Spotify is reportedly removing hundreds of thousands of indie tracks over alleged “artificial stream” violations; DistroKid is already offering a “counter-notification” process for artists whose songs have been pulled down.
A musician recently reached out to Digital Music News with word of the reported indie-track takedowns on Spotify — and that was just the start of a flurry of reports on the ugly situation. Multiple sources have now pointed to a pulldown that started at the beginning of this month and has impacted an estimated 750,000 tracks. The sources now include emails to Digital Music News, a report from music industry attorney Wallace Collins, a detailed breakdown of the situation from DistroKid, and numerous social media posts.
Spotify appears to have offered an explanation for the alleged indie-music purge in the “promotion” FAQ section of its Spotify for Artists resource. Part of an answer to a question concerning the legitimacy of third-party promotional services – i.e. services that provide paid streams – reads: “Third party promotional services that advertise streams in return for payment violate our terms & conditions, and using them could result in your music being removed from Spotify.”
The FAQ’s very next question elaborates upon the possible “consequences” associated with utilizing one of these unauthorized services to boost play counts. “When we identify or are alerted to potential or confirmed cases of stream manipulation, we take action that may include the withholding of royalties,” the Stockholm-based service wrote. “Spotify reserves the right to remove manipulated content from the platform.”
But on Twitter, some frustrated artists are relaying that while they haven’t used a fake-stream service, their tracks are still being pulled from Spotify.
“Hi Distrokid, Spotify removed my music due to what they say [are] ‘fake plays,’ this is a genuine mistake by Spotify. I filled out the counter act form and ask you [to] send it on ASAP please @DistroKid so we as a band can move forward,” penned one creator.
“Our album was removed for alleged fraudulent streams citing the alleged use of streaming services. We have never used such a service and the counter claim form from @DistroKid is based around questions asking to detail use of services, hard to fill in if you haven’t used any,” wrote Manchester-based Heavy Salad.
In another post, published early this morning, Heavy Salad said: “Following on from our last tweet, we are very frustrated by this situation as we are completely in the dark about why this has happened, we have no info, no help, no advice from @Spotify or @DistroKid which is a total kick in the teeth for small independent artists.”
(At the time of this piece’s writing, Heavy Salad’s 2020 Cult Casual album wasn’t live on Spotify; a total of nine singles remained on the group’s artist page, however.)
DistroKid’s mentioned counter-notification form requests information about artists’ removed music – and utilized third-party marketing services, for which “Spotify expects detailed reports.” The seven-year-old distribution service will then “pass it along to Spotify,” according to the text at the bottom of the application – though “DistroKid may not hear back from Spotify regarding the results of Spotify’s investigation, and the content will remain down during Spotify’s investigation.”
It’s unclear if the Spotify pulldowns are also impacting a substantial number of CD Baby and TuneCore artists, but the companies didn’t address the matter in time for publishing. DistroKid founder Philip Kaplan, however, said that his service “wasn’t involved” with the removal effort and specified that “these takedowns were distributor-agnostic and affected music from all distributors (not just DistroKid).” That makes sense, given that Distrokid is easily one of the largest music distributors in the world.
As many have stated on social media (and as Kaplan noted in his response), team members, friends, fans, or others could have purchased third-party promotional services on behalf of artists without their permission or knowledge. Presently, it doesn’t appear that there’s a way to differentiate between the musicians who intentionally inflated their play counts and the musicians whose work may have been flagged due to the actions of others.
Buffalo-based artist Dylan Toole – whose Spotify profile shows his Cold Hearted Love Story album only in the “artist pick” section, with just four of its nine tracks available to stream – has started a Change.org petition entitled “Restore our music” over the takedowns. The petition has garnered more than 2,800 signatures thus far.
More as this develops.