The term “Fake News” has been used a lot in the media in recent months. It’s been pretty hard to avoid Donald Trump’s tweets bemoaning CNN and other authoritative news channels, accusing them of writing “fake news” stories when in fact they’re just portraying him in a less-than-godlike light.
Now it has been brought into light that Spotify has been including “fake artists” on their curated playlists. The Swedish company has allegedly been commissioning producers working under fake names and untraceable pseudonyms to compose songs to fit specific themes such as their “Deep Sleep” mood playlists. These artists have no social media presence, or any sign of existence other than their tracks in a playlist.
The real question is, how is it so easy for these “fake artists” to find their way onto Spotify’s playlists, each with millions of followers, when it is notoriously difficult for real artists and labels to get a spot after the rigorous curation process? One US music industry insider told Variety: “These playlists have been marketed as being highly curated by experts. Doesn’t this put Spotify’s entire credibility and integrity in question?”
Here’s one possible explanation: Spotify’s economic situation is benefitting from them. An educated guess would say that Spotify is paying considerably less for these tracks than they would for non-production music, and the deal is based on a low-cost renting model or a single payment. If Spotify have a discount on a roster of these “fake artists”, whose tracks can end up with hundreds of millions of streams just from being included in one playlist, this would inevitably reduce the play count share of every other artist and label (major and indie) on the service, so that Spotify can take away the power of the labels and lower its content costs at the same time.
Are we now entering an age where music is not made from the heart, but from an A4 sheet of prescriptive guidelines? What will happen to the “real” artists, who slave every day to remain true to themselves and their passion? We can only hope that Spotify regulates the inclusions of ghost artists, and limits them to the more “passive listening” playlists like “Ambient Chill” or “White Noise”.
Words: Elli Chappelhow