After $20,000 Is Raised, Spotify Rips Down the ‘Sleepify’ Album…

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Last month, Vulfpek released a completely silent album on Spotify to finance a free tour for fans.  That was laughed off by Spotify at first, until Vulfpek earned more than $20,000 on the idea.  That prompted a big response: according to the band, Spotify’s lawyers first asked nicely, then started ripping it down.

The album no longer comes up in Spotify’s main results in the US, and embeds are broken (see above).  Still, the album remains available in a number of other scattered spots, suggesting an ongoing teardown.

In response, Vulfpeck has released another album called Official Statement, which features commentary, filler music, and a token silent track.

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62 Responses

    • Anonymous

      Wow GGG, brilliant comment! (This from your arch enemy. 🙂

    • jw

      If Cage had approached his work like some Indonesian click farm, I’m sure his music would be taken down, too.

  1. Me

    Hahaha. Looks like Spotify needs to consult some White Hats to look for ways to keep people from exploiting their service.

  2. Casey

    Spotify should take down all their tracks, permanently. This kind of crap should not be tolerated.

    • Denby

      casey does it bother you that Spotify pays artists bugger all for their creative content?

      • smg77

        Spotify doesn’t pay artists. It pays their labels or PROs.

        If artists feel they aren’t getting enough money that’s where they need to look.

        • mightyone

          You have no idea what you’re talking about. Thousands of artists independently distribute through consolidators like Tunecore and CD Baby, which distribute Spotify’s minuscule payments as part of their service.

  3. TuneHUnter

    For self-respect, financial salvation and fairness to musicians Soptify, other streamers, XM, Pandora and any kind of radio should convert to music stores.

    Discovery moment monetization will bring happiness and cash to everyone.

    • Jeff Robinson

      I’d like to believe this to be true. Many services offer downloads to your hard drive for the subscription price, but won’t let you burn on to a disc unless you pay individually for the album. Weird concept. Paying to download and allowing to move the files to any other device at no charge afterward might be the answer. Lessening the sound quality of the stream and increasing the audio fidelity of the downloaded track might make sense too.

  4. JC

    > Will they take down John Cage’s 4’33, too?

    One of my thoughts as well (though I doubt they have that up to start with – I refuse to use them or any of the others on principle so can’t check)?

    Their album is certainly a valid statement and an artistic one. Maybe not a musical one but creative nonetheless.

    If you’re not awake to hear Spotify’s commercials they don’t want you listening.

  5. john

    unless spotify is trying to take back the 20 grand these assholes should shut up and stop acting so butthurt.

  6. Dave Buerger

    It wasn’t about the money. Music industry bigwigs were worried about coming up with a music award methodology for evaluating competing offerings of silence.

  7. Nooneyouknow

    Spotify can’t have musicians actually making money off their “service;” I mean, actually paying musicians is for suckers….

    • Gatsby

      Make up your mind dweeb. Either they pay or they do not. Clearly they do. Even for nothing. That aside this stupid stunt was immoral, dishonest and actually stole 20 grand from other musicians.

      • Alan Graham

        How did they steal money from other musicians? They asked people to play the tracks while they slept. What $20k worth of sleepy time tracks and artists were harmed? I’m not sure how it was immoral…they followed the rules exactly and if anything showed just how enormously challenging this whole house of cards is.

        • Casey

          Because it pulled $20k from the pool that would have gone to artists with real music.

          • Belinda Everman

            Actually, it’s not taking money from other artists because I wouldn’t have listen to their album to contribute anyway. I only signed on to get Spotify was to contribute to Vulfpeck.

          • Casey

            Actually, it is. Your subscription money was pooled with the rest. If the $4 per night number is accurate (I haven’t done the math) then you would have pulled $4 per night from the pool for Vulfpeck despite only putting in ~$7 per month. The more plays there are, the more the pool gets divided up, and the less each play is worth since everything is averaged out. $4 per day in royalties is far more than the average person racks up.

            In other words, other artists got paid less per play because Vulfpeck rung up so many BS plays.

          • Hey dipshit

            what if i told you that you don’t need to pay to use spotify

  8. There is+something...

    If only “artists” were actually making music rather than trying to have some buzz by putting out “silent” albums…

    • cole

      Okay, clearly you didn’t read the article. This “bullshit silent album” is to raise money to go tour. Probably because the “artists” can’t afford shit thanks to their label, and would appreciate being able to perform for their fans.

  9. Graham muso

    The people who run spotify and all the other rip- off systems are parasites who wouldn’t know music ( good or otherwise) if it leapt up and bit them on the ears…release your own stuff and starve them of new music

  10. pfffft

    I don’t see why this was needed in the first place. What’s the difference in asking people to stream your music on a loop with the sound off?

    • john

      i think the idea was you can just leave it on loop without muting your phone or having a chance of music start playing while ur sleeping, and the tracks were 30 seconds to maximize plays. makes good sense, was thinking of trying this shit myself if it went unpunished.

  11. jw

    The Spotify revenue pool each month is only so big. The way I understand it, roughly 70% of revenue is distributed per play, based on a weighting system of free listens vs premium listens, & whether or not the artist has a specific agreement with Spotify (through a record label or otherwise).

    So when a band like this comes along & tries to exploit the system, they’re only doing so at their fellow artists’ expense. Spotify isn’t losing any money, although I’m sure advertisers aren’t thrilled to find out that their ads are playing to sleeping consumers. But that ultimately hurts artists just the same as it hurts Spotify.

    • There is+something...

      It’s good to see that at least someone understand how this works…

  12. David

    I’ve pointed this out a zillion times, in various places, but only got angry abuse in response. People are so in love with the idea of artists screwing Spotify that they can’t stand it when someone points out the fallacy in this approach.

    • jw

      I don’t know that it’s entirely the fault of the people, the media jumped on this as a David vs Goliath story, when that wasn’t the case at all.

      What I’m really interested in is how effective the ads were. For instance, if you fall asleep with Spotify playing music, or if you fall asleep with the tv on, or whatever, your subconscious is likely to drown out all noise equally, whether it’s content or advertisement. But if you’re listening to silence & an ad is played every… 120 seconds or whatever that interval is, it seems like your subconscious is more likely to acknowledge the ad. I could see a lot of users who participated here dreaming about Subway sandwiches or Jiffy Lube oil changes or whatever ads run on Spotify.

      So Spotify gets the plays, advertisers potentially get subconscious acknowledgement of their ads, which may or may not be more effective than waking advertisements, when the consumer is being hit with potentially tens or hundreds of messages all at once, & the band themselves get a payout. Who gets the bum rap here? Artists who are garnering real plays for their songs, & conceivably the fans who woke up with Subway on the brain, who were duped into thinking they were participating in something counter-cultural or pro-artist.

    • Anonymous

      Yeah seriously guys, this is basically fraud. Spotify would be within their rights to not pay them a single penny.

      • Anonymous

        It’s not really the fact that it is a silent album. But rather, the idea that you trying to convince people to game the system. Wouldn’t make a difference if this was a legit album.

      • sh

        It’s not in any way fraud. Spotify is a platform for people to listen to audio. If people want to listen to something, then the creators of said “something” should be paid by Spotify; ad revenue will still be generated from people listening to these tracks, so it really makes little difference. If anything, Spotify’s problem is that they are all ~30 second tracks, therefore money earned per minute for the artist is approximately 7 times that of the average three and a half minute pop song. Whether or not it is silence does not make a difference.

        In addition to this, art is something that makes people think, and this has clearly done that, therefore surely it is art?

        The only thing that Vulfpek could be seen guilty of would be plagiarism of Cage’s 4’33” but seeing as melody and lyrical content are the only things currently covered by copyright law, it technically cannot be an infringement.

        • David

          If people were actually listening to the Sleepify album, you would be correct, but they weren’t. There’s a clue in the title.

        • jw

          The motivations behind this stunt were made very clear, & that’s what disqualifies it from being art. The suggestion that “if it makes you think, it’s art,” is outrageously cynical, imo. Do click farms qualify as art for prompting us to consider the value of a Facebook like? Is spam e-mail art? Does a telemarketer make us consider the value of our own time, or the value of communication, or how technology has influenced our value systems, and how we’re all constantly & simultaneously becoming more connected, and yet more alienated from one another? Does that make a telemarketer an artist?

          Of course not. The telemarketer is simply looking for a paycheck, just like these guys.

          The comparisons to John Cage are all very much off base because John Cage’s intentions were also made very clear. And it’s those motivations that qualify his work as art.

          Anyone who defends this stunt as art hasn’t put very much thought into what art actually is.

  13. TJR

    So far all of these arguments (in favor of Spotify) are in regards to members who have a free account that is ad sponsored (And these are compelling arguments with valid points)….but what about paid subscribers like myself? I pay Spotify $10 a month to eliminate the ads and give me mobile access to my account. My account is subscription sponsored….I do have to wonder what it should matter who I decide to listen to and how many times I want to listen to it in any given day?

    What should it matter to Spotify, if I want to hear Katy Perry sing Roar all day long (because that’s what floats my boat) and put in on continuous loop Vs play the sleepify album all day long?……Remember I am paying Spotify monthly to play what I want, as often as I want, commercial free.

    • SMT

      Actually, everyone now gets mobile play. I also pay for it as well and the only difference now is that we get it ad-free and the ability for offline play. Either way, I’m sure Spotify doesn’t discriminate were it pulls its revenues from be it ad or from premium subscribers.

      Since Spotify admited paying $0.007 per track played, then it seems that artists are getting their dues based on how well they can get people to like, listen, and replay their music. Vulfpeck is pretty much exploiting the Spotify system just to pull in funds to do this free tour. From the perspective of Spotify, they are pretty paying for literally nothing. Spotify has every right to control their own platform how they see fit.

      In all honesty, Spotify and other streaming services that use this pay per play model is probably the most justice artists have seen in a long time. Everyone either pays a subscription fee or gets blasted with ads that makeup for those who don’t pay. Revenues still flow towards an artist. The subjective part is how much they should earn. If an artist really has problems with Spotify don’t do business with Spotify. If you fall under a label that releases your music through Spotify, well then tough shit. As fans of artists, we don’t ask you to pick what label you want to sign to. If an artist is being forced to release their music through an outlet they don’t like then read the fine print when you sign your contracts.

      To answer your question as to why it matters to Spotify, they still pays these guys for putting no content on their tracks whereas you can like a track and put it on repeat. Say the track your’re listening to is 3 minutes long versus the 30 second track these guys put out. That’s 6 plays per 1 that you have on repeat. One has content the other doesn’t. At $0.007 a track, Vulfpeck makes $0.042 in those 3 minutes versus the 3 minute song that makes $0.007. As a business, you’re willing to pay for stuff that is legit and where you don’t feel exploited. That isn’t the case here so they care a lot. We have every right to listen to what we want, when we want. They still have to pay for the amount of plays.

    • jw

      Theoretically, a Spotify premium user could listen to a 1 second track on repeat for a solid month. That’s ~2.5m plays. At the end of the month, when all plays are tallied & all premium & ad revenue is compiled, the payout to that artist would be ~$13,000. Only that particular user only paid in $10 for that particular month. So you have other users subsidizing the other $12,990, meaning that the artist that those listeners legitimately listened to aren’t going to get their full, deserved payout. The artist behind the illegitimate track is going to be paid very, very, very disproportionately to other artists.

      The cost of a subscription is based on regular listening habits, & when irregular habits are introduced, either the payout per play to recording owners drops to compensate for the inflated number of plays, or the price of a subscription has to increase to accommodate “sleep” plays. Neither of those are fair scenarios, so in order to protect both consumers & artists, Spotify has to regulate the use of it’s catalog somewhat, whether that means instituting a minimum song length to qualify for payouts, or song content qualifications, or simply removing songs or albums or artists that are blatantly manipulating the system.

      In the end, it’s good for everybody.

      • TJR

        I agree, Spotify is a good system and I don’t think they are the enemy. I think that pirate sites and the tech corporations that enable them for profit are the enemy. In fact, I think we need more services like Spotify so that there is competition and hopefully better payouts to artists. I don’t think that musicians should be complaining so much about spotify’s payouts as much as they should be taking political action to enact legislation against pirate sites that earn ad revenue from their work without compensating the content creators whose content they are using to drive traffic to their sites and legislation regulating tech companies (like google) that enable priate sites with ad services and search engine results.

        • jw

          I mostly agree. Personally, though, I think that it’s more cost effective if services like Spotify just took out ads on these pirate sites & Google Ads on these search results pages. Sure, it’s putting money in the pockets of pirate sites, but someone else would be buying that inventory, anyways, & the longterm goal is to train consumers not to search for music on Google, but instead to search on Spotify. Beat them at their own game.

          I would bet the payoff would be far better, & Google would be much more cooperative, if the industry was lobbying to promote legal services like Spotify rather than demote other sites that may or may not be legal.

          Fighting the pirates as they’re on their way towards obsolescence just seems like a waste of time. Content consumption is clearly trending towards the cloud, the wise move is to put all of your resources into expediting the transition.

  14. Mitch

    I don’t understand why this is a thing Spotify cares about.

  15. Scott

    I’m surprised there’s so many squares out there who are pissed off at Vulfpeck. What they did was come up with a brilliant scheme to game the system. At the end of the day, they won majorly – they took in 20k and got a ton of media attention for coming up with something clever.

    If this system is busted, it’s not their fault.

    And if their other music sucked, I wouldn’t have supported them. But they’re a great band who deserves some attention.

    The only point that is valid here (and I’m not sure exactly how it breaks down) but it is kind of whack if they are ‘taking from the limited pool’ that Spotify has allocated to pay out to musicians.

    So in my mind, there are conflicts. Spotify is a pretty killer app. But they can’t make the thing profitable AND it doesn’t pay artists very much. I rarely if ever buy albums, but have spent tons of money going to shows. With the efficiency of digital copying, there’s no reason for a ‘record industry’ to exist anymore, really. Money for records should go directly to artists.

    /alright that’s all I got.

  16. Bobbo

    I’m an independent artist with my music on Spotify.

    Last year we got roughly 28,000 plays on Spotify and made a whopping $27 in return.

    • Anonymous

      28,000 streams is nothing. Its equivalent to some tiny farm town broadcasting your song ONCE on local radio. It sounds like you got way overpaid.

      BTW- do you know how much you would get from that small terrestrial radio station that broadcast your song to 28,000 people …. $0.00.

      • jw

        There’s a difference between broadcast & on demand streaming… if it were Pandora, the comparison would be more apt.

        I think the reality of this guy’s situation is that he would’ve made more money selling CDs, & maybe even digital downloads, rather than having his songs streamed on Spotify. The reason for this is that, to compare Spotify streams to a digital download, you have to assume a digital download is going to be played some average number of times. An enduring hit song like Journey’s Don’t Stop Believing might be played thousands of times over the course of ownership, whereas a song (particularly a non-single) by a smaller, less successful band might only be played a few times & then forgotten. Therefore you have to average that out, & assume that consumers are going to underpay for some songs & overpay for others, on the basis of this average # of plays. Put another way, if a consumer pays $.99 or $1.29 for a song that he or she only listens to a handful of times, the consumer has paid up front for plays that are never realized. This padding can be very beneficial to younger bands.

        This concept disappears with streaming, as the payouts reflect the number of plays exactly. There is no padding. The playing field is leveled, and in order to make money, your songs have to get played a whole bunch. Yes, the streaming payout system is biased towards successful bands. But the flip side of this is that labels make more profit from a single album with 6m plays than from six albums with 1m plays, & the profits they make from their top tier of artists will eventually trickle down to fledgling bands via more signings, bigger advances, etc.

        A couple of other things worth noting, re: Spotify royalties…

        1. I spend a ton of time streaming music I already own on CD or vinyl. These are not lost sales, this is additional revenue that otherwise couldn’t have been generated. A lot of those 28,000 streams are probably users who have already bought your album on CD or digital download. This is the type of revenue that’s eventually going to make Spotify a huge money maker when streaming breaks into the mainstream. Not just people listening to music they already own (that’s not going to be a longterm situation, there’s already a generation of music fans who don’t legally own or even care to own recorded music), but people who aren’t active music purchasers finally being monetized.

        2. I also spend a lot of time discovering new artists I wouldn’t legally download otherwise. This means that I spend less time listening to artists I would’ve otherwise bought, but in theory this ends up evening out. For instance, I might spend less time listening to Chuck Prophet in order to check out your band, but a fan of your band might take time away from listening to you in order to check out Chuck Prophet. At scale, this becomes a very healthy ecosystem, much moreso than the $.99 or $1.29 per, only-listen-to-what-you-pay-for song model because it alleviates the risks of discovery, & boils over into touring revenue & so on.

        Streaming is still in it’s infancy, & won’t really make sense to everyone until it really scales. But that’s all the more reason to support it despite it’s current shortcomings. Because the more quickly it scales, the more quickly everyone sees the benefits.

  17. Bongo John

    It’s art. It’s just harder to hear. If you normalize the volume on track 4, you can hear the word, “cheese’, I think, at 13 seconds. If it could sell cheese to the masses, it certainly pepper jack. Like salt over the shoulder. Why, $20,000 could almost by a pair of tennis shoes. Goes good with crackers & olives… Silence is grand, isn’t it?

  18. Ethan Sackfield

    They found a way to beat the system, and the system came down

  19. Kate

    I loved their creative idea on making money for touring! That is to bad if Pandora is a radio station , these are “songs” people are obviously listening to them!

  20. @JW

    JW – Thank you. With regard to recorded music, I agree there’s a massive difference between broadcast & on demand streaming. When non –interactive streams are considered alongside terrestrial radio “spins” and radio payout, it is clear to me that income from SoundExchange is truly found money. At the same time, any on demand streams make me feel like I lost the $0.99 digital sale rather than taking the advertised “long tail” viewpoint.

    On you lost sales point, I do disagree. Perhaps unique to me but my personal experience is that anyone who has Spotify or worse, uses Free Spotify, no longer buys music. A large percentage of these people would have spent the $0.99 except now they can hear the song at anytime for free on Spotify.

    So using the numbers above, let assume that a small percentage of “Bobbo” fans …10%… would buy instead of listening on Spotify, then Bobbo’s $27 from Spotify could or should have been about $2,800 in digital sales. Speaking for myself, that would make a world of difference.

    • jw

      Good points. Maybe I wasn’t very clear in my explanation. I agree that potentially 10% of those listens would’ve otherwise been paid for digital downloads. One way to think of why that disparity between $27 & $2,800 exists is to consider a digital download an upfront payment for 100-150 plays. That’s ~300,000-400,000 plays being paid for, but the reality of interest is somewhere between 2,800 & 28,000 plays. So the streaming model isn’t ideal for young bands. Assuming we’re talking about a 12 track album, a 10% conversion means this band only has 200-300 interested fans. That’s not nearly enough for streaming to make sense. It’s below the profit line.

      But once you pass the profit line (wherever that is, it’s hard to say & it probably varies from act to act), streaming can become a very lucrative proposition. And the idea is that when all music listening is monetized, the profits from successful albums will trickle down to younger artists in the form of record deal advances that will be much more than $2,800.

      So you should feel like you’re losing sales, because you very well may be. Streaming is a bulk business, it’s not really a DIY-friendly platform, at least not at this stage… not at the current payout rates. So small indie bands are going to be forced to sell CDs & vinyl & other merch until some other solution comes along, but I wouldn’t recommend avoiding streaming all together, because, to a growing number of music fans, if you aren’t on Spotify, you don’t exist.

      At least that’s my take on it.

  21. Becker

    Good stuff guys – One additional thought. If Spotify streamed 28,000 on-demand streams and Bobbo only received $27 then Spotify is grossly underpaying artists. Perhaps Bobbo’s royalty is getting cut up several ways or he just put out wrong dumbers. But assuming he was right, then Spotify is paying Bobbo $0.00096 per stream. We’ve seen numbers on DMN that the average on-demand deals pay roughly .0050 or half a penny per on demand stream.

    Again, if Bobbo’s numbers are correct, Spotify would have to stream a song 1,312 times to one user, which would equal the $0.99 download price.

    Conceptually, non-interactive streaming is great for artists but Spotify’s on-demand is currently very bad for artists.

  22. Andy

    The amount of people commenting on this post that are using quotes around the word “artists” in reference to Vulfpeck is distressing. For the love of music, listen to their other albums. These dude crush it. They are legitimate musicians that make music of substance…and funk. It’s not some bubble-gum pop garage band. Listen to the music before you question their artistic merits. That’s sort of basic human being protocol…

    • FT

      Umm… other than you, two people used quotes. A bit sensitive are we?

  23. Poops

    Couldn’t they have removed Smash Mouth’s “Magic” album?

    I’d rather listen to Sleepify.

  24. Jason

    Spotify’s actions are bogus for many reasons:

    1. Spotify’s business model relay entirely on the music of outside artists. Although these artists are being paid next to nothing they must be paid! If all artists boycotted spottily there would be no spotify.

    2. If spottily charges you 9.99 per month for unlimited access to their catalog then they have to account for the fact that a paying user can play music continuously 24 hours a day. Spotify will , by rights, have to pay the royalty on each song played. That is mathematically why they pay so little. I think of it like an insurance premium. They are betting that all users won’t do this. ( plus they are generating money from adds) .

    3. How can they pull Sleepify from their catalog because of the number of times it is played and the royalties they pay on the music. Once again to use the insurance analogy , it is like well we granted this healthy person a policy and now they are costing us too much so we are going to drop their coverage. They are already undercutting artists who could make a 700% greater profit from an iTunes download so fuck em. They created the game.

    4. a better analogy: a guy pays $12 for an all you can eat buffet and eats $25 worth of food , can you legally throw him out of the restaurant? Lets take it a step further.. The guy that is at the buffet also supplied the restaurant with the some of the food on the salad bar for next to nothing.

  25. Jason

    potify’s actions are bogus for many reasons:

    1. Spotify’s business model relay entirely on the music of outside artists. Although these artists are being paid next to nothing they must be paid! If all artists boycotted Spotify there would be no Spotify.

    2. If Spotify charges you 9.99 per month for unlimited access to their catalog, then they have to account for the fact that a paying user can play music continuously 24 hours a day. Spotify will , by rights, have to pay the royalty on each song played. That is mathematically why they pay so little. I think of it like an insurance premium. They are betting that all users won’t do this. ( plus they are generating money from adds) .

    3. How can they pull Sleepify from their catalog because of the number of times it is played and the royalties they pay on the music. Once again to use the insurance analogy , it is like well we granted this healthy person a policy and now they are costing us too much so we are going to drop their coverage. They are already undercutting artists who could make a 700% greater profit from an iTunes download so fuck em. They created the game.

    4. a better analogy: a guy pays $12 for an all you can eat buffet and eats $25 worth of food , can you legally throw him out of the restaurant? Lets take it a step further.. The guy that is at the buffet also supplied the restaurant with the some of the food on the salad bar for next to nothing.