Ever since the beginning of digital music artists, managers and labels have been finding ways to game the system. From artificially boosting social authority to YouTube views to music streams, there always seems to be someone that’s one step beyond those that are in charge of making sure that everyone plays fair. But there’s a new way to game Spotify playlists that doesn’t appear to be illegal or against the service’s terms of service. It is a little devious though.
What’s involved here is deception. The essence of it goes like this – the artist (or manager or label) creates a playlist similar to that of one that’s popular at the moment. The playlist is then populated with songs from the original popular playlist, plus some by the artist.
When someone does a search for the playlist it’s likely that many will pull up the duplicate instead of the original. When they listen to the songs they’ll hear the artist, then think that the song is more popular than it is, or associate it with something else in the playlist that’s a big hit.
Since no one gets hurt or loses any money money (only a little time), it seems like the practice should be okay, and Spotify has yet to make a determination as to whether it’s a violation of its terms.
This strategy was illustrated in an article about Spotify-verified user Naeleck, who appears to run an underground EDM label. Naeleck posted a playlist called “Joker Soundtrack (2019)” and placed a number of his label’s titles within it. The songs seeded in Naeleck’s Joker playlist received tens of thousands to millions of plays, so the plan obviously worked.
Some say that this is ultimately a losing battle since it ends up in what’s known as “dry streams,” which music site Music Ally defines as “streams that come without a great deal of interest in the artist themselves.”
That might be, but it’s also better to have some exposure than none at all.
Please note that I’m not advocating that artists follow this strategy, just pointing out that there’s always something new when it comes to gaming the system, especially Spotify playlists.