Spotify denies it’s playlisting fake artists. So why are all these fake artists on its playlists?

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Well… this is awkward.

Last summer, MBW ran a widely-read story which blew the lid off the fact that Spotify’s platform was being deliberately clogged up with music by ‘fake’ artists.

We were told that Daniel Ek’s company was encouraging and even paying producers to create tracks under untraceable pseudonyms – within specific musical guidelines – which were then being drafted into key first-party playlists.

After some consideration, Spotify declined to comment.


On Friday (July 7), nearly a year after our article appeared, Spotify issued a fierce denial of such accusations.

“We do not and have never created ‘fake’ artists and put them on Spotify playlists. Categorically untrue, full stop,” said a spokeperson in response to a Vulture article which cited MBW’s story.

“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.”

What’s essential to remember here: amongst Spotify’s indignant yet carefully-worded statement, you might have missed the bit where they deny that their service is littered with fake artists.

That’s because they can’t.

And, to prove the point, we’re about to reveal the names of 50 of them.


Here’s where this story veers somewhere towards scandal.

These non-existent acts are deliberately being chosen for inclusion, time and time again, on first-party playlists with millions of followers at the expense of label-signed music.

You’ve got to ask yourself why.

Does their music, as MBW is told, come with a more favorable royalty pricetag than tracks from traditional independent and major rights-holders?

We have a slight conundrum here, in that it’s difficult to now defend the veracity of our original story without breaking the confidence of our informants.

But we can say this much: last year, we learned about a producer in Europe who claimed that he’d done a deal with Spotify to create songs under ‘fake’ artist names.

“We do not and have never created ‘fake’ artists and put them on Spotify playlists. Categorically untrue, full stop.”

Spotify spokesperson

These tracks were then included by Spotify on key genre-based playlists.

To further corroborate this information, we were handed the names of his Spotify pseudonyms. They all existed, and they all boasted tracks with 500,000+ streams.

Other senior sources in the industry weren’t shocked – telling us that ‘fake’ artists appearing on first-party Spotify playlists was now common practice, and was indeed a bid by the platform to drive down its licensing costs.

These playlists included, amongst others, Peaceful Piano, Piano In The Background, Deep Focus, Sleep, Ambient Chill  and Music For Concentration.


So how do you know if an artist on Spotify is definitely fake?

You don’t. Not for sure.

Put it this way: if an act on Spotify has millions of streams from just a couple of tracks, but no other internet presence whatsoever, wouldn’t that strike you as odd?

No Facebook, no Twitter, no ReverbNation page, no homepage, no SoundCloud?

What about if they had no manager/lawyer and no industry relationships? And seemingly, according to their Spotify credits, personally owned all of their own rights?

“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.”

Senior music business executive speaking under condition of anonymity

What if their music then only appeared on Spotify – and was nowhere to be seen on YouTube, Apple Music etc.?

That would be weird, right? That would make no sense.

In total, tracks by the 50 ‘fake’ artists we’ve rumbled below amount to over 520m Spotify streams.

By traditional rights-holder payout metrics, that’s worth more than $3m in royalty payouts.

And this is just what MBW knows about – almost certainly the tip of the iceberg.


Here’s an idea. If any of the individuals mentioned in MBW’s list below are not completely and utterly fictional, please contact us.

We’re pretty sure A&R teams from across the globe would love to hear about artists with no online presence who have managed to rack up millions of Spotify plays with their first few tracks.

The big time beckons! We could change your life!

“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.”

Senior music business executive speaking under condition of anonymity

We don’t expect any of you to get in touch, of course.

Because you’re fake. Lifeless. Non-existent.

This is basically the equivalent of shouting motivational phrases to a warehouse full of mannequins.

Creepy.


Where were we, again? Right.

After Spotify’s no-way-never-not-in-a-million-years denial on Friday, MBW felt a bit hurt.

Last year, proper sources with proper verified industry credentials told us that Spotify had commissioned individuals to create music under fake names, before deliberately selecting these tracks for its playlists.

And here’s Spotify saying it’s all nonsense.

So rather than making sweeping statements, let’s just ask some questions. Logical, obvious questions.

Here’s what we know for sure: 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.

It already sounds a bit dodgy, right?

So here’s what we want to know:

  • 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?

We haven’t just posed these questions to a metaphorical roomful of mannequins.

Yesterday, we asked Spotify.

Guess what? They declined to comment.


Oh, actually, we didn’t just ask Spotify.

We also 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.

Here’s what some of these people (anonymized) have told us in the past 24 hours.

  • “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.”

Once again, to be clear, Spotify has denied any ownership of master rights, and claims: “We pay royalties – sound and publishing – for all tracks on Spotify, and for everything we playlist.”

And again, it adds: “We do not and have never created ‘fake’ artists and put them on Spotify playlists.”

Spotify remains in negotiations with Warner Music Group and Sony Music Entertainment to renew long-term global licensing deals.


Spotify’s fake artists: MBW’s big list (total streams)

  1. Amity Cadet (9.2m)
  2. Gabriel Parker (24.9m)
  3. Charlie Key (23.6m)
  4. Ana Olgica (23.5m)
  5. Lo Mimieux (22.3m)
  6. Mbo Mentho (10.3m)
  7. Benny Treskow (14.9m)
  8. Greg Barley (21.4m)
  9. Relajar (13.4m)
  10. Jeff Bright Jr (15.8m)
  11. Mayhem (10.2m)
  12. Novo Talos (17.2m)
  13. Advaitas (7.4m)
  14. Clay Edwards (4.7m)
  15. Benny Bernstein (9.6m)
  16. Enno Aare (17.1m)
  17. Amy Yeager (5.7m)
  18. Otto Wahl (27m)
  19. Piotr Miteska (26.7m)
  20. Leon Noel (2.7m)
  21. Giuseppe Galvetti (2.7m)
  22. Caro Utobarto (1.2m)
  23. Risto Carto (1.7m)
  24. Karin Borg (24.2m)
  25. Hultana (3.2m)
  26. Hiroshi Yamazaki (8.6m)
  27. Milos Stavos (7.1m)
  28. Allysa Nelson (4.3m)
  29. They Dream By Day (16.2m)
  30. Evelyn Stein (14.3m)
  31. Józef Gatysik (10.4m)
  32. Jonathan Coffey (480k)
  33. Pernilla Mayer (4.2m)
  34. Hermann (11.8m)
  35. Aaron Lansing (11.3m)
  36. Dylan Francis (6.5m)
  37. Christopher Colman (509k)
  38. Sam Eber (1.6m)
  39. Fellows (3.3m)
  40. Martin Fox (2.5m)
  41. Deep Watch (4.8m)
  42. The 2 Inversions (10.3m)
  43. Bon Vie (4.7m)
  44. Wilma Harrods (5.3m)
  45. Antologie (5.8m)
  46. Heinz Goldblatt (513k)
  47. Charles Bolt (32.4m)
  48. Samuel Lindon (11.8m)
  49. Tony Lieberman (2.5m)
  50. Mia Strass (8.9m)

Music Business Worldwide

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  • Jon Mais

    If you are going to write an article please make sure your information is accurate. There is nothing more galling than a pompous article accusing someone of doing something wrong written by a journalist who gets it wrong themselves! Have a word in the MBW Editor’s ear! The Spotify Fake Artists Chart contains a number of artists names twice with very slight spelling differences so it isn’t a Top 50. Examples: No. 8 Greg Barley and No. 20 Greg Bartley; No.s 16 & 47 Enno Aare (spelling is identical); I’m sure there are more examples but I’m disillusioned now with MBW’s reporting standards. Maybe this particular Journo would like to go and work for Spotify to help them create the names of these ‘fake’ artists.Get excited about a ‘scandal’ by all means but for God’s sake get your facts right.

    • Jon Riffioso Hockley

      Despite the inaccuracies there is definitely a story here. Who are these artists? i’ve checked a couple and most of their plays comes from Mexico which is a common click farm origin.

      • Terry Henry

        ‘Click farms’? Now that’s a story. What the f*ck? Anymore news on this please?

        • Jon Riffioso Hockley

          In Spotify search for one of the artist names in from the list above then click on the about tab. It will show the top few countries where plays are coming from.

          Regarding my comment on clickfarms i’m not sure what Spotify would have to gain from this since every play is a cost to Spotify. Content creators could gain from this. It’ not conclusive that clickfarms are being used in this case.

          • vintermann

            With the distribution key you can definitively profit from click farms on Spotify. See, spotify’s subscription fees is pooled before distribution – your money doesn’t go to the artists you listen to, it goes to what was listened most to. If Spotify had two customers, one who listened to a single artist 20 times, and one who listened to a different artist 2000 times, then the latter artist would get 99% of the collected subscription fees.

            The reason the distribution key is like that is that the big record companies demand it. Letting money follow the user would make clickfarming impossible and would more accurately reward the artists that keep people subscribed to Spotify. It would also make a rather small difference for most artists, and almost no difference for record companies. They still block it.

            I have no reason to think Spotify engages in clickfarming on itself, though. That would be pretty stupid. It’s far more likely that record companies do it, or for instance VeVO does it on youtube.

      • Mark Dobson

        How did you check where the plays come from?

    • KozmoNaut

      MBW is obviously biased towards the big labels, who are annoyed at losing revenue for all the “hard work” they do.

      Burn the big labels. We don’t need them.

    • Johann Grunwald

      Now you got me confused, because I see this names only once on the list. You care to explain?

  • Angela Johnson

    So… All artists create a verification system globally that requires direct contact between the artists and the verifier. Lets weed out the BS please!
    Angelica

  • Pop

    Some tracks of those fake artists even don’t have ISRC codes. Rest they have swedish codes such as SEXGF16148 (is not even valid ISRC).

    My favourite one: Józef Gatysik (polish musican lol?) and Charlie Key have the same labelcodes in ISRC: SE-XGF. Two random artists are in the same label? Please, Mr. Ek…

    It looks like the easiest way is just find songs with SEXGFxxxxx codes.

    • Pop

      And here’s more fake artists (I found them using ISRC):
      Mila Crowell
      Dana Daoud
      Piano Players
      Tony Lieberman
      Annie Leigh
      Sabine Moncler
      Samuel Bath
      Philip Watts
      Donald Shoenberg

      Most of tracks are christmas songs because I aggregate codes before Christmas. If you are interested, I can generate full list

      • Jon Riffioso Hockley

        how did you find out the ISRC codes? do you have a ppl database search or IFPI?

        • Pop

          First I tried to use PPL database (avaliable for everyone) or PRS but I couldn’t find anything – I guess spotify ‘label’ doesn’t registered tracks.

          In fact few months ago I tracked Spotify playlists payola and downloaded biggest playlists metadata including ISRC codes. I can try it again…

          • Jon Riffioso Hockley

            Nice work. I’m happy to help out here. I did some research into Spotify playlists last year looking at how the shuffle mechanism works.

          • Calvin Flowers

            WTF and I have spent a bundle on my Real Artists for promotions and cant get Playlisted….Please i would like to get that info.

      • I’m interested!

    • Dan

      Try doing some title searches in the BMI repertoire, I’m not sure if you can post URLs here but it’s easy to google.

  • Dan

    Spotify is lying.

    Two of the fake songs in question are Waiting for Nothing by Evolution Of Stars and Endless Fragments of Time by Deep Watch. If you search the BMI publishing repertoire for a song called Endless Fragments of Time, there’s only one listed, and it’s written by Andreas Romdhane and Josef Svedlund, two members of a Swedish songwriting team named Quiz & Larossi who have written and produced songs for artists like Kelly Clarkson and Alicia Keys. If you google the phrase “endless fragments of time” the Deep Watch song is the only song that comes up. There’s no performer listed with BMI, so I think we can safely assume that the song listed there is the Deep Watch song.

    When you search for Waiting for Nothing by a different band, Evolution of Stars, you find a listing for another song written by Andreas Romdhane and Josef Svedlund. What a coincidence! These two famous Swedish music producers just happened to write two songs that don’t appear anywhere else in their discography and have the same titles as fake songs on Spotify.

    The BMI search is publicly available, you can see for yourself. I’m sure there’s plenty more evidence. You’ll have to search by track name though, since the performers don’t exist. I was willing to give Spotify half credit for at least letting the artist keep their publishing rights but I don’t like them lying straight to our faces.

  • jes

    Check Pandora too. Same sort of thing in the ambient/techno chill whatever CDs with unknown artist names…

  • Dan

    Looks like Piotr Miteska is also Romdhane and Svedlund, same as Deep Watch. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/6040a6cb1118ac9c17a7bebafb378490081a7fff2dc0948e310c99f55ef96bed.jpg

    • Dan

      I just noticed that my original post was deleted, probably because I accidentally outed the source they were trying to protect. Oops!

      Two of the fake songs that have been mentioned are Waiting for Nothing by Evolution Of Stars and Endless Fragments of Time by Deep Watch. If you search BMI’s publishing database for a song called Endless Fragments of Time, there’s only one listed. It’s written by Andreas Romdhane and Josef Svedlund, a Swedish songwriting team named Quiz & Larossi who have written and produced songs for artists like Kelly Clarkson and Alicia Keys. But if you google the phrase “endless fragments of time” the Deep Watch song is the only song that comes up. There’s no performer listed with BMI, so I think we can safely assume that it’s Deep Watch.

      When you search for Waiting for Nothing, the “Evolution of Stars” song, you find another song written by Andreas Romdhane and Josef Svedlund. What a coincidence! These two well known Swedish music producers just happened to write two songs that aren’t anywhere else in their discography and have the same titles as fake songs on Spotify.

      If they didn’t forfeit their traditional Spotify payments I guess I have no problem with what these producers did, but if they undercut the standard deal then they’re acting as scabs and that’s a problem. I know some musicians make uncredited music library tracks and have forever, but this is different. These are being portrayed as real songs and artists by Spotify. If Spotify isn’t making special deals to save money then they’re saying that it’s easier for them to pay a well known producer to make muzak for them than it is to pay a music supervisor to go on Youtube for a few hours and find something new to put in their playlist. If Spotify has truly run out of music to recommend to people I will gladly help you find some more if you want to give me a job.

      • vintermann

        Very interesting. So these people were already selling their songs to be marketed by other people’s names. The only difference is that now they sell their music to stars that don’t exist! Brilliant. One way to cut out the middleman.

  • Terry Henry

    I tried to see this as the big deal the article is painting it out to be.. but it’s not. Those more ‘ambient’ playlists need content. Spotify is running at a loss, and letting them have royalties from songs they executive-produced, is the least we could do to keep these platforms running. Major labels are great, but just because a company doesn’t want to exclusively work with them doesn’t mean they’re in the wrong.
    How many of the top 10 songs in any genre were exclusively written by the performing artist anyway? Where do you draw the line here?

    • Jon Riffioso Hockley

      I understand what you mean. Spotify is the best thing we have right now, why start pulling it apart? Maybe we should wait until loopholes on youtube and other platforms have been closed first? but how long will that take? do we really want a streaming platform to get comfortable with putting out their own music? replacing the jobs or not just major artist with big label cuts but also independent artists.

      And say we do let the practice continue for the good of the industry and the sustainability of the platform. Surely the fans of the music should know? surely Spotify should admit to these practices. At that way other artists will have a chance of jumping on this secret bandwagon.

      • Terry Henry

        I have no problem with a streaming company, or anybody, putting out their own music. The musician’s will always win because we’re the ones who know how to make the music.
        I’m not sure the fans should know either, because as long as the product is good, why ruin the story for the listener? As I mentioned, most of the big songs we hear are made one way, then sold to us as another.
        As long as the quality of music is high, and everyone gets paid for their services, then I think that’s fair. I’m sure this story is more complicated than it sounds though!

  • jimmy harry

    This is absolutely silly. Spotify is not a problem. You Tube is a problem. Record companies grabbing a huge piece of the pie when they are no longer distributers and have minimal risk is a huge problem. Songwriters, producers and artists not being able to make a living because of the former is a massive problem.

    • drk@dynamicrecording.com

      Both are the problem. Pandora, etc too !

  • THE OLD MAN SESSIONS

    I have just some questions to all of this: if you take off all the music from Spotify what do you really have? Why you give your music to the aggregators put in the spotify if you do not know how much you will actually receive so this is if you will get even something, because who makes the rules are them, and who receives the mechanical license from your songs that are allocated on the Spotify server? You create, produce and pay all to give to someone for use your product generate money and pay to you something he means is nice to them, you are the last one to receive something, why? You had already put all your energy, time, money up front……

  • Ray Scott

    You’ve only listed 49 unique artist names. Enno Aare appears in your list twice: at position 16 and 24.

    • Tim Ingham

      Whoops, thanks – No.24 should have been Karin Borg (24.2m), have updated.

      • Billy Jones

        Hey Tim, this isn’t just piano/chill. They’re trying their hand a t dance music too: Search ‘Cospe’ in Spotify @Cospeofficial

        • EW

          Cospe appear to have a back catalogue, and a social media presence at least on Facebook (I don’t think I can put a URL in but their page appears to be /cospeofficial); they are licensing at least some tracks royalty-free with Epidemic Sound and being open about that, but that doesn’t seem like the same situation as any of the piano/chill artists being discussed here, unless I’m misunderstanding?

  • drk@dynamicrecording.com

    The main problem is Spotify is ripping all artists off.
    Spotify payment to Dynamic Recording:

    63 streams – $.06 cents. This is a major rip off.

    Radio stations pay us 8.5 cents per play.

    cdBaby, iTunes, amazon all pay us well.

    Smart music buyers love the free music and do not purchase or download.

    Many top Artists have pulled there music from streaming, because their sales

    and downloads have dried up.

    • Terry Henry

      But this is where people can get it messed up… Unless your song is a classic, radio will only play it for a short amount of time. Spotify plays are endless. So it’s better to judge payments over a longer time period. I think streaming has got something going on, and we should look to make it better.

    • EricSyre

      And 8.5 cents per play is already a rip off.

      • vintermann

        Funny how artists think they’re entitled to be paid what they “deserve”, and for every single play no less.

        Most of us are paid once for the work we do, not every time our work is used. And moreover, our wages are set mostly by supply and demand rather than the moral value of our work. If you think being an artist sucks, try being a peon.

        • drk@dynamicrecording.com

          I was a peon. Didn’t like it so I wrote and recorded music. BUT, if some one doesn’t get Spotify to start paying, why bother recording ?

          • not a pothead

            no one is ASKING for your music drk that’s the thing.

      • drk@dynamicrecording.com

        8.5 is no where near enough. Write and record an album and tell me Artists are paid too much – – –

    • vintermann

      Radio broadcasts are listened to by more than one person.

      Spotify is bleeding money to record companies. They’re killing the golden goose, because some people would rather feed their egos (not “sell themselves cheap”) than make money.

  • Todd Morty Waxman Perry II

    Who CARES?! Spotify is disrupting and you’re mad. Get with the program, it’s a new day and age.

    • JasonBorchard

      “Get with the program…”

      No thanks, I’ll just play MP3 files that reside on my own storage media. If I want a huge library on the go, I’ll just connect to my self-hosted storage server.

    • raebzan

      Disrupting or ripping off?

  • EW

    Here’s what I reckon is actually happening:

    Artists are selling tracks to libraries royalty-free, which are commissioned to fit perfectly into existing playlists and rack up lots of streams, and waiving all (or most) of their rights. Spotify are then paying standard royalties to those libraries rather than directly to the artist. Spotify haven’t said the artists aren’t selling their tracks off as production music – they’re just saying the artists aren’t selling their tracks as production music TO THEM, because they are not a production library. They’re just playlisting tracks owned by other libraries.

    The artists ‘don’t exist’ because they don’t want their library-published music to be associated with whatever their main output is, if they have one (probably because the second you reveal you’re writing for production libraries everyone shrieks at you that you’re not a real artist 😉 ). It’s a standard royalty-free library music model, but instead of being aimed at advertisers or YouTubers or whatever it’s being aimed at Spotify playlists instead.

    This is just a suspicion I have no way of proving. It’s not as exciting as ‘Spotify are creating fake artists so they don’t have to pay anyone’ but IMHO a lot more likely.

    • EW

      Also, and this is more of a series of open questions for contemplation: is it worse for a production library to be getting the royalties for a track than it is for a major label to be getting them? If an artist has chosen to sell a track royalty-free is that worse than self-releasing it for free and paying out of their own pockets to have it distributed on Spotify? Is it worse than signing a contract for a royalty agreement with a label? Why or why not?

      • Dan

        If there was a playlist called Muzak: Songs For Algorithms, no one would listen to it. Spotify knows this, which is why they are lying and presenting these songs as being written and performed by “real” artists. Artists that people want to know more about, because people desire an emotional connection with the humans who create the music they enjoy. People are sick of being lied to and they will not tolerate it in their art, which is why Spotify keeps trying to make this go away.

        There’s no shortage of music out there so why not spread the money around a little bit instead of hiring two Swedish guys to write every song? Do you think monopolies make for better music? Are you afraid of what might happen in twenty years when artificial intelligence becomes capable of producing electronic music that can pass a Turing test, once it figures out the math to make a human cry? Do you think when there is only one place to listen to music, that the people who own it will be generous enough to share their profits with other human beings when they can get machines to create content for free? Will people in 2037 have access to enough information to find “real” music when they’re having discussions like this with an AI bot programmed to defend the corporation that created it? Or will we still just listening to Bob Seger then?

        • EW

          I think there are a million ways to create and consume and enjoy music now, and I think there will be more still in 2037 – I don’t believe we are likely to end up with ‘only one place to listen to music’. I know as many people releasing music only on cassette tape and sold exclusively at live shows as I do people releasing music on Spotify. I fundamentally don’t believe there *is* a cultural monopoly (there may well be a financial one but that has always been the case). As an independent artist I don’t particularly view this case as any more of a threat than I view Taylor Swift as a threat; we exist in multiple different worlds with only very little cultural overlap.

          I suspect people who want to be listening to Bob Seger will continue to do so, people who want to listen to whoever the 2037 equivalent of Rihanna (is she a real artist? I think so. Is she embodying a persona and writing specifically to criteria that will assure her corporate success? Absolutely!) will continue to do so, and people who want to listen to fuzzy punk recorded in someone’s garage will continue to do so. As you say, to many people personal connection with an artist is important and that is one reason I am not that convinced the likely endpoint of this is a robot monopoly (or any monopoly), even if lots of people *are* cool with listening to something faceless (which I suspect they have always been given the popularity of easy listening/chillout/Putumayo Presents style compilations).

          ‘There’s no shortage of music out there so why not spread the money around a little bit instead of hiring two Swedish guys to write every song?’ – this I strongly agree with but I also feel much the same about many major labels (see: Ed Sheeran’s chart monopoly). I’m not, however, certain that there’s a better way to deal with this than as a consumer going and seeking out independent artists to support more directly, for those who are motivated to do so – unfairness is at the very core of capitalism, and music is no exception.

          • Dan

            “I’m not, however, certain that there’s a better way to deal with this than as a consumer going and seeking out independent artists to support more directly, for those who are motivated to do so – unfairness is at the very core of capitalism, and music is no exception.”

            There’s no inherent reason why capitalism has to poison music, it does that because we let it. It’s just easier to let other people take care of all this stuff, which is why streaming is so popular.

            In no other industry is the consumer expected to fix the problems of the laborers creating the product being consumed. Ethical consumerism is lifestyle politics that accomplishes nothing. The creators have all the power here but they have no way to unite and leverage it over the corporations who use their content to make billions of dollars. We need to at the very least start shaming artists who are willing to cooperate with these corporations in exchange for letting them have a head start on the race to the bottom. They are scabs. Ultimately we are the ones who let them devalue music by saying this isn’t a big deal, because no artist wants to be perceived as the square who cares about money.

          • EW

            What is the intended pragmatic outcome of shaming the artists submitting music via royalty-free services, though, and what more does it achieve than simply taking business as consumers back to individual artists elsewhere? If the conclusion of this situation is, as you say, a monopoly, going after individual artists when Spotify can just as easily replace them once they go back to writing for an ad library instead alters nothing. The artists in this model are 100% interchangeable as far as Spotify are concerned.

            I’m not sure what else *can* be done other than demanding transparency from Spotify, which as with most large corporations appears to be like getting blood from a stone.

          • Dan

            I’m not saying every artist on Spotify is equally guilty, I’m only talking about the ones secretly taking money from Spotify to undercut the streaming deal they made with all their fellow musicians. You don’t think that’s shameful? If someone did it to a union electrician you’d understand.

          • EW

            Read my most recent comment again. ‘The artists submitting music via royalty-free services’ are the same as the ones you’re referring to. And since they’re faceless Spotify can replace them as fast as they quit and go back to conventional library music.

          • Dan

            They’re not faceless, they’re two Swedish guys who go by Quiz and Larossi. And they didn’t submit anything, Spotify commissioned it specifically. The next person Spotify asks to do this will realize they probably won’t be able to remain anonymous.

          • vintermann

            You can certainly use an intermediary that will let you be anonymous to publish on Spotify, Quiz and Larossi just didn’t care to, and instead registered their music like they usually do. They aren’t behind all of these “fake artists”, just some.

          • Edwin Joassart

            That’s a big claim. What’s you source?

          • John_Eppstein

            What can be done is to not use streaming services. Purchase the music you like. It’s the only solution.

          • John_Eppstein

            The only ones who devalue music are those who are unwilling to pay a fair price to have great music produced. The number of people making a living playing music now has dropped to 45% of the number 5 years ago and the decline is increasing. The number of studios capable of producing great music has been declining even worse. There’s a lot of hype going around about how people can now make studio quality music at home. This is a lie promoted by those in the business of selling home recording equipment, most of which is not of adequate quality to produce adequate results – but even if it was good enough it wouldn’t matter because what’s missing from the home recording equation is experience and skill, which are things that can only be developed by working for experienced and skilled people in a professional environment. You can’t learn recording properly off the internet or out of books, even if you’re lucky enough to find good information. Like any difficult to master craft or art, to become a good recordist requires hands-on training under those who have mastered the craft. The home recording craze doesn’t really benefit anybody except the companies selling home recording gear and taking advantage of people’s dreams.

            The only way out of this is for people to start purchasing music again, which isn’t likely to happen any time soon. Streaming is not the answer – no streaming service pays a fair royalty to the artists, and even so streaming companies are not economically viable – they all are operating in the red with their owners hoping to cash in on an eventual IPO, which will in turn leave the public shareholders holding a big bag full of red ink.

            If you value music, pay for it. Hard copy of your choice, paid downloads, whatever. Just pay for it, because good music costs money. Money to support the artists while they create it, money to produce the records, music to promote it so that you know it even exists.

            Music is not free. Like any product it costs money and someone has to pay.

          • John_Eppstein

            If things keep going as they are, by 2037 there will be only two kinds of music available – commercial pablum cranked out to formula in various “genres” – but all done to the same cheesy commercial standards with the same lack of real content, and poorly produced and recorded amateur crap, some of which MIGHT have been great music if the artists had had access to proper mentoring and development, but most of which will be of no interest to anybody except the immediate friends and family of the performers. But it won’t really matter because there will be no avenue for proper promotion available for any of these amateur productions unless the artists are independently wealthy.

            We’re almost there already. It’s a race to the bottom.

          • drk@dynamicrecording.com

            You are correct John. We are there now.

            At Dynamic Recording, where we have many, many recordings available on CD Baby,
            we feel that
            our income has been adversely affected by the policies in place right
            now. A look at our earnings (and therefore the earnings of CD Baby too!)
            demonstrates that through the first quarter of 2016, our revenues are
            only at 67% of the same quarter last year.
            2015 was down slightly from 2015, and I’m guessing that if we had not added additional titles during 2015, the difference
            may have been more significant. If this trend continues through
            2016, being down 33% in CD Baby income is not good.
            And we’re only one company on CD Baby – if other musicians, record
            companies, independent performers, etc. are seeing the
            same trend, it’s a serious loss in income to people who are not being
            compensated properly for streamed and free music.
            We believe CD Baby should unite with the others who have taken a
            stand to gain reasonable payment for artistic endeavors.
            Spotify payment to Dynamic Recording:
            63 streams – $.06 cents. This is a major rip off.
            Radio stations pay us 8.5 cents per play.
            cdBaby, iTunes, amazon all pay us well.
            Smart music buyers love the free music and do not purchase or download.

            Many top Artists have pulled there music from streaming, because their sales and downloads have dried up.

        • vintermann

          > If there was a playlist called Muzak: Songs For Algorithms, no one would listen to it.

          Speak for yourself. I would certainly give it a chance. “Music for a french elevator and other oddities” turned out to be quite interesting.

    • Dan

      The difference is that Spotify is branding itself as a curator of great music and using that brand to sell advertisements and subscriptions to their service. If people realize that they are listening to generic music beds from a production library they will no longer be interested in the service, because there is a difference between music and sound.

  • Mr.Guy520

    Here’s my questions: how much money could this possibly be saving Spotify? Spotify gets billions of plays every month, racking up tens of millions of dollars in royalty payments on a monthly basis. Spotify is also losing huge sums of money annually. Any savings here is a drop in the bucket compared to their losses.

    • Dan

      It doesn’t matter, some executive now has some numbers to point to on a chart to prove how much money they saved the company so they can justify their bonus. The listener just gets muzak.

    • the saving is in lowering labels power by saying: Hey you got 10 artists in top 10 now you got only 8, so I will pay less because you are no longer that relevant. Remember that labels deals with billions of dollars, so they may not be playing nice as well.

      • Mr.Guy520

        I can see your logic if the music in question was top 40 content, but that’s clearly not the case. If Spotify started placing this ‘fake’ artist music in RapCaviar then that would be a completely different story. Something tells me that won’t be happening though.

      • vintermann

        That isn’t exactly unfair, though. If your music can be replaced by inexpensive commissioned music by someone no one’s heard of, well, it probably wasn’t worth that much in the first place!

  • Mattia Settimelli

    I see people really don’t get it, but it’s pretty evident what Spotify has to gain from it: saving costs.
    This strategy is nothing new: never heard of “private label” in commerce?
    Well, every retailer (offline and online) out there got private label products. It works like this:
    I open a retail store and want to sell big brands to attract people; once I’m a renowned brand in the industry, I start to insert my own products (90% of every existing products can be bought from the same manufacturer at wholesale cost, cause doesn’t have the brand on it). I start to cut off major brands to save on costs and cash in my own product.

    Every retail store since the beginning of times made this: Amazon is doing it, Walmart is doing it, Decathlon is doing it (Quechua is one of their own brand).

    Generally, after a while stores die from this strategy, as they basically turn their clients into competitors. But sometime could work.

    Here, Spotify is experimenting with something that Apple with iTunes didn’t want to mess with: they own users and clients, they are a huge radio basically. So why not to try to cut costs, inserting fake private label artists, becoming more as a record label and savings costs (basically fake artists costs nothing, they save huge sums between compensations, royalties, licensing deals, lawyers fees, etc).

    Remain to be seen if they reach a point in which labels withdraws their artists and they end with only fake artists, with 0 value.

    But it’s clear to me, that at least for chill out music, instrumental background music, almost, instore music, they can use big libraries of auto-generated music without anyone noticing.
    Let’s see…

    • EW

      This is a genuine and non-rhetorical question – are there specific things about the tracks in question that make you think they are auto-generated? I’m not sure I’ve encountered any algorithmically-written music that’s as sophisticated as the Enno Aare tracks, for instance. My assumption was that a human had written it, then sold it to a label/library and waived all the rights.

      • Matt Sokol

        It seems much more likely that they are hiring humans to do it. Even if they auto-generated it with AI, based on today’s technology (which I did some decent research on earlier this year) – they’d need human producers to fix it up anyway.

        • 8thEnder

          These are not Auto-Generated… but I can tell a few of the songs were written using the same piano or virtual instrument.

          This whole process is called “Ghost Writing” and often includes a NDA (Non-disclosure Agreement). So unless the real artist who created these songs wants to loose everything they have in a lawsuit, they’ll keep their mouths shut.

          This is a HUGE problem in the Dance Music community, however it doesn’t bother me too too much from a musical standpoint other then I know that the music being made came from an influence of money, instead of likely experience and real emotion. Additionally, the problem with this is that it does a number of other damaging things;

          – Dilutes the market with substandard music
          – Increases the urge for over-consumption of music
          – Floods the market with music, driving prices & earnings for each artist down;
          – Decreases the shelf-life of music (when was the last time you saw such turn-over in the music charts)

          • I see no force involved that makes people listen to music they don’t appreciate. Your whole reasoning is based on a false premise.

      • Kriff

        They are most definitely not auto-generated – there’s no algorithm that can do that just yet. I think your assumption is correct. Browsing through a portion of the artists, I would assume a large portion of them are created by the same person, who didn’t neccessarily use a long time composing/recording them.

        Source: musician

      • vintermann

        Well, Enno Aare has a youtube channel too, where he has been replying to comments and even given away the sheet music. So I think maybe that one is genuine. Either that, or Spotify’s commissioned artist is really going the extra mile.

    • Agree. There’s nothing wrong with this practice. Of course majors don’t like it and have the power to make it known. I see a new “value gap”-style invention on the horizon

  • Milega

    I feel that if Spotify just announces they are buying cheaper sounds everything is fine. Platform exclusive content is nothing new. They might be afraid it will drive away traffic from Spotify, but I feel a large base of they’re users is fine with their selection anyway – so let “real artists” leave Spotify and win back exclusiveness through higher prices they make for themselves.

  • Lance Allen

    There are a few on Peaceful Guitar playlist which might be a large reason why my music isn’t showing up on it’s playlist??

    • SelfPortrait

      I doubt that.

      • Lance Allen

        They’re on acoustic concentration too near top of the list..
        I work very hard at this and when I see thing like this it makes me wonder.

      • Nathan Hyatt

        Hahaha, you’re funny, but don’t be an ass! 😉

  • dani

    Fake artist “Amber Virena” now in the viral chart 50, lol.
    The big problem here is that Spotify does not calculate royalties based upon a fixed “per play” rate so these tracks are effecting the stream payout rate for EVERY single track on Spotify. That means that if one of your songs has been streamed 0.5% of the total number of streams in a month, you will get 0.5% of the of the royalties paid out to right holders.

    • vintermann

      > The big problem here is that Spotify does not calculate royalties based upon a fixed “per play” rate

      That’s exactly what they do. They calculate royalties “per play” instead of “per user per play” as they should – but that’s also what you’re describing, so I’m only quibbling with the wording.

      It is the record companies and the artists’ organizations that demand they should do it this way. I think all the streaming companies would prefer a user-centric model, after all it’s in their interest to reward the artists that keep people subscribed, not necessarily those which are played on repeat.

      • 8thEnder

        Vintermann… Dani’s wording was just fine. I think you are just misunderstanding something. There is a difference between how “per play” streams are paid, based on a number of different factors, including: Which Country the song was streamed in, and Spotify’s number of paid users vs free users at the time.

        The process which everyone complains about is way more complex than just pressing play and getting paid. What an artist gets paid fluctuates greatly on a number of different factors which in addition to the couple I mentioned above, also include;

        – Relative Premium/Unlimited pricing and currency value in different countries where the music is played from
        – The artists royalty rate with their Label (which includes loss of income from production, promotion, distribution, etc.)

      • Nathan Hyatt

        No, Dani is right; the per-play metric is used to define shares (an artist’s/label’s “slice of the pie” that month); the actual amounts that get paid out each month are determined by the overall size of the whole pie, which basically varies according to number of paying subscribers and advertising revenue.

        Long story short, if everyone actually subscribed to Spotify at $9.99 per month instead of using the “freemium” version, there would be A LOT more money going out to artists than there is currently.

        • vintermann

          I’ve maybe been unclear here, but I do agree with dani, I just quibble with calling it “per play”. Owners are currently paid a fixed share of the total (not a fixed amount) per play. We all would rather see them paid per user-play – a share of the subscription fee paid by that user.

          Sure, if everyone subscribed there’d be a lot more money in the pool. But Spotify aren’t dumb, if they thought they could make more money by taking away the ad-supported alternative they would. They have the data to determine optimal price points, the artists demanding an end to freemium don’t – and their interests are in fact totally aligned in this matter, since they pay a fixed share.

  • Kevin H.

    Spotify curated playlists are useless to me. This does not affect users who, like me create their own playlists and listen to them exclusively. If I were to listen to, say Relaxing Piano music, I pick my own tracks from well know composers. Then again, as long as the listener is happy with what they’re listening to, who cares?

    • TJ Harris

      Us struggling artists care. This has nothing to do with the consumer. You get cheap or free music(unless you care that some of your favorite bands might call it quits because of companies like this stealing from them and they can pay their bills). Then it concerns you.

      • Cry me a river. Spotify and an artist signs a deal voluntarily to produce some music for a certain amount of money. Exactly how the whole job market works.

        If it takes me 40 h to record a song and I get paid a reasonable 40 h wage, what is the problem?

        • TJ Harris

          I missed the part where you get paid pennies for working a 40 hr week. Imagine you make $600 a week for years(still way better than most musicians) and then one day your boss comes in and says, “hey, things are changing and I still own you, but this other guy is gonna start paying you instead. And by the way, you still have to put in the same time and investments for about .01% of the pay.”

          • You can quit being a musician, can’t you? Your argument is invalid. No one has an obligation to pay you a salary if they don’t need your work. I would like to work as a surfer, but I am not good enough. Poor me.

        • Nathan Hyatt

          You’re obviously not a working musician…

          • OhSoRight

            Well, if it’s the real Kim Gordon, it is.

            However, there’s nothing to confirm that either way.

  • James Walsh

    I don’t know why but the fake artists “Milli Vanilli” comes to mind. I recall that in the news at the time it was said that the Grammy Foundation stripped them of their grammy. Perhaps “fake” is like the stuff of 70’s and 80’s backdoor meetings. Shoes Salesman in West L.A. : “What you have here son, is Genuine FAKE Leather.” You don’t have to listen to it and you don’t need to own it.

  • Lasse Instefjord Alfsvåg

    I highly doubt the validity of the claim stated by MBW.

    Doing a handful of google searches on some of the names on the list shows that many have a pretty good online presence.

    Mayhem (number 11) is one of the worlds most prominent black metal bands for crying out loud!

    • vintermann

      It’s a different Mayhem. If you search them up in Spotify instead, you don’t get the metal band on top, you get the artist who has one single release (“Solitude hymns”), where the title track has 10 222 837 listens.

      By comparison, black metal band Mayhem’s most popular track has 1 346 075.

      Illustrates nicely why the payout model rewards composers of ambient/background tracks HUGELY over the artist that actually might inspire you to subscribe. But the payout model is the way it is because the record companies demand it.

    • Nathan Hyatt

      Did you read the article? The author explicitly states how this Mayhem is NOT that Mayhem. We all love THAT Mayhem, but this ain’t it…

  • 8thEnder

    I’m going to play devil’s advocate here for a second just to stir things up a bit…

    Knowing this list of 50 artists is all Piano based music save for 1 or 2 of the songs these artists have released, have we considered that there was perhaps a demand for Piano based music?

    Have we considered that the demand for this style of music outweighed the supply, and in order to keep subscribers or numbers up Spotify commissioned a few artists to write music under different aliases?

    The driving reason for the multiple aliases might be… how likely are you to listen through an entire playlist by the same artist when you don’t like the first song, versus if all the artists are different?

    • Arne-Inge Farstad

      You have the solution 🙂 There must be a company in Mexico, which order and arrange lift music for companies and lifts world wide, that would make sense of this.Maybe they are streaming it directly to the elevators, which may cause the high streaming numbers.

  • Eric Morton

    Anybody check the records at the U.S. Copyright Office?

  • Christofer Ohlsson

    Hi.

    m means milli, or thousandth.
    You’re looking for M, mega, million.

    • Not in the UK, where m alone (with no other unit symbol) is conventionally used to denote mega-.

      • Christofer Ohlsson

        “Conventionally” meaning “wide-spread error” in this case. The Systeme International is adopted in the UK iirc.

        • No, it’s not an error, as they are used in different contexts. M is used with other measurement units (think mega-), m is used without any (think million). Using m for millions does not invalidate using M for mega-.

          • Christofer Ohlsson

            This error and deviation from the standard has the potential drawback of being confusing, and exactly zero advantages. So it needs to end.

          • May Leonard

            Yeah? Well it’s not gonna, because it makes sense. Too ra looh.

  • Benoit Seguy

    Amity Cadet, Gabriel Parker, Charlie Key, Charles Bolt Seems to be the same song…
    Or by the same composer… It’s probably true.

  • This is exactly the same as stock photos. No issue at all (except Spotify lying about its business model).

  • HR

    ALL of them has Mexico City as the number one place of listeners!!?.. FAKE shit..

  • Obama’sMovedOutta

    What the fcku would anyone even bother with $hit like Spotify anyway?

    • Dawn

      lol me

  • Lucas Santana Aguiar

    Just heard this one too, FYI: spotify:artist:5GXhAiQ5jc4oKOgfzmSg3r

  • Keira

    What exactly is the issue with this? You go into a supermarket that sells branded products and there’s the supermarket own brand too. If creating your own products is cheaper than reselling others, why wouldn’t you do it?

    Seems to me this is a case of artists being unhappy about a little competition. It’s a free market.

  • Aarón Hernández Galaz

    #11 Mayhem… are you fucking kidding me?