Artists, managers and record labels have been trying to game the system going back to the 1950s, so it should come as no surprise whenever a new way is discovered to make an artist seem bigger that reality. There have been numerous ways to game streaming networks over the years, and while the latest Spotify scam may not be the most brazen, it’s unfortunately affecting indie artists who can afford it the least.
Let Me Feature You
The latest scam is incredibly simple – just name a popular artist as a featured artist on your release, regardless of whether that artist knows you even exist yet alone collaborates. As a result of doing this, the song ends up on Spotify’s Release Radar, which then alerts followers of the artist that they have a new release. Excited listeners then go listen to the song only to discover that their favorite artist is nowhere on the song, but by then it’s too late as a “listen” has been recorded and the scamming artist receives the commensurate royalty.
It turns out that Release Radar is now a huge driver of streams. In fact, Spotify states that it “has become a top-three personalized playlist for listeners around the world.” The service generates a personalized Release Radar every Friday composed of new music from artists that users follow, artists that users listen to, and other artists Spotify thinks the user will like.
But the scam goes another step in that the fake collaborations also end up on the artists Spotify page, and it takes some time and effort in order to get it taken down.
Not For A Level Artists
If you’re now thinking that maybe you should mention that Beyonce or Ed Sheeran might be a good featured artist to tag in your next release, then think again. This only works (for the moment at least) with indie artists with distribution companies that allow artists to name collaborators without their consent. The reason why is that the major labels apparently have a “block list” that prevents unauthorized tagging to happen. Plus Spotify is said to have a team that scans releases for prominent artists names to find a problem before it occurs.
According to Billboard, who first published this story, “. . .there is a financial incentive to gaming Release Radar: Another label-owner whose artists are targeted fairly often in this manner estimates that a fake collaboration between an unknown and an established act that has 1 million followers on Spotify can generate between 50,000 and 100,000 streams for the former in 24 hours. If an act is able to ride an established artist’s coattails without being detected, there is money to be made — though this isn’t big bucks, maybe $100 or $200.”
Spotify users are starting to get upset with this, so you can bet that the company will soon get tougher on this Spotify scam, but for now, be on lookout if you’re a popular indie artist.