Fake artists – who are they? Part 1: A new tension in the music industry

30 Nov 2017

This post is not another annoying complaint about the boringly perfect artists that flood the concert halls and media of today.


Neither it's about the artists who were artificially raised into the spotlight by expensive PR machine or behind-the-scenes manipulations.


“Fake artists” is something different – more surprising and way more unpleasant, if not dangerous.


But first things first.


In 2016, the one of world's leading streaming service Spotify was caught in streaming about fifty artists that appeared fairly uncommon. They were complete unknowns in the musical world, and no one had a public profile, or even a single musical footprint anywhere beyond Spotify.


The key importance were the compositions attributed to these artists. They were very few in total, but were streamed hundreds of million times in just a few months.


What was it all about? How could this happen?


The explanation turned out to be simple. Such an overwhelming result was made possible by adding the songs by these unknown artists to the most popular playlists created, and heavily promoted by Spotify. Examples are Peaceful Piano, Ambient Chill, Sleep, Music for Concentration, etc.


The point is, these playlists have hundreds of thousands and millions of followers.


The story caused a major uproar in the industry. After the Spotify business partners picked up their dropped jaws off the floor, they immediately accused the company in using “fake artists” and promoting them in a dishonest way.


Major labels and independent producers begun to threaten Spotify with ceasing cooperation due to unfair practices and competition.


Spotify, understandably, rejected all of the accusations. Their spokeperson replied that the company is not involved in any kind of fake activity.


The story attracted a substantial media attention, but Spotify insisted they are within their rights and refused to change a thing. “We do not and have never created fake artists… full stop“.


"Fake artists" keep on delighting their fans to this day.


Still, all would be well if the most compelling question of this story hadn’t continued to remain unanswered – who are those completely unknown artists producing such higly demanded compositions, and who is behind them?


Many in the industry think that Spotify:


- has secretly launched its own music production

- promotes this production in an openly dishonest way, and

- acts out of financial gain, such as to pay fixed salary to the own artists (composers, performers, producers) which is much more profitable than to pay royalties to the independent artists streamed millions of times.


Whether this is the case, nobody knows, it is very difficult to prove anything. But even if it is so, is this probable activity illegal?


Not at all.


If it was, the similar e-retailers, like Netflix and Amazon etc., that launched their own production in addition to their main activity should be accused in the unfair competition. But that never happened.


Besides, the accusation of unfair competition actually claims that the situation in music prior to Spotify’s “fake activity” was a fair competition. That is also not true.


Accusatory rhetoric against Spotify has no logic. It’s by no means certain that Spotify has all rights to do what they supposedly do. Such as to hire artists, to promote them in the most cost-effective way and to preserve the secrets of the company.


No “fake artists” exist until this activity is legal.


This way the answer to the question about the artists behind Spotify’s “fake activity” remains – they are the artists who work for Spotify by contract, to the mutual benefit of both sides and legally.


End of story?


Definitely not! The real story is only beginning...


(To be continued)






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Violinist deeply rooted in classical tradition and concerned about the future of the genre >> more about the author 

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© Yevgeny Chepovetsky 2015-2017