A couple of years back Music Business Worldwide reported on a shady practice by streaming giant Spotify, which used so-called fake artists to generate bigger profits. In the meantime, big music industry players have tried to do away with this practice, but due to its effectiveness, they weren’t able to do much. Now, Tim Ingham, MBW founder and publisher who also runs a weekly column for Rolling Stone, reports that big companies like Sony decided to change their tactics – they are producing music by “fake artists” of their own.
In its initial report, MBW listed 50 artists it suspected were fictional. These “fake” musicians were signed to a Swedish production company called Epidemic Sound by using a ‘pro rata’ payment system and pseudonymous. Spotify was then able to retain a large quantity of royalties it was otherwise due to pay out to “regular” artists.
By Ingham’s account, these 50 artists were to date able to generate 2.85 billion Spotify streams, while some 10 pseudonymous artists were able to gather 1.22 billion streams alone, which is more than real artists like Beyonce, John Legend, Childish Gambino, or Lorde, to name some of the top names. As he puts it, with 1.22 billion plays at that rate, Spotify would typically have had to shell our circa $4.9 million to record labels and non-fake artists.
The success of the scheme has immediately garnered the interest of big music companies, who at first complained, but are now introducing the same practice themselves. Ingham points to the example of an artist that goes under the name of “Sleepy John”, who is actually composer David Tarrodi, signed to production music house, Yellowstone, seemingly owned by Sony.
“Sleepy John” produces tracks that are in some way connected to the sounds of falling rain and his top ten tracks have so far gathered more than 4 million plays on Spotify. Yellowstone has added one more trick to the bag, “Sleepy John’s” ‘compositions’ are chopped up in pieces because the streaming listens are being counted after 30 seconds of continuous play.
Ingham quotes Darren Hemmings, founder of digital marketing agency Motive Unknown, who said: “So in short: calibrate songs for maximum revenue, leverage your playlist brand to push these f—king everywhere, support it with ads and boom – watch the money roll in.”