Spotify has denied filling its most popular playlists with “fake artists”, after it was accused of creating songs to bulk out its most popular ambient playlists at low cost to itself.
The allegation, first made by industry website Music Business Worldwide and brought to wider attention by culture publication Vulture, is that some playlists on Spotify are full of bands with no public profile, few songs, but millions of song plays – all as a result of their position on the service.
Take “Deep Watch”, the artist behind the two-song EP Endless Fragments of Time. They have no profile outside of Spotify, no biographic detail on the site, and no upcoming concerts listed anywhere – yet their two songs have racked up a total of 4.5m plays in the five months since the EP was released. That’s due to having been listed on Spotify’s Ambient Chill playlist since April; a popular, heavily promoted playlist with more than 425,000 followers.
Similarly, Enno Aare, another unknown artist who seems not to exist outside of the streaming service, has four songs with a total of 17m plays, and a position on the Spotify-curated playlists “Sleep”, “Peaceful Piano”, “Piano in the Background”, “Deep Sleep” and “Music For Concentration”.
Spotify vehemently denied creating “fake artists” saying: “We do not and have never created ‘fake’ artists and put them on Spotify playlists.
“[It’s] categorically untrue, full stop. We pay royalties – sound and publishing – for all tracks on Spotify, and for everything we playlist. We do not own rights, we’re not a label, all our music is licensed from rightsholders and we pay them – we don’t pay ourselves. We do not own this content – we license it and pay royalties just like we do on every other track,” it added.
But the denial fails to cover the totality of Music Business Worldwide’s allegations. Spotify could still be commissioning songs published under fake names at royalty rates much more favourable to the company than its standard deals with record labels, according to Music Business Worldwide. Even a reduction of a cent per play would save Spotify more than $200,000 regarding the two artists identified above.
Music Business Worldwide has identified fifty such artists, and claims that “there are a plethora of made-up artists on Spotify, being created under anonymity by producers, racking up millions of streams, being picked to appear on key first-party playlists.”
Spotify declined to comment further on the issue.