UPDATED: Spotify Accused of Creating Fake Artists to Avoid Paying Real Ones, Evidence Provided

According to a recent article published by Vulture, Spotify has been gaming their own system by creating fake artists to fill out their playlists. The streaming giant is being accused of paying producers to record songs that are then placed on Spotify’s popular playlists under the names of unknown, nonexistent artists. The scam would save the company from paying out millions in streaming revenue that comes with high-ranking playlist placement, while tricking listeners into thinking the artists actually exist.

The article goes on to reveal how record companies are even gaming the system.  One example given was Chris Brown’s forthcoming album Heartbreak on Full Moon which boasts a total of 40 tracks. The hope is that by releasing 40 tracks it will increase plays, which in turn will increase playlist rankings. In April, we published an article detailing Metallica’s desperate attempt to appear relevant. The once-mighty metal band established several fronts just so they could say their latest album was certified platinum (read more).

Spotify’s response:

We do not and have never created ‘fake’ artists and put them on Spotify playlists. 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 rights-holders 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.”

The evidence suggests otherwise – There are tracks that have racked up millions of plays on Spotify, but regardless of the success, the featured artists have zero profile outside of the streaming site….there’s no biography, no social media presence, no YouTube presence. Occasionally there will an account started on Twitter with no Tweets, or a Facebook page with no posts, fans, or friends – yet their music has been streamed 9 million times!

For further reading, make sure to visit the article by Music Business Worldwide where they asked “very senior figures in the music business – including those working at the top table of major and independent labels – who are familiar with Spotify’s practices,” for their opinions.

Comments from senior figures in the music business:

We’ve been very aware of these artists. Some of the acoustic covers playlists contain ‘artists’ owned by a third-party indie production company that’s been doing cheap covers for years. We’re confident that the acoustic piano stuff is owned by Spotify under assumed names.”

This has been going on for a long time. We’ve been told that third-parties are involved, and at least some of the people behind the fake artists agree to insanely low margins, which obviously has a financial benefit to Spotify. The labels hate it.”

What we can be sure of is that this strategy is designed to lower the share of music on playlists from legitimate labels – major and indie – that are investing substantial resources to develop quality artists and music, so that Spotify can lower its content costs and lessen the influence of the labels.”

To make things even more interesting, MBW put together of list of the top 50 Fake Artists on Spotify

Amity Cadet (9.2m)
Gabriel Parker (24.9m)
Charlie Key (23.6m)
Ana Olgica (23.5m)
Lo Mimieux (22.3m)
Mbo Mentho (10.3m)
Benny Treskow (14.9m)
Greg Barley (21.4m)
Relajar (13.4m)
Jeff Bright Jr (15.8m)
Mayhem (10.2m)
Novo Talos (17.2m)
Advaitas (7.4m)
Clay Edwards (4.7m)
Benny Bernstein (9.6m)
Enno Aare (17.1m)
Amy Yeager (5.7m)
Otto Wahl (27m)
Piotr Miteska (26.7m)
Leon Noel (2.7m)
Giuseppe Galvetti (2.7m)
Caro Utobarto (1.2m)
Risto Carto (1.7m)
Karin Borg (24.2m)
Hultana (3.2m)
Hiroshi Yamazaki (8.6m)
Milos Stavos (7.1m)
Allysa Nelson (4.3m)
They Dream By Day (16.2m)
Evelyn Stein (14.3m)
Józef Gatysik (10.4m)
Jonathan Coffey (480k)
Pernilla Mayer (4.2m)
Hermann (11.8m)
Aaron Lansing (11.3m)
Dylan Francis (6.5m)
Christopher Colman (509k)
Sam Eber (1.6m)
Fellows (3.3m)
Martin Fox (2.5m)
Deep Watch (4.8m)
The 2 Inversions (10.3m)
Bon Vie (4.7m)
Wilma Harrods (5.3m)
Antologie (5.8m)
Heinz Goldblatt (513k)
Charles Bolt (32.4m)
Samuel Lindon (11.8m)
Tony Lieberman (2.5m)
Mia Strass (8.9m)

Wouldn’t record labels be drooling over indie artists who have managed to generate millions of listens on their own?  It’s their dream scenario…How could there not be some kind of internet presence?

MBW contacted Spotify with the following questions:

Question 1: Who is recommending and/or commissioning these people to create these tracks?

Question 2: If, as Spotify says, these producers are not selling their masters off as production music, what royalty rate are they getting compared to real artists and labels? Is it 0%?

Question 3: The vital question. Why is Spotify picking these tracks to appear on its own playlists with such volume and regularity, and ahead of recordings from major and independent labels?

Spotify declined to comment!

You would think that the complete decimation of the record business would teach these people to treat artists and musicians fairly, but they still seem to go out of their way just to rip them off. Even if these companies pay the labels the money they are rightfully owed, some of the labels use outdated record contract verbiage to circumvent paying the artists. Nowadays it’s gotten so bad, the majority of the population believes music should be free – they’ll pay $5.00 for some foo-foo latte from Starbucks that they’ll drink down in a matter of minutes, but God forbid they shell out $10.00 for an album an artist had to spend months crafting and recording.

I recently took a look at TAXI, the A&R company who, for a fee, provides leads to songwriters. The lead will state that an anonymous company (hmmmm…maybe Spotify) is looking for a song to include in their commercial or music library;  they then provide you with three examples of music from popular recording artists. Of course they also include a disclaimer stating that you should not copy the songs provided, but in reality that’s exactly what they want you to do – just don’t make it obvious. They want songs that sound like famous people, but why pay the famous people millions when you’ll do it for $2,000.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, but at the very least, please keep karma in mind because it can be a real bitch.