Earlier this week, industry site MBW published a list of 50 ‘fake’ artists on Spotify – musicians with no footprint on other streaming services or social networks, but whose songs had been placed prominently on some of Spotify’s mood playlists.

In a case of great minds thinking alike, last night MBW was scouring BMI’s database of works to try to uncover details of the tracks’ songwriters and publishers, just as Music Ally – aided by Rahul Rumalla of startup Paperchain – was doing a similar thing with the databases of ASCAP and SABAM.

Both publications came up with the same answer: a relatively small group of Swedish songwriters and producers who appear to be behind the tracks, and who are mainly based in and around Spotify’s home city of Stockholm.

Rightsholder data on some of the ‘fake’ tracks. Source: Paperchain
Rightsholder data on some of the ‘fake’ tracks. Source: Paperchain

Andreas Romdhane and Josef Svedlund – aka Quiz & Larossi – are the most well-known, having previously worked with artists including Westlife, Kelly Clarkson and Il Divo. Fredrik ‘Figge’ Boström appears to be another involved, having co-written a number of Sweden’s Eurovision Song Contest entries in the past.

Spotify has explicitly denied that it “created” fake artists; and that it does not own their content, but rather licenses it and pays royalties.

However, a commissioning relationship that sees Spotify encouraging skilled musicians and producers to create and upload tracks suitable for sleep / relaxation / focus / yoga / etc playlists so that it can keep them refreshed regularly is much more likely.

Given that these categories (bar chillout) weren’t really a ‘thing’ historically until the streaming era, Spotify juicing the pipeline of suitable music makes sense as a strategy.

Questions remain: for example over how the tracks are being licensed by Spotify – does it buy out the master rights in a deal akin to production-music libraries, or pay the artists as the master rightsholders? – and there may be more grumbles from labels who feel cut out of the loop.

Although we should point out that in at least a few cases in the tracks by MBW’s list of artists, Universal Music Publishing Group is at least getting a share of the publishing royalties by administering them.

The upshot, though: these are pseudonymous artists – fronts for real songwriters and producers, rather than entirely-fake creators.

Music Ally’s next Learn Live webinar will help you understand what’s required for artists to thrive in new international markets!

Music Ally's Head of Insight

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