Deezer has deleted 26m ‘useless’ tracks since it launched artist-centric model with Universal Music Group

Deezer CEO Jeronimo Folgueira.

France-headquartered streaming service Deezer’s soon-to-be-former CEO, Jeronimo Folgueira, has been raising the alarm for some time about low-quality content flooding music streaming services, degrading the user experience and diluting the money earned by legitimate artists.

“There’s a lot of content now getting uploaded to our platform every week, and that number keeps growing and growing and growing,” he said on an earnings call in March 2023.

He added: “There’s a lot of duplicated content, there’s a lot of content that is not even music… and at a certain point, you get way too much content that is useless for the users. And it starts creating a bad user experience.”

With the arrival of AI-generated music, Folgueira feared the problem could become even worse.

“We obviously need to deal with the issue of AI as a source of a massive amount of new music or new content creation,” Folgueira said on Deezer’s subsequent earnings call.

“We want to give our customers a high-quality experience and relevant content, so obviously getting AI to flood our catalog is not something we’re super keen on, and we’re working on that.”

It turns out Deezer was indeed “working on that” – the company has confirmed that it has removed over 26 million tracks in the months since it first launched its Universal Music Group-approved artist-centric payment system (in September 2023).

Deezer says that it had around 200 million pieces of content on the platform last year, which means that over 13% of this content has been deleted.

“The intention is to declutter the platform, focus on tracks that are valuable to our users and increase the market share for all artists who create this music,” Folgueira told MBW on Thursday (March 14).

He added: “The tracks that have been removed include noise, mono-track albums [albums made of copies of a single track], fake artists and tracks that haven’t been listened to in the past 12 months.”

“The intention is to declutter the platform, focus on tracks that are valuable to our users and increase the market share for all artists who create this music.”

Jeronimo Folgueira, Deezer

Folgueira hinted at this announcement last month, during an earnings call in which he said that Deezer had been “tightening and stressing our provider policies to try to reduce the amount of useless content that people are uploading to our platform.”

As part of that initiative, Folgueira said “we’re doing a catalog cleanup, and we have been deleting millions of tracks in our catalog and we will probably be making an announcement relatively soon about that”.

Despite Folgueira’s earlier concerns about AI-generated content, the Deezer CEO noted on the call that, while the amount of tracks uploaded to the platform “continues to increase,” there’s “not a lot of AI-generated content [as] we expected.”

Folgueira said the amount of tracks uploaded to the platform remains above 100,000 per day.

He stressed on the call that the company’s shift away from the pro-rata payment model and towards an artist-centric model was partly a response to the problem of low-quality tracks on the platform.

With an artist-centric model, “you start deleting a lot of economic incentive for people to do that in the first place. And this is why I think artist-centric is the future model for the whole industry, where you take the incentives away for people to do that,” Folgueira said.

In September of last year, Deezer and Universal Music Group announced a plan to shift royalty payments on the platform to what the companies described as the “first comprehensive artist-centric streaming model”, in order “to better reward the artists, and the music that fans value the most.”

Under that model,  “professional artists” – defined as those who have a minimum of 1,000 streams per month and a minimum of 500 unique listeners – receive a so-called “double boost” to royalty payments; that is, their streams will get double the weight when calculating the distribution of royalty payments.

Additionally, Deezer applies a “double boost” for tracks from artists that fans have actively searched for. Deezer and UMG said this would “reduce the economic influence of algorithmic programming.”

A few months later, Warner Music Group signed up for Deezer’s artist-centric model in France.

Spotify also appears to be moving towards an artist-centric model, or at least part of one. The company confirmed last November that, as of Q1 this year, tracks on the platform will have to have received a minimum of 1,000 plays over the previous 12 months to qualify for royalty payments.

Spotify estimates this will move about $40 million in royalty payments from tracks with fewer than 1,000 plays to those with more than 1,000 plays this year.

Data recently published by market monitor Luminate offers a clue as to why Spotify and other platforms are increasingly trying to disincentivize the uploading of tracks that gain little traction.

According to Luminate’s year-end 2023 report, 86.2% of the music tracked by Luminate on streaming services got 1,000 or fewer plays in 2023.

And of the 184 million tracks monitored by Luminate on streaming services, 45.6 million, or 24.8%, got zero plays.

“Machine generated content is really cheap and really easy to do, so you can create a lot of content. The problem is no one finds it in an ocean of content.”

Jeronimo Folgueira, Deezer

Statistics of this sort are likely part of the reason why music execs are increasingly expressing the opinion that – amid the massive flood of new content hitting streaming platforms every day – the only way to surface music that people want to hear is by maintaining “the human touch”: songs by real artists, streamed by real listeners.

“Machine generated content is really cheap and really easy to do, so you can create a lot of content. The problem is no one finds it in an ocean of content,” Folgueira said on Deezer’s earnings call this past February.

“And actually no one cares. Because what people care about is content created by artists they love and music that actually means something to them. So that connection with real artists is extremely important. And it’s something that the machines do not have now.”

Deezer announced at the end of February that Folgueira will be leaving his role as CEO at the end of March. On Wednesday (March 13), the company announced that Stu Bergen – the former longtime CEO of Warner’s International Recorded Music operations outside the US and UK – has been appointed Deezer’s interim CEO, effective April 1.Music Business Worldwide

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