Spotify has been forced to deny accusations that it’s been making up fake artists in order to bulk-out playlists and game its own royalty structure, issuing a statement to that effect to Billboard today. “We do not and have never created ‘fake’ artists and put them on Spotify playlists,” a spokesperson for the streaming service wrote. “Categorically untrue, full stop.”
The allegations came to light thanks to a piece that recently ran over at Vulture, outlining various outside-the-box ways people try to profit off of the massively popular streamer. (Tactics include filling channels with hundreds of individualized versions of “Happy Birthday,” for instance, or posting song covers under slight misspellings of the actual artists’ names.) Nestled among these tricks by users, though, was a suggestion that Spotify itself was equally prone to screwing with the system, hiring producers to release songs by fake artists to bulk up its popular playlists.
The original allegations stem from this article from music blog Music Business Worldwide, which quotes anonymous but “cast-iron” sources claiming that the streaming company hires producers to create songs to fill out popular playlists like “Chill” and “Deep Focus.” (Vulture cites a few different bands that it says seem to exist only in the form of two or three playlisted songs on the service.) The article claims the original productions aren’t just about avoiding playlist royalties, though, but also about providing quality control, ensuring listeners get the company’s precise definition of what “Chill” actually is.
Spotify flatly denies the idea it’s producing its own music, though, refuting the MBW article at every point. “We pay royalties—sound and publishing—for all tracks on Spotify, and for everything we playlist,” the company’s statement continues. “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.”