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Spotify Denies Allegations It's Putting Fake Artists On Popular Playlists To Cut Costs (factmag.com) 115

Last year, music industry publication Music Business Worldwide (MBW) claimed Spotify was putting fake artists in some of its popular playlists. The publication listed 50 artists it claimed were not real. Why would they do such a thing? To keep royalty costs down. MBW claimed that Spotify "was asking producers to create music to specification and paying them a flat fee to own the track outright," reports FACT Magazine. "These tracks -- which MBW alleged were being used to bulk up numbers on ambient, chillout and piano playlists -- are said to be owned by Spotify so that the company could circumvent royalty payments on playlists that have millions of subscribers." From the report: The claims were brought to wider attention by a feature published by Vulture last week, which picked out acts called Deep Watch and Enno Aare as examples of "fake artists" that had racked up two million and 15 million streams despite having no public profile. In a statement given to Billboard last week, Spotify refuted the allegations made by both MBW and Vulture. "We do not and have never created 'fake' artists and put them on Spotify playlists," the company said. "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." In a piece published yesterday, MBW challenged Spotify's statement, citing anonymous sources in the music business who claimed that the practice has been going on for a "long time."
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Spotify Denies Allegations It's Putting Fake Artists On Popular Playlists To Cut Costs

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  • Aren't most of them fake artists, really?
  • Sounds like a good idea to me.
    • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by freeze128 ( 544774 ) on Monday July 10, 2017 @09:37PM (#54782785)
      If the listener cannot tell the difference between a track from a well-known artist and a track from a knock-off artist, then it's all good. It sounds like this was being done on playlists where the tracks are all ambient or instrumental anyway. If they tried to copy the vocals of a popular song, I bet they would have a lot more trouble keeping it secret.
      • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Dracolytch ( 714699 ) on Monday July 10, 2017 @10:37PM (#54783087) Homepage

        Yep... I listen to ambient music when I'm coding (Though Pandora, not Spotify). That said, if it's good enough to code to, why should I care if it's an in-house label? So long as it's not pirated, why should I give a flying **** if the legal agreement behind the scenes is pay-per-play or lump-commission?

        • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

          by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Monday July 10, 2017 @10:46PM (#54783125) Journal
          I suspect that your sentiment may have something to do with why they are so particularly displeased by the idea:

          If Spotify is just doing something dubiously legal; Team RIAA can sue them into a smoking crater and call it a day; it'd hardly be the first time that has happened.

          If there are genres where some adequately competent musicians banging together a work for hire are considered by listeners to be an acceptable substitute for "real" artists; and can be used for 95 years for whatever one-time payment got them into the studio; well, really, really, sucks to be an artist in that genre.
          • Re: So? (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Why does that really really suck? 95% of the other occupations on the planet work that way. Most programmers don't own the rights to their work. Manual laborers don't. Financial analysts don't.

          • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

            by Anonymous Coward

            Like every band during the sixties? [wreckingcrewfilm.com]

            Seriously, that movie was a revelation to me about how the music industry has ALWAYS worked. There are literally dozens of bands from that time period that were, in reality, all putting out albums played by the same small crew of session dudes, just sometimes swapping in the lead vocalists from their actual band.

            That pretty much holds for anything outside of hard rock to this day. A "distributor" being the ones to hire the session dudes and gals instead of a "label" real

          • Re:So? (Score:4, Informative)

            by Cederic ( 9623 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2017 @11:45AM (#54786503) Journal

            whatever one-time payment got them into the studio; well, really, really, sucks to be an artist in that genre.

            Not really. That's how most of us work. Get paid for the time spent in the studio/office/shop/warehouse, get fuck all afterwards.

            The anomaly is the current fucked up copyright situation where people keep getting paid for something they did 70 years before they fucking died. How the fuck that benefits society hasn't been explained.

            • The thing to remember is that most artists don't get paid that long(despite copyright terms indeed being ridiculous); because somebody has to care enough about their work to pay for it.

              The rock stars get to coast on their back catalogs; but the people who can be replaced by anonymous filler without audience displeasure probably aren't them;
          • If there are genres where some adequately competent musicians banging together a work for hire are considered by listeners to be an acceptable substitute for "real" artists; and can be used for 95 years for whatever one-time payment got them into the studio; well, really, really, sucks to be an artist in that genre.

            Nonsense.

            There's nothing at all "sucky" about working in a field where you can get a decent day's pay for a day's work, and do it steadily. What sucks is the rest of the music industry, where artists have a miniscule chance of becoming ludicrously wealthy and (1 - miniscule) probability of starving for years reaching for a golden ring that they'll never achieve.

            It's a poorly-kept secret in the LA music scene that one of the best jobs you can get is as a session musician that is regularly hired by labels

        • It's not so much about the pedigree of the music as Spotify misrepresenting it.
          • Re:So? (Score:4, Interesting)

            by KozmoStevnNaut ( 630146 ) <henrikstevn@@@gmail...com> on Tuesday July 11, 2017 @06:12AM (#54784587)

            Misrepresenting it? It's just an artist name (a lot of which are pseudonyms for "real" artists, anyway) and a track title, and a piece of music that is non-offensive and decent enough for background listening. What's so wrong about that?

            • If that's all it was, that would be fine. Spotify is going beyond that: claiming these works were developed independently of itself, when in fact they were commissioned. The quality of the music doesn't factor into it. It's people paying for one thing and being served something else.
              • Do their self-commissioned music push out other music from the service? This is all elevator music, utterly generic and replaceable.

        • Just think of the poor, hand-to-mouth, hard working middle men such as record companies and their industry representatives (RIAA, BPI, etc). How are they gonna afford five-star food and lodgings and to pay off governments unless Spotify burns to the ground in a mountain of debt?

          Not helping the entitled is really about the worst thing anyone can do, and $deity knows it. I strongly recommend you start only 'consuming' music from approved providers. Choice is not a virtue.

        • The labels are in constant contention with Spotify and Pandora over what the per play amount should be. Spotify likely sends them some data on X many users, and Y many plays of label songs, and Z many plays of non-label songs (independents, etc.). If Spotify is justifying their per play amount on the ratio of label vs. non-label plays, and then intentionally inserting owned, $0 songs into popular playlists to get lots of plays, then the labels may feel like something is being pulled over on them. This is f
      • Re:So? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Megol ( 3135005 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2017 @03:33AM (#54784103)

        The thing is that even if this is true there is no knock-off artist involved. If someone or someones made the music (and it have to be made) they are artists making music even if they aren't well known.

        The idea that this would be a problem or that one have to be well known with a single artist/act name to be real is ludicrous and not common even in "mainstream" music production. There are many songwriters that aren't known to the world and sometimes not even credited at all (with the music instead claimed to be written by some other artist). Are they fake? Nope.

        This is just childish anti-spotify propaganda.

      • by DrXym ( 126579 )
        No, it's not "all good" any more than ordering crab at a restaurant and getting fish sticks. Or buying a fake Lacoste t-shirt. The consumer is screwed and so is anyone who is competing against these knockoffs.
        • Knockoffs implies somebody's selling tracks supposedly by Elton John (or substitute any act that people have heard of) when it's really some pub singer.

          I don't think that's the case here. They're selling pub band as pub band.

  • Produce a bunch of garbage and hope people think its a positive.
    • Yeah if the original content is good then who cares? If it isn't, Block Artist and call it a day.
      • by LesFerg ( 452838 )

        Yeah well I my hand is crawling slowly, day by day, towards the big Cancel button on the Netflix account.
        In-house content is great... as long as it is Great!
        When it loses flavor and becomes watery drool the customers surely will turn someplace else.

    • >"Produce a bunch of garbage and hope people think its a positive."

      Except that is NOT the Netflix Streaming model. They have actually produced a lot of great stuff (and later some mediocre too), and people DO think it is a positive. In fact, their own productions probably account for the majority of attracting and retaining their subscribers. Even their mediocre stuff is better than perhaps 90% of what is on traditional network TV.

      What they don't have a lot of is Hollywood movies. For that, you still

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      Recording music ws a big thing for about two generations. The basis was to convince gullible children that trash such as New Kids on the Block and the Beatles were worth your parents hard earned expendable income. Then build on nostalgia so you bought the same songs again 20 years later.

      That a streaming service would decide that it can produce the same quality of garbage that traditional music wants to be paid extraordinary amounts of cash for is not surprising. This in fact happens all the time. I re

  • That they are not paying royalties for songs they own?
    • by GrumpySteen ( 1250194 ) on Monday July 10, 2017 @10:13PM (#54782973)

      The music corporations see it as a problem because they want everyone to pay them a fee every time a song is played, heard, recorded or experienced in any other way. If they could scan your brain and catch you remembering a song, they'd want a payment.

    • by AHuxley ( 892839 )
      Its like a newspaper buying a photo. The photo get printed and the readers are happy.
      The readers buy the newspaper again the next day and more images are found to fill the pages.
      Does the reader really care what deal was done per image everyday?
      Each and every photographer got paid in some way for their work and understands what the image will be used for.
    • Now that I've learned that Spotify might be screwing the RIAA, my interest has peaked enough that I am considering actually trying the service now.

      I've been using Pandora since forever, and the client I use saves every track its played to my hard drive. Its called Time Shifting and the supreme court has ruled it legal. Go fuck yourself RIAA.
  • by turkeydance ( 1266624 ) on Monday July 10, 2017 @09:39PM (#54782813)
    record companies did the same thing back in the day. top songs covered by unknown talent and sold as ALL the HITS on one ALBUM.
  • Typos (Score:4, Funny)

    by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Monday July 10, 2017 @10:08PM (#54782949)
    Maybe they're making typos [slashdot.org] in the artists' names.
  • I have noticed that occasionally, when I create "radio" stations from my sizable Spotify playists, a song will pop up from what appears to be the musical equivalent of a public domain clip-art site. It's like the old K-Tel records that would have "Top Hits by Original Artists" and it would turn out to be some studio cover band called "Original Artists" and not the record, but a soundalike. It only seems to happen on the autoplaylists and "radio" stations.

    I have seen the same phenomenon on Google Play Musi

  • Enno Aare (Score:4, Informative)

    by jgotts ( 2785 ) <jgotts@@@gmail...com> on Monday July 10, 2017 @10:47PM (#54783129)

    Enno Aare seems like a real person to me.

    Has anybody attempted to look him up on Youtube? Enno has three videos and he actively responds in the comments. He posted a link to the sheet music he created for Water Ripples.

    After about a 20 minute search I've established that Enno Aare is a man of Estonian descent. I was unable to get a listing for the man in Estonia, so he could either be unlisted or lives abroad.

    • I definitely got the vibe from reading the linked articles, that MBW and Vulture have a bone to pick with Spotify. Maybe they're RIAA shills who want to tarnish Spotify's reputation, due to the ongoing licensing negotiations.

      Some of the mentioned artists are definitely real enough, but MBW/Vulture seems to think no internet presence to speak of = fake made-up artist.

      • Enno Aare looks like they may be an indie artist that's just starting out and this article may have just gave them a lot more attention than they would have normally received.

        From the comment on their youtube page they stated they were working on making their music available for purchase.

    • A quick google search and I was listening to and reading the sheet music. They are rather simple piano pieces, common left hand chord pasterns and progressions with a simple melody. The phrases in the melody reminded me of Scarborough Fair.

  • by wvmarle ( 1070040 ) on Monday July 10, 2017 @10:52PM (#54783147)

    Fake artists in playlists? Well, where are the screen shots? Or doesn't Spotify show clearly what is playing when?

    I skimmed the first link in TFA which supposedly was an earlier article about the same issue, and it didn't show any screen shots or any other form of evidence other than some vague allegations. For now I have to put this in the "fake news" corner.

    • by dknj ( 441802 )

      Definitely found a fake song while looking for the real one.

      In one of my playlists I have a song called JK Pharrell which is an obvious cover of the Move That Dope single by Pharell and Pusha T. Except its not Pusha T nor Pharell on the track. I fully believe the article and hope I don't come across any other bad clones.

      -dk

      • by Kjella ( 173770 )

        Definitely found a fake song while looking for the real one. In one of my playlists I have a song called JK Pharrell which is an obvious cover of the Move That Dope single by Pharell and Pusha T. Except its not Pusha T nor Pharell on the track. I fully believe the article and hope I don't come across any other bad clones.

        If your definition of "fake" is "cover", I got a pretty long list [wikipedia.org] of fake songs from artists like:

        The Beatles
        David Bowie
        Johnny Cash
        Eric Clapton
        Guns N' Roses
        Jimi Hendrix
        Elvis Presley
        Bruce Springsteen
        Stevie Wonder
        Neil Young

        They should just ban obvious hacks like that from Spotify. ;)

      • by sad_ ( 7868 )

        That doesn't mean Spotify is behind this. Some time ago there was this news item about a guy who made a lot of money from Spotify, but he wasn't a famous or even a good artist. He simply put music on with names sounding like big hits or that had typo's in them (comparable to those URL's that send you to some bs site when you make a typo). The music from this guy was nothing like the original, to avoid any legal problems. Anyway, he had enough plays using this method that he raked in money to make a living.
        N

  • by NaCh0 ( 6124 ) on Monday July 10, 2017 @11:08PM (#54783231)

    Especially since all techno sounds the same anyway.

    And if they bring in new, upcoming artists, that benefits everyone except the entrenched record labels. (boo-hoo)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Someone stop them!!

  • by Opportunist ( 166417 ) on Tuesday July 11, 2017 @03:02AM (#54784005)

    Did the music deliver what people want? If so, good. If not, they'll switch to something else. Who gives a fuck who made it? Do I care what carpenter made my table? What I care is whether the legs are equal in length and the surface is flat but not for the name of its maker.

  • I get a very strong feeling that MBW and Vulture are either voluntary shills or paid off by RIAA and the big labels, to tarnish Spotify's reputation. There are licensing negotations ongoing with the major labels, and they obviously want to put Spotify in as bad a light as possible, so they can steamroll over them with demands.

    As mentioned in other comments, a bunch of those "fake artists" are absolutely real people.

  • Also, fake artist sounds concerning as fake faux leather in today's climate, post the death of talent.

  • And it's sometimes profitable for the composer/artist.

    But this exposes not the profit motive of Spotify (and whatever other service is currently 'getting away' with it), but the marketing foundation of the music industry. Some music genres are so focused on marketing the same formula to the same audience that they are no longer creative, but industrial. Apologies to the industrial music genre.

    But I still buy (I know, outmoded but I love owning the music I want) electrionica, dance, bass, and classic rock wh

  • So basically they did what every video game that has music has done ever and honestly most films as well. So what? You want royalties, ask for them. You want contracted composition work, then do that. Whatever the artist wants is fine honestly.

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