Musician Zola Jesus posed a question this weekend. “I opened Spotify for the first time in months. Clicked on a random playlist. Played a random song that has 1.5 million streams. The album said it was released Jan 31 2020. Searched off Spotify for artist: nothing comes up. FAKE F**KING MUSIC. WHO ARE YOU JAN THIEL?” she tweeted.
The thread of replies that follows makes for interesting reading, with people running their own investigations into the mysterious Thiel; some pointing Jesus in the direction of articles from the ‘fake artists’ controversy a few years ago; and others suggesting that Thiel may be one of the musicians working with Epidemic Sound, the production-music company that has been releasing some of its catalogue to streaming services.
Update: Epidemic Sound has confirmed to Music Ally that it has nothing to do with Jan Thiel or their tracks.
Jan Thiel is certainly a mystery: the name of a beach in Curaçao in the Caribbean is what dominates the Google search results for the name. Even when you add ‘music’ to the search term, the results are still dominated by the resort.
On Spotify, Thiel has 1.4 million monthly listeners at the time of writing but only 72 followers, while the five playlists he/she is most discovered on are all Spotify-curated: Peaceful Piano, Intense Studying, Instrumental Study, Piano in the Background, and Reading Soundtrack.
Thiel has released a single EP, ’Süda’, on 31 January, with its three tracks having notched up 2m, 1.6m and 274k streams at the time of writing. Jan Thiel doesn’t appear to have an artist profile on Apple Music, Deezer or YouTube.
What we can say, from a look at Thiel’s profile on analytics service Chartmetric, is that their tracks were added to five of those Spotify mood playlists on 4 February, four days after the EP’s release, and another 14 Spotify playlists on the next day, 5 February.
The EP simply lists Jan Thiel as the provider (i.e. no label or distributor details) while its three tracks credit Thiel as the performer, with no details of writers or producers.
This artist really is a mystery, but given the speed with which their tracks were added to some of Spotify’s prominent concentration and piano playlists, Zola Jesus’ questions should not come as a surprise.
The truth may well end up being that they’re not ‘fake f**king music’ but simply a production musician who came to editors’ attention by submitting one of those tracks via Spotify’s playlist-pitching tool – but if so, it would probably be a good idea for the streaming service to explain that fairly speedily. We’ll be reaching out to the company today, and will bring you any updates in tomorrow’s bulletin.