If you’re an avid Spotify user it’s a good chance that it’s because you’ve fallen in love with some of their thousands of Spotify-curated playlists. A lot of these major playlists have been staples for music labels looking to push records, New Music Friday, ElectroNOW, Today’s Top Hits just to name a few. While the decision-making process behind these playlists has almost always been based on either subjective taste or objective data, Spotify is now rolling out a feature that might allow for labels to pay for placements in top playlists.


At the moment, the service is still only on a trial basis for free users – meaning that any premium subscribers would not be effective. Users can, however, opt out of the trial. Sponsored songs won’t have any flashy banners pointing out that they’re paid placements, but instead Spotify aims to target users “whose listening habits match with the advertised track.”

This brings up an interesting question of ‘payola’ which some would say is a practice as old as the music industry itself and thus bound to catch up to modern technology in some way shape or form. Traditionally, payola has manifested itself as illegal practice of record labels paying radio stations to play out records from their artists as ‘regular’ airplay and not ‘sponsored’ airplay. It’s since manifested itself to artists and labels paying bloggers to write about their tracks. Spotify opening up the ability for select labels to plug records into playlists without advertising them as ‘sponsored’ or ‘paid’ is a risky business decision that seems to see them skirting closer to the edge of what’s acceptable promotion and what is ‘payola.’

You could see how independent artists might find this infuriating. Stay tuned to see how this develops moving forward.

H/T: THE FADER