Music Industry

Let Me Try to Explain All These “Fake Artist” Allegations About Spotify

Spotify had a bad week. The company had to deal with a growing number of allegations that its playlists are lousy with fictitious artists, musicians that don’t seem to exist. Hundreds, maybe thousands, of songs are credited to artists with zero backgrounds. No Twitter accounts. No Facebook pages. No websites. Nothing on YouTube, Bandcamp, SoundCloud or iTunes. Many of them don’t even come with a picture. The only place these songs can be found is on Spotify. Strange.

The accusation is that Spotify commissions these songs and therefore secretly controls the rights to these songs. The songs are then given placement on Spotify playlists where they rack up hundreds of millions of streams–streams for which Spotify pays out nothing. Zip. Zilch. That means that real artists are getting cheated out of an opportunity to get their music playlisted and heard.

Spotify denies all this. Vehemently. So what’s really going on?

First, these artists are not “fake.” This music is composed by real people under a variety of names like Enno Aare, Lo Mimieux and Amity Cadet. They hate being called “fake.” Many of them are professional producers in places like Sweden. Some of them have long resumes in the regular music world listing collaborations with people like Kelly Clarkson.

Second, the cast majority of these compositions are instrumentals with names like “Romances,” “Water Ripplers” and “Nightingale.” They’re all part of mood-focused playlists that promising enhanced concentration or relaxation.

Third, A chunk of these composers–maybe 50–are represented by a Swedish company called Epidemic Sound, which specializes in bespoke music for TV and film. When they write something that goes unused for one of these projects, they just toss them up on Spotify (which, of course, is based in Sweden and shares and investor with Epidemic Sound) to earn a little extra dosh. Epidemic Sound has been supplying backing ground music on Facebook and YouTube as well as playing more than 1,500 songs on Spotify.

The popularity of this sort of music harkens back to the New Age music craze that began in the middle 80s. People having quiet, wordless background music as a soundscape for whatever they’re doing. Epidemic, its associates and other “fake” artists are just feeling that demand.

By the way, based on 500 million streams–an estimate of the number of streams by these artists–the amount of money Spotify would be saving by controlling these songs would amount to about $3 million. That’s nothing to a company where revenues top $3 billion.

Bottom line? Nothing really to see here, people.

(More reporting here and 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 38019 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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