Fake Facebook followers are starting to affect bands that didn't even buy them in the first place, according to some artists who have been affected.
We've reported on bands buying fake online fans in the past, but until now it wasn't clear that this would ever affect other bands.
This is how it works. It starts with some bands cheating by buying fake followers, which in turn means there are some creepy online businessmen who create thousands of fake accounts to sell on to bands and businesses alike. But to make these fake accounts look real, they need to go and hit "like" on a bunch of other band pages too.
The problem is, those other innocent bands are now being caught out by a side-effect of the Facebook sharing algorithms which decide how many people see your posts online.
When you share a post on your band's Facebook fan page, it doesn't actually go to every fan you have. Analysts say it will only go to a percentage of them, to act as an incentive to pay for advertising to reach the rest of them - and if your band page has been followed by a bunch of fake accounts, whether you want them or not, it means your message is going to even fewer people.
The other effect is that bands who do choose to pay for advertising are being punished by having to pay higher prices, because Facebook's advertising rates go up when you have a higher follower count.
Will Facebook crack down on these fake accounts? On one hand, the bad press they get from it is one incentive - but on the other, it means they can generate more advertising money, so they probably won't be in a rush to fix it. Just like Google has been slow to filter illegal download links from its search results, despite criticism from the music business and UK government.
In this video, Petey Graves from the band Red Seas Fire talks about the problem in detail (via Hypebot):
If you're in a band which is working to build a presence online, maybe it's time to start planning a move away from Facebook towards building your own homepage and building your own mailing list. With Facebook, there's a risk that your own fan base will be effectively held hostage while you have to pay more and more to send your message to them.
If you want to build your own website and mailing list, a good place to start is with Tumblr as a simple homepage and blog, and MailChimp to start collecting email addresses. That way, you can be sure people will get your message - and that means more chances to sell your music and make a career for yourself.