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The “fake artists” epidemic that haunts Spotify

Thursday, May 9th 2024

by raxo

The notion of “fake artists” on Spotify has been a topic of interest since 2016. These artists release music under pseudonyms, often with minimal online presence beyond Spotify, and their tracks are featured on key mood-based playlists on the platform. What they do is: basically get a ton of music out there gathering streams as they are placed under a large variety of random playlists pushed by the platform and in the music world of today, streams equal money.

The fake artist epidemic it's like the musical equivalent of twitter bots

"The fake artist epidemic it's like the musical equivalent of twitter bots"

In 2022, Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN) investigated Firefly Entertainment, an indie label known for releasing music by numerous fake artists. DN uncovered a list of 830 fake artist names associated with Firefly, with at least 495 of them featured on Spotify’s own playlists. So this raises a delicate question: does Spotify finance these faux artists? If so, what’s the purpose behind it? Of course, these claims are made without solid evidence connecting the company to the ghost producers, but it’s certainly a weird scenario.

DN’s latest report focuses on Johan Röhr, a Swedish composer allegedly behind a vast network of fake artists on Spotify. Röhr has reportedly released music under 50 composer aliases and over 656 invented artist names, accumulating over 2,700 songs and 15 billion streams.

Despite his significant success, Röhr has maintained a low profile and declined interviews. Instead, he directed inquiries to Overtone Studios, a label under Epidemic Sound, which reportedly confirmed Röhr’s involvement in releasing music under various pseudonyms. Epidemic Sound, known for production music, has faced scrutiny for its role in the proliferation of fake artists. However, the company has reduced the number of active artist profiles and claims to work with many more creators now.

Spotify, while not directly addressing the issue of fake artists, has acknowledged the presence of such music in its Focus hub. Spotify emphasizes its support for artists at all career stages and aims to help artists, both established and emerging, connect with more fans. The fake artist epidemic it’s like the musical equivalent of Twitter bots and trolls capitalizing their engagement with fake accounts, posting the most controversial and incendiary takes on current topics… but in the form of songs made by who-knows-who added to your Spotify radio.

Despite the controversy surrounding fake artists, the practice highlights the evolving nature of music consumption and distribution in the digital age. Can Spotify get rid of this plague? Do they want to get rid of it, or are they profiting from it as well? Are streaming platforms a fair game for all artists or payola can make or break a music career?