesome website called MP3.com was shutting down. At the time, this was the legal, free music-sharing service, popular with independent musicians for promoting their work. If you were a band and had songs, you uploaded those to MP3.com. When the site shut down, others stepped in to fill the void created.
One that rose very quickly to the top was PureVolume.com. You had to re-upload your music there, or be a dinosaur. They had a Top 15 Artist Per Plays, Per Day chart on the front page. It would change throughout the day, but if you got on that, group-thinking on the internet would kick in and you would get even more hits/plays/exposure, from kids seeing you rank high and then listening to your audio player. I noticed most of the bands in the Top 15 were bands I'd never heard of, all getting unbelievable stats. This was even before the more established bands of the time had PureVolume pages.
Being a new site, PureVolume didn't have the best fraud preventions built in to protect their player stats. There’s a list of things they did wrong that allowed bands to maximize plays by cheating. As long as the song started to buffer, it counted as a play. So if your band had five songs, you could increase your play count by five in about five seconds. Have five other members? Coordinate through AIM and get 30 plays just like that.
This part is a little fuzzy, but I think at first, you could just reload your page, and start playing each song for additional plays. I just automated that “Reload, click, pause, click, etc.” with a script or macro or something simple like that. That alone was getting us on the charts. Number 1? Maybe at times. When they fixed the “reload” and “play again” prompts, it would only count one play per song, per IP address. This was actually nice. Less competition from the cheaters that just did it manually. To get around this, I just modified the script to switch to a different open proxy before reloading. Different IPs, more plays.
They fixed the time when the stats would reset for the day, so you could race right after midnight to pump your stats, and be in the top 15, which in and of itself added even more plays. This along with the cheating for two or three hours, could keep you in the Top 15 most of the day.
I did this for two or three months. I don't encourage doing stuff like this, but I was pretty sure other bands had figured out the weaknesses of the system and were cheating, too, so I was just leveling the playing field. PureVolume slowly implemented more and more fraud detection, and with bigger bands getting PureVolume pages and the site’s popularity exploding, the play counts needed for the Top 15 were a lot higher then before. But by that time, February 2004, Angel Juarbe from Equal Vision had emailed us saying he had checked out our MP3s and wanted to check out some of our new songs. I think it was only later he told us about first discovering us from the PureVolume charts—and later still when we told him how we got on those charts.
If I thought we sucked, I wouldn't have wasted my time. But this was before Facebook or Twitter and MySpace was five or six months old, so it was a free-for-all, as far as internet band promotion went.