For a lot of people, Spotify is the king. At over 140 million monthly users, it’s quickly become the dominant form of music streaming, and discovery, for a lot of people around the world. Spotify’s strongest tool at its disposal is their army of playlists – both human-curated and algorithmically programmed – that drive streams and music discovery for millions of people across the globe. Spotify’s ability to directly control what many of their audiences are listening to at such lengths has led many to consider their editorial team ‘gatekeepers’ to an extent. Spotify pays out on a per stream basis, and, when they can control the listener’s ears, they essentially control the narrative.
Interestingly enough, Spotify has actually been accused of paying producers to create songs under “fake” artist projects specifically for playlists, to not only create relevant content for the playlists, but also for an upfront fee without having to pay out real royalties to artists, per Music Business Worldwide.
Music Business Worldwide is reporting that Spotify is paying out the artists at a fixed rate to ensure a transfer of copyright and full ownership of the master – relieving them from having to pay out a majority of the royalty money. Publishing is said to be up for debate. As for the actual artists who maybe doing this? Vulture seems to think they know.
The article cites mood playlists, as opposed to any specific genre playlists, as the main culprit of this as it’s much easier to sneak in a manufactured name in a playlist like “Focus” rather than amongst a collection of big pop stars. The playlist “Ambient Chill” has a record by band Deep Watch in #2 on its playlist – extremely valuable real estate in a limited space. The band has two songs with a combined 4.7 million Spotify streams, both of which were released on February 23rd this year. The article also notes that the band doesn’t seem to have any digital footprint outside of Spotify.
The article also cites bands Enno Aare (four songs and over 17 million streams) and Evolution of the Stars (two songs and 17 million streams) as two other examples of artists that seem to only exist on Spotify – let alone have such massive traction.
Spotify hasn’t responded to questions about these accusations, but if true, would mean that Spotify is intentionally misleading listeners, as well as deliberately making it harder for legitimate artists to earn a living through their music.