Spotify—the music streaming site with millions of paid subscribers and millions more active users—has often come under fire for its dealings with artists, particularly as it pertains to royalties and compensation. More recently, Spotify is facing a different kind of heat, namely the allegation that certain artists hosted on the website are less than transparent. Over the past month, subscribers and music journalists have been casting serious doubt over some of the offerings on the popular music streaming service, questioning the validity, even the existence of particular groups or solo artists available to stream on Spotify.
Specifically, the “fake artists” claim refers to the idea that certain ambient, typically lyric-less songs available on Spotify’s popular “mood” playlists by artists such as Amity Cadet and Lo Mimieux, among others, are being produced by Spotify itself. Spotify supposedly slaps a trumped-up artist name on the songs to give the impression that content allegedly produced in-house comes from real life artists or groups, albeit obscure ones. Several articles have bolstered their claims by citing that the supposedly “fake” artists in question do not appear to have any kind of online presence outside the realm of Spotify—no social media presence, no apparent merchandising, no official webpages. The allegations first surfaced around a year ago but have been steadily gaining traction and volume in the digital news world, particularly as Spotify’s current functioning business model ensures that the number of streams a song pulls in and potential profit margins for both the artist and for Spotify itself are positively correlated. If the allegations are, in fact, correct, it could mean that Spotify is pulling in some serious profit by misleading their subscriber base.
The truth however, may be far more innocent and far less compelling. A New York Times article followed up on the claims initially made by Music Business Worldwide and Vulture, discovering that many of the supposedly “fake” artists are actually legitimate producers contracting with Spotify to produce original content under pseudonyms which in turn gives these artists, many of them based in Sweden, a forum to disseminate their work and make a decent profit. Spotify’s official statement in response to the allegations appears to put a definitive stop to the popular conspiracy theory, giving a categorical denial to the claims of cheating their own system:
“We do not and have never created ‘fake’ artists and put them on Spotify playlists. Categorically untrue, full stop,” a Spotify spokesperson wrote in an email. “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” (via Billboard).
Read the full NYT article here.