If you’re an indie artist like me, you probably check your Spotify for Artists dashboard an unhealthy amount each day. (It’s a problem, I’m working on it). One feature they have shows you how many people are listening to your music on Spotify in real time.
Well, one day, I noticed that nearly twice the amount of people than normal were listening. So, being a worst-case scenario thinker, I was suspicious. I did some digging and here’s what I found…
What Is a Botted Playlist?
Many times, a “bot” is a software program that someone created to stream a playlist.
“These bots are programmed to control individual Spotify accounts to play the same song(s) or playlist(s) repeatedly on a loop,” writes Venture Music.
But those accounts can involve real people. So a botted playlist can involve a company who incentivizes people to stream a playlist on a loop.
Simply put, a bot’s purpose is to stream for the sake of streaming, not to actually listen to the music.
Why a Botted Playlist Is Bad for Indie Musicians
It may be obvious, but let’s lay out the exact reasons why you’ll want to avoid botted playlists…
It can ruin your Spotify data
Spotify can’t always tell when an account is a bot or not. They can be real accounts by real people, and they can be hidden behind a VPN.
A bot probably ends up streaming a bunch of different kinds of music because that’s what it’s designed to do. This means a bot’s Spotify data is all over the place.
So when a bot streams your music, it confuses the Spotify algorithm, making it more difficult for your music to show up in Spotify algorithmic playlists.
Spotify is a music discovery tool, so it’s important you protect your Spotify data as much as you can.
You get a false sense of success
I know, the streaming numbers look cool on your profile. It feels good as the artist. You might start to feel like you’re “making it” when really you’re not actually gaining new fans and growing your music career.
You’re trying to connect with real people who will support you throughout your career. You need people to go to your shows, share your music with friends, and consistently listen (and enjoy) your music for years to come.
Botting is fraud
If Spotify finds out you’re knowingly using botting services and playlists, they have been known to remove entire albums and ban users. And that could really screw up your Spotify growth.
What It Looks Like When You’re On a Botted Spotify Playlist
This is what it looks like when your music gets added to a botted playlist. A huge spike is streams, all of a sudden for no apparent reason. I didn’t submit my music to this playlist either. If you see this on your Spotify for Artists dashboard, look into it.
How To Get Your Songs Off of a Botted Playlist
When I noticed the spike in listeners and streams, I immediately checked out the guilty playlist. It was a company called Artister.io. I checked out their website and here’s what I found.
In their FAQs, one of the questions is “Does Artister.io use artificial streaming methods, such as bots?”
The answer starts off by saying, “We are not using any Bots or Click Farms to generate artificial streams on Spotify. It’s against the T.O.S, and we want to avoid participating in that kind of business as other Playlist Curators do.”
But then they go on to explain the very definition of bots. The streams are from listeners “who get rewarded by virtual in-system points if they listen to songs through our Apps. They can redeem their points in exchange for gift cards etc.”
The listeners are real people, yes. But they aren’t listening to listen, they’re listening to get rewards. In other words, bots.
Once I saw this, I hopped in Venture Music’s Discord to ask how (and if) I could get my songs off the playlist. And they said to just email the company.
It seems Artister’s business model is:
- They add your song to their botted playlist
- You see your song getting a bunch of streams
- A couple days later, they remove your song from the playlist
- You notice the drop in streams, so you email Artister and ask them to put your song back on the playlist
- They reply and say, “Sure! Just pay us $XX.”
So I emailed Artister and they replied with, “Your music will be removed within the next 12 hours.”
They did remove my song from the playlist, but I’m not sure if this will hurt my Spotify data or not. So far, it hasn’t seemed to hurt me. But I know my streaming numbers for that song are inflated. (Fortunately, it still did really well with my fans).
Artister is a scam. And there are so many playlists and companies like this.
How To Avoid Botted Playlists
It’s possible you could submit your music to a Spotify playlist that turns out to be botted. Here’s how to avoid those fake playlists…
Don’t use “guaranteed” pay-to-play services
Nothing in music marketing is certain. So a company cannot guarantee you get X amount of streams if you pay them X dollars.
There may be playlist pitching services that are legit, but there are many that seek to take advantage of indie artists by “guaranteeing” streams. Guaranteeing streams is also against Spotify’s Terms & Conditions.
It’s smart to just avoid playlist pitching services altogether. Do the research and playlist pitching yourself, or enlist some friends to help you.
Research the playlist
If the top 10-15 songs on a playlist are unknown artists (we’re talking barely any monthly listeners), then be suspicious.
If the account that runs the playlist has several other playlists with a similar number of likes, be suspicious.
If an account requires you to follow them and like the playlist before you submit, you should be suspicious, according to Venture Music.
I’ve gotten added to playlists through sites that have submission gates like this, but I always check out the playlist before I submit. I’m looking to make sure my song actually fits with the other songs and artists on the playlist. And I’m looking to see if there’s anything sketchy about the account or its other playlists.
Don’t be willy-nilly with your playlist submissions. Do your research. Submit only to relevant playlists.
P.S. – as I was writing this, I got a DM from an account asking me to pay them for guaranteed placement on their playlist (scroll down to see a screenshot).
I said if they already found my song and liked it, they would’ve just added it to a playlist instead of trying to milk me for money.
It felt off, so I said no thanks. When submitting to playlists, trust your gut.
*Update: a previous version of this article stated the Instagram account shown in the screenshot below was affiliated with Sony Music, but that is incorrect. It is not affiliated with Sony Music and doesn’t represent Filtr playlists. The Instagram account in question has been reported to Meta for its unauthorized use of the Filtr playlist art in its profile photo and that image has since been removed.*