A Band Threatens to Sue Us After We Accuse Them of Playlist Payola. Here’s My Response.

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Should payments to Spotify playlist curators — of any kind — be banned?  Yes, they should.

As Spotify replaces radio (and pretty much everything else), there’s a pretty serious debate over how songs are landing onto coveted playlists.  Back in the day, labels paid radio stations to play their records.  Now, the same thing is starting to happen on Spotify playlists — with curators of highly-ranked playlists the new disc jockeys.

Outright cash payments for top-ranked placements are dirty.  But so are all the other variations that are cropping up.

Last month, Spotify outright banned a service called Spotlister for shadily paying playlist owners to include music.  Of course, Spotlister denies those claims.  And so do the bands that were caught patronizing this service.  That includes the EDM duo MaWayy, who was found using Spotlister to improve their playlist rankings.  Accordingly, we called them out.

That’s when MaWayy’s manager, Andria Schultz, took issue.

Schultz clarified that MaWayy was only paying Spotlister to gain access to the owners of coveted playlists, instead of paying for slots directly.

“We did not pay Spotlister to have our tracks played on Spotify lists,” Schultz emailed.  “We signed up on the platform that charges, for example $5, to get our music heard by a playlist curator. We never did a transaction to someone, only signed up on the platform, which makes the difference between us and other artists that paid $1000 to $5000 for placement.”

Schultz took things a step further, trying to bully Daniel (the writer of the piece) and threatening legal action if we didn’t remove our article (of course we didn’t do that).

“In fact, we gained our traction way before we even used Spotlister. Most of our streams have been curated on playlists like Mint, Futuros Hits, Fresh Electronic, etc. By writing this article you are diminishing our hard work and slandering our name as we grow our brand.  If this article does not get taken down we will have no choice, but to take legal action.”

But is there really a difference?

Not really.  And let’s not pretend.  There are all sorts of ways to get around direct payments, including payments for ‘consideration’.   You can also buy someone a house, just because you like them.  This slope gets really slippery, really fast.  Let a monster like this mature, and things like direct payments get entirely replaced by shady (but defensible) alternatives.

And the reality is that paying any amount of money for playlist inclusion — even access to the playlist curators themselves — means that other worthy artists aren’t getting included or even considered.

Accordingly, Spotify is banning sketchy services and sketchy bands that patronize those services.  As they should be doing.  Because not only is it a dirty practice, but it also diminishes the quality of music on Spotify itself.

You can’t ban some of it.  You have to ban all of it.


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4 Responses

  1. Frank Strummer

    Why not remove and ban the playlist curator as well? They can be shady with their left hand what says they are not doing it and accepting with the right hand as well? While you are at it DMN, why not ask the simple question of all. How can the majors all own stock in the company and not be a conflict of interest? Why would they want to allow a indie or unknown to have exposure on a platform they have a vested interest in? Isn’t there a federal law that prohibits this?

  2. Hector

    If they banned “all” of it Spotify and the entire music industry wouldn’t exist, dumbasses. Why do you think the major labels can push artists so easily?

  3. B. Hilton

    Playlist promotion services are multiplying daily, with many middlemen making markups. Spotify is far from perfect, for all the reasons mentioned above and more. Artists should spend their time & money on transparent promotions that they can actually co-manage and see the benefits.