Music streaming platform Spotify is under the spotlight this week with accusations they have been filling their curated playlists with fake artists and songs. The allegations have been made by entertainment news site Vulture and industry site Music Business Worldwide.
The allegations directed at the world’s most popular streaming platform are that Spotify encourages and even pays producers to create tracks under pseudonyms. A Google search of some of the supposed fake artists confirms this, with no information appearing on the artists in question in the form of a personal website or links to social media.
Spotify has denied the allegations saying they have never created fake artists and put them on Spotify playlists. In a statement, Spotify said they pay royalties for all tracks on Spotify, and for everything playlisted. They also added that they do not own rights, are not a label, and that all their music is licensed from rights-holders.
In an article, music industry site Music Business Worldwide revealed a list of fifty names which they claim to be some of the fake artists Spotify are being accused of using in their playlists. This list includes artists with names such as Amity Cadet, Mayhem, and Hultana. All the artists listed have racked up 520 million streams on Spotify which equates to around $3 million in royalties. Many of the tracks accused of being fake are ambient piano pieces which could make it difficult for people to tell the difference between a fake and authentic track.
Spotify’s playlists are extremely popular and are often the main go to for users in discovering new music. The importance of these playlists is also seen in that record labels pay large amounts of money to have their artists featured on them, making the possibility that fake artists could be replacing real artists on them a major bone of contention for record labels.
Some industry experts appear unsurprised by the news with many saying that fake artists appearing on Spotify playlists was common practice, and was indeed a bid by the platform to drive down its licensing costs. However, others have questioned the ethics around the practice especially in relation to royalty rates and whether authentic artists are missing out on exposure and money.
Spotify has been struggling financially and any opportunity to pay less to labels for music or lower its costs would have been looked into by the Swedish company. However, for a company that is already under attack for not paying artists fairly for access to their content, any move that could be deemed unethical when it comes to ensuring artists get their fair share could be met with a touch of cynicism or disappointment. It remains to be seen how damaging this will be for Spotify and their brand in what is a competitive music streaming market.