Spotify and "fake artists": what's the story?

Spotify and "fake artists": what's the story?

Streaming giant Spotify is, right now, at the centre of a big row, accused of placing fake artists in its playlists. All originated from culture website Vulture's claiming that some artists in prominent positions on Spotify playlists aren’t real. For instance, the second slot on Spotify’s Ambient Chill playlist was taken by an “unknown” band called Deep Watch, which has two songs on Spotify with more than a million streams each. The first track on the Sleep playlist was by Enno Aare – a band with three songs on Spotify and no footprint outside of the streaming – while another band called Evolution of the Stars only has two tracks on Spotify, both on the Deep Focus playlist with a combined 15m streams.

Music Business Worldwide then published a list of 50 artists believed to be fake. Spotify, via a spokesperson, promptly issued a statement saying:

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 rightsholders and we pay them - we don’t pay ourselves. We do not own this content - we license it and pay royalties just like we do on every other track.

Further investigating, "Music Business Worldwide" and "Music Ally" found a relatively small group of Swedish songwriters and producers who appear to be behind the tracks, and who are mainly based in and around Spotify’s home city of Stockholm. Andreas Romdhane and Josef Svedlund – aka Quiz & Larossi – are the most well-known, having previously worked with artists including Westlife, Kelly Clarkson and Il Divo. Fredrik "Figge" Boström appears to be another involved, having co-written a number of Sweden’s Eurovision Song Contest entries in the past.

At this point, the question is: how are the tracks being licensed by Spotify (does it buy out the master rights in a deal akin to production-music libraries, or pay the artists as the master rightsholders)? Moreover there may be complaints from labels who feel cut out of the loop. Although it has to be pointed out that, in at least a few cases, in the tracks by MBW’s list of artists, Universal Music Publishing Group is at least getting a share of the publishing royalties by administering them.

The upshot, though, is: these are pseudonymous artists – fronts for real songwriters and producers, rather than entirely-fake creators.

Check out Spotify’s fake artists big list by MBW (with total streams):

    Amity Cadet (9.2m)
    Gabriel Parker (24.9m)
    Charlie Key (23.6m)
    Ana Olgica (23.5m)
    Lo Mimieux (22.3m)
    Mbo Mentho (10.3m)
    Benny Treskow (14.9m)
    Greg Barley (21.4m)
    Relajar (13.4m)
    Jeff Bright Jr (15.8m)
    Mayhem (10.2m)
    Novo Talos (17.2m)
    Advaitas (7.4m)
    Clay Edwards (4.7m)
    Benny Bernstein (9.6m)
    Enno Aare (17.1m)
    Amy Yeager (5.7m)
    Otto Wahl (27m)
    Piotr Miteska (26.7m)
    Leon Noel (2.7m)
    Giuseppe Galvetti (2.7m)
    Caro Utobarto (1.2m)
    Risto Carto (1.7m)
    Karin Borg (24.2m)
    Hultana (3.2m)
    Hiroshi Yamazaki (8.6m)
    Milos Stavos (7.1m)
    Allysa Nelson (4.3m)
    They Dream By Day (16.2m)
    Evelyn Stein (14.3m)
    Józef Gatysik (10.4m)
    Jonathan Coffey (480k)
    Pernilla Mayer (4.2m)
    Hermann (11.8m)
    Aaron Lansing (11.3m)
    Dylan Francis (6.5m)
    Christopher Colman (509k)
    Sam Eber (1.6m)
    Fellows (3.3m)
    Martin Fox (2.5m)
    Deep Watch (4.8m)
    The 2 Inversions (10.3m)
    Bon Vie (4.7m)
    Wilma Harrods (5.3m)
    Antologie (5.8m)
    Heinz Goldblatt (513k)
    Charles Bolt (32.4m)
    Samuel Lindon (11.8m)
    Tony Lieberman (2.5m)
    Mia Strass (8.9m)