The talk of the music industry this week has been in regards to the “fake artists” that have been popping up in playlists all over Spotify.These artists have seemingly no web presence outside of the songs that appear on Spotify, though the songs have garnered hundreds of thousands of streams and more from inclusion on Spotify’s official playlists with millions of followers. Music Business Worldwide has done some vigorous investigative journalism into the matter and come up with some interesting insight.
Earlier this week, MBW posted a list of 50 names of the fake artists they had identified, along with a statement from Spotify denying that the streaming service has anything to do with these ghost artists’ presence on the platform. A spokesperson said, “We do not and have never created ‘fake’ artists and put them on Spotify playlists. 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 rights-holders and we pay them – we don’t pay ourselves.”
MBW looked further into the artists it identified, with help from people who reached out with more seemingly fictional acts, finding a few common threads between them. First, it found that swedish production duo Andreas Romdhane and Josef Svedlund (better known as Quiz & Larossi) were behind a number of the tracks. But after an even closer look, it found that an even larger number of the artists were connected to another Swedish company: Epidemic Sound. Epidemic Sound is a library of royalty-free music that buys copyrights outright from the composers with which they work.
MBW speculates that Spotify and Epidemic Sound have a direct agreement that allows Spotify to pay less than its typical rate in exchange for placement on its top playlists. Because of the way Spotify pays royalties, (on a ‘service centric’ basis, where royalties are distributed based on artists’ percentage of total plays on the platform), this would allow Spotify reduce the total amount they are paying out to labels and publishers of legitimate artists/writers.
While none of this is confirmed, and oth Spotify and Epidemic Sound have denied that they are working together to put these non-existent artists’s music on Spotify’s playlists, it is certainly an interesting developing story. Chris Castle, of MusicTech Solutions, gave his take on the issue, touching on the idea of "scale." Facebook, for example, has been struggling with the spread of fake news on its platform. An issue it only put effort into resolving after it realized its likely effect on the Presidential election in the United States. He says that the only way to truly address problems such as fake artists or fake news is to keep services clean by not allowing that content in the first place; but this isn’t achievable at scale.