Making your own playlists in iTunes used to be a pain (OK, it still is). Streaming services make them for you now, and they update regularly. Of course the king of readymade playlists is Spotify. Some of the most popular ones are pretty generic; ‘Chillmatic’, ‘Spotify + Chill’ and ‘Pop Chillout’ etc. Some are getting hundreds of thousands of spins, which is great for the artists on them. Even better for Spotify, some artist on the playlists are commissioned by Spotify. This story broke over a year ago , but that was just the beginning.
They’re taking valuable spots on valuable playlists and keeping them for themselves.
Spotify had issued a few faint denials, but musicians have come forward to admit they’re creating tunes for popular playlists. There are problems with this. Most notably, a production house called Epidemic Sound is providing some of tracks. They’re buying content outright, meaning that once you’ve sold them music for a flat fee, that’s it. You don’t collect any further royalties, no matter how many spins the track generates. This might be great for the artists commissioned, but rights holders need spins to make a living. They’re taking valuable spots on valuable playlists and keeping them for themselves.
However, some musicians who contribute work-for-hire to Epidemic others, also post music that they’ve created on their own time under pseudonyms. Perhaps the production houses couldn’t use this material or these compositions were just products of their personal musings. In this case, they will be paid the standard Spotify royalties.
Is Spotify Creating Their Own Music?
This, however, does raise an interesting ethical point. If you take this to its logical (and paranoid) conclusion, Spotify will eventually be able to create the music, train you to like it, and pay $10 a month for it. They’ve been trying to reduce the amount they pay in royalties to artists you’ve heard of, so this is a sleazy workaround.
The phony tracks aren’t turning up on other services, which makes them ‘Spotify Exclusives’. Spotify ‘doesn’t do’ exclusives. This is the company that blackballed Katy Perry for giving Apple Music priority.
Spotify is in the process of negotiating with Warner Music and Sony Music Entertainment on lucrative global licensing deals, so this might turn into a problem. The labels want to pay their artists, not Spotify’s. It’s a bit like Netflix making original programming, yet casually trying to pass it off as something from Paramount or NBC. Keep in mind this is all happening while they’re currently negotiating with Warner Music and Sony Music Entertainment on lucrative global licensing deals.
Either way, this is something that we’ll be watching closely over the coming months. We’ll keep you updated as more develops.