We’ve been here before with the issue of ‘playola’ – the notion that artists can pay to have their tracks added to popular playlists on Spotify run by curators *outside* the company.

Back in 2015 this was being talked about as a potentially-worrying marketing tactic, before trailing off under the realisation that pretty much all the truly influential playlists on Spotify were programmed in-house (and thus not taking money for placement).

Now tech site Daily Dot has been examining startups like SpotLister, which ‘sells access to prominent Spotify users’ for labels and marketing firms willing to pay the price.

“We started out paying $5 [for a playlist add] and that worked in the beginning,” its co-founder Danny Garcia told the site. “When more people started getting into the game, you saw the prices starting to rise, and then the playlisters started seeing that they were relevant and worth a lot more. There are some playlists that have 90,000 followers that can charge $100-$200 for an add, all the way up to playlists with 500,000 who can charge $2,000 for one placement.”

The flaw in all this: a key part of SpotLister’s service relies on access to Spotify’s API (to analyse songs’ musical characteristics and thus decide which playlisters they’re most suitable for). If Spotify decides to crack down on playola – which it seems minded to do – that API access could be whisked away.

EarPods and phone

Tools: platforms to help you reach new audiences

Tools: Kaiber

In the year or so since its launch, AI startup Kaiber has been making waves,…

Read all Tools >>

Music Ally's Head of Insight

Join the Conversation

1 Comment


    As you may already know, Spotify deemed our platform non-compliant with Spotify’s Terms of Use and while it is true our API Key was deactivated and we had no other option but to shut down the service. In the meantime, many news outlets and bloggers picked up the Daily Dot story and portrayed us as a pay-to-playlist service and cited information that was not only misleading but completely false.

    For this reason, we decided to release the following statement and substantiate with actual metrics and facts about our platform:

    Firstly, Like Spotify, we reiterate that we are unequivocally against pay-to-playlist. However, this conviction does not negate the music promotion activities that take place each and every day around the globe, including song submissions to playlist curators, a process we decided to build upon and pledged to improve. You see, Spotlister was conceived and developed simply to give rising artists the opportunity to submit their music for consideration to the curator community never to pay for placements on their playlists.

    So, here are a few of the fake news that have been circulating around and our response according to the facts:

    1) Spotlister has been operating for about 2 years and it was a huge player in the music submission business.
    FACT: Spotlister was officially launched in November 2017 after a brief beta phase of 2 weeks. In fact, we were a rather small and upcoming player in the online music submission services arena and we only got to serve a few hundred customers. So we are still at odds and rather confused as to why we were picked as the focus in the Daily Dot article and portrayed as a huge service with in-depth knowledge of the industry with many years of operation.

    2) Spotlister was a pay-to-playlist service
    FACT: Not once did we ever communicate directly or pay a single playlister for placements on any of their playlists! While it is true submissions prices ranged between $2 and $10 and that Playlisters received $0.24 for their time invested in doing a review, the rest of the money went to develop and operate a fairly new platform looking to make a name for itself in the online music submission business. To put this in perspective, during our short-lived 3 months of operations, Playlisters collected an average of $22 from our platform. As you can imagine, there is absolutely no influence we could have made on playlist placements.
    FACT: During the entire lifespan of our platform (3 months), we had a total of 24714 Submissions, out of which 11631 expired and credits were refunded to artists and 13083 were reviewed and completed by playlisters. Only 8% of all posted submissions resulted in a voluntary placement by playlisters. In contrast, other music submission sites cite millions of submissions and an even better placement ratio.

    3) Artists paid up to $2,000 per placement on playlists.
    FACT: Our platform allowed artists to buy credits to submit songs to the different playlists available in our platform. Our credit Packages started at $10 and the most expensive package we offered was $100 which provided 75 credits (a $150 value). In average, artists spent $54 while using our service. Again, there is very little an artist can do to influence placements with that kind of budget. We reiterate, there were no backdoors in SpotLister or communications that could have enabled additional payments to playlisters for placements in our platform. Artists submissions were not even read or actively monitored by SpotLister personnel.

    4) About our rebranding effort to Jamlister
    FACT: The initial Spotify communication cited our name “SpotLister” as one of their main non-compliant issues with our service, they provided us 30-days to cure. Instead, within 24 hours of their initial communication, we halted operations, registered the JamLister.com domain and started migrating our platform to our new name. The service remained halted while this effort was ongoing for around 1 week after which we responded to their initial request to change the name addressing this non-compliance request. So, our name change was a direct result of Spotify’s initial communication of non-compliance.

    5) About the refunds offered to our customers
    FACT: Yes, we decided to return the unused portion of artists accounts not as an admission we were doing anything unethical but simply because it was the right thing to do! Furthermore, after we shutdown, we proactively reached out to every single customer with a pending balance offering a refund for their unused portion of the credit package they bought from us, regardless of when they bought it. As of today and only a week after our service was shutdown, we have proactively notified all users and processed most refunds. The average refund was $30 which represents an average 55% of what each artist paid us when they initially signed up to our platform.

    6) We used Echo Nest algorithms to match artists with Playlisters
    FACT: We matched artists with playlists based on genres. Basically, when artists signed up to the platform we picked up the genres Spotify had selected for them (if none, we would ask artist their genres), we then match those to the genres contained in the playlists based on the artists, and their genres, in them. This is a very basic algorithm and in no way leverages Spotify proprietary algorithms. Despite its simplicity, this matching is what actually made SpotLister such a convenient service to use as artists need not spend a long time inspecting playlists to submit to which made for a speedy and more convenient submission process. Again, nothing out of the ordinary or something that cannot be easily done with basic programming skills. As a matter of fact, the Spotify API can and has been used for far better and more sophisticated music matching algorithms in other areas of music services and applications. So SpotLister was not innovating or breaking any rules regarding Spotify TOS with its music matching algorithms.

    While we understand the Daily Dot article raised a legitimate concern and touches on the very real topic of pay-to-playlist, we believe we were caught in the middle of a sensational story that misrepresented and didn’t do justice to our effort and the platform we were building for artists to submit their music. Despite this, we shutdown swiftly, quietly and honorably. However, we can’t keep quiet when we are vilified and portrayed as facilitator of these practices when, in fact, we were providing artists a real and fair chance to have their music heard without having to pay thousands of dollars for placements..

    Best Regards

    The Spotlister/Jamlister Team

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *