Music News

What, exactly, is the “Bulgarian Spotify scam” that the industry is talking about?

Spotify is always dealing with people trying to game the system.

One group posted “songs” that were just 30 seconds of silence and then urged fans to play the “song” on repeat, thereby earning streaming royalties for playing exactly nothing.

Another group figured that since Spotify streaming payouts come after a track has been played for at least 30 seconds, why bother writings songs longer than 31 seconds? They posted 100 songs, each 30 seconds long.

And then there’s the long controversy about “fake artists” scamming Spotify for millions.

Now we have the so-called “Bulgarian scam.” It worked like this.

Someone in Bulgaria began by uploading music clips for songs they legally owned the copyright. Totally legit, right.

But then this person(s) created thousands of premium Spotify accounts to continuously play these songs. On repeat, 24/7. For months. It looks like they used bots to automate the whole thing.

Over the course of four months, it appears just two playlists, entitled Soulful Music and Music from the Heart, generated royalties of $3 million US.

The scam would have continued had no one noticed the high volume of plays these playlists were receiving. Why were these songs at the top of the global playlist charts? They were, in fact, charting higher than any playlist ever created by a major label, so something didn’t smell right.

An investigation noted that each playlist feature songs that each ran less than 40 seconds, well over the payout threshold. In total, the two playlists featured 467 songs and were attracting 1,200 monthly users. But remember that these “users” were listening to these short songs over and over and over again.

Here’s the weird thing: the scammers didn’t break a single law by doing what they did.

Music Business Weekly has a terrific report on the whole thing. To read it, go here.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38410 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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