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The name of the game for independent artists is to increase listeners resulting in higher streams of their music. Platforms such as Spotify aid in fostering this growth.

Not all spikes in listenership are something to be excited about, unfortunately.

That is currently a lesson that many in the Christian hip-hop world are learning first-hand.

Playlisting Scam

As an artist, after countless hours pouring into a song’s creation, it is always a good feeling to receive a level of recognition for your work. In today’s music industry, where streams reign supreme (for now), landing your song on a playlist with a large number of followers is a great boost. Not only does it share your music with an audience that might not find out about you otherwise, but those streams impact your own follower numbers.

So the more playlists the better, right? Right?

Nope.

 

 

The playlist in question, Indie World, is curated by Artister.

According to Artister’s website, their platform boasts “Over 500,000+ Listeners” that generate monthly “over 10,000,000+ Organic Streams”.

The word that quickly jumps out is Organic.

Bots & More

Artister curates 18 playlists on streaming giant Spotify. They also have a whopping 10 followers on their account. Yet each of those 18 playlists has more than 98,000 followers individually. Many with 200,000+.

Are you connecting the dots?

Artister makes plenty of claims that would easily get the average artist excited:

“Artister.io is a small team of passionate Playlist curators and Music Industry experts. We tend to focus on discovering new talents, musicians, and passionate people, where we can help them to gain more engagement on their favorite Music Streaming Platforms.” – “Currently, we have over 8,000+ partners, ranging from Coffee Shops, McDonald’s restaurants, Public Events, and private lounges. Our partners tend to play the submitted music from our playlists upon receiving a new song-this way, both the partners and the musician profit.” – Artister’s “About Us” page.

The company also states that they do not use any bots or click farms to generate their streams. Instead, listeners get rewarded with in-system points when they listen to Artister playlists through their apps. Points can be redeemed for gift cards and more. The question is, is that the definition of Organic?

This set-up is classified as a “win-win” for everyone involved according to Artister. Unfortunately, not everyone (specifically artists) shares the same outlook.

Artist Input

I spoke with CHH artist Mitch Darrell about this situation that arose this week to get his insight.

FiveTwenty: When did the CHH community first notice that something weird was happening?

Mitch Darrell: For this specific scam, I personally noticed [it] about two weeks ago when a fellow artist reached out to me about being added to a big playlist that they didn’t pitch to. I then noticed it happen to me yesterday (July 19, 2022) and saw that it’d happened to a lot of my peers yesterday as well.

FT: You use the word scam, what makes you define what has happened that way?

MD: So the website states that they add random artists’ music to their huge playlists for one day, without them asking for it, to show the artists what their playlists can do numbers-wise. Afterward, if you want to remain on the playlist, you can pay them per day, week, or month. They claim to not be breaking any rules because [they are not] using bots. To me, this is a scam because: 1. they are adding artists without their knowledge or consent; 2. The numbers, while not made by bots, are unauthentic because the people who listen and follow are only doing so to be rewarded and not because they actually are fans of you or your songs; 3. I’m 99% positive that eventually the followers added this way (because you gain so much in a short period of time) appear as a red flag to Spotify and get removed down the line.

FT: In your opinion, why do you think that this company selected indie CHH artists?

MD: I personally feel like maybe they found a real CHH playlist and saw that it’s a big enough market to try to sell their services to.

FT: Can you explain the response we have seen from artists a little more and why they are frustrated?

MD: For me personally, and others I know, it’s frustrating because it both ruins the hard work you’ve put in to earn a real following and also hurts your authenticity. I was about to reach 1200 followers, something I was proud of. Now I’m at 1450 followers and I know for a fact that those extra 250 are not real supporters. Now if someone looks at my follower graph, they’ll wonder if I did something dishonest to gain followers.

FT: As an artist in this situation, what do you view as your next steps and how do you move forward from this?

MD: To be completely honest, I have no idea. The only thing that can technically be done is to reach out to Spotify and have them look into it. However, I’ve found that others have done that over the last year and nothing has been done.

FT: What should organic playlist placement look like in your opinion?

MD: Firstly, it should never promise that you’ll 100% gain a bunch of plays or followers. If they can guarantee that, then they’re most likely bots or something like this. 9 times out of 10, if you need to pay the platform, it’s probably not authentic. Typically, it should be set up where you email or send in a song and they decide whether they want to add it or not. A big playlist cycle is typically a week or two that songs stay up. Not 24 hours and not based on how much you pay them to stay on the playlist. The numbers should make sense. You will never gain 200 followers in a day unless your song gets reposted by Drake or someone.

FT: Do you have recommendations on how artists can be proactive to try and avoid similar situations?

MD: Honestly, I don’t. It’s so random and out of anyone’s control whether or not you are added to a playlist. I will say, don’t ever willingly use that platform or any platform that claims they’ll get you plays and followers for money.

Takeaways

At the end of the day, it is up to us in the community to make sure artists are supported. Not Spotify.

Sites such as Artister do and will continue to exist. It is a play to generate profit off of the hopes of independent artists. 

Artister offers package plans beginning at $49.99 for 1-week placement. They currently cap out with their Diamond Plan at $1199.99 for 2 months.

The best thing that fans and supporters can do is simple. If artists offer their music directly, purchase it from them. When it comes to streaming, create your own playlists and listen to your favorite artists from there; if not your own, make sure you follow reputable curators who have artist integrity in mind.

Here at FiveTwenty Collective, we curate playlists on both Spotify and Audiomack. We never charge an artist for placement on our playlists. There is a screening process to be selected for placement.

Spotify has taken steps in the past, including adding an algorithm Boost feature, to combat issues. However, more protection for artists may need to be put in place.

On Season Three |  Ep. 11 of the FiveTwenty Collective Podcast:

  • Featured song “All That” by Reece Lache’
  • Industry Insider Interview with Magi Camaj and Margaret Lee of the Camaj & Lee Law Firm
  • Convo: Spotify “Marquee” Promotion
  • Music by DJ Barrcode/Barrcode Beats

Podcast Sponsors: Untdld, Nectar Distro, Show Me Christ Records, The Bookkeeper247, AKA Fisher

“The Sauce” playlist on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/63ZSO1AbegtknjTgY8G2to?si=7f574a09c5b0457c

“All That” on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/track/4eOCGooaEArUmAyVLk7Ixm?si=c8dabd72c29e40d6

“50 Keys To Success In the Music Business” by Magi Camaj and Margaret Lee: https://www.amazon.com/Keys-Success-Music-Business-Entertainment/dp/B0962N9RL2/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=Margarit%C3%AB+Camaj&qid=1636908375&sr=8-3

“Where music meets MINISTRY and the indie artist takes center stage”

Follow on Twitter: @FiveTwenty_Co @FiveTwentyRadio @EricBoston3 @Iam_NateDogg @shewrotemagic @_esqlee @ReeceLache

Yesterday, Spotify announced a new feature allowing artists to choose music to receive an algorithm boost.

Songs selected for this feature will be flagged to be given extra attention by Spotify’s algorithms, the programs which automatically pick out songs that listeners will be introduced to, and one of the most important ways that artists are discovered in an age dominated by digital streaming.

The cost of using this new tool?

Artists and labels yield to a “promotional recording royalty rate” while their songs undergo the boost.

In other words, Spotify will pay artists less per stream in exchange for showing their music to a greater audience.

What does this mean?

Spotify is essentially implementing a “pay-to-play” model, wherein artists must sacrifice their already meager streaming royalties in order to get on Spotify’s good side. Then maybe more people will hear their music:

“We [Spotify] won’t guarantee placement to labels or artists, and we only ever recommend music we think listeners will want to hear.”

This comes less than a week after more than 4000 independent musicians and songwriters joined together to back the “Justice at Spotify” campaign asking that Spotify increase streaming payout to artists.

Many artists and others within the music industry were not happy with this new development on Spotify’s part.

It’s not hard to imagine a scenario in which using the algorithm boost becomes commonplace and those who opt out of the program are left in the dust, unlistened-to and undiscovered.

Eventually, every label and musician will be using Spotify’s algorithm boost option and, in the words of Syndrome from The Incredibles, “When everyone’s super… no one will be”.

Once everyone is receiving “amplified” exposure, everyone is once again on the same level. Essentially, nothing has changed – except that artists are now paid a lower royalty rate. It’s a pay cut without the payoff.

Spotify dominates the music industry in 2020, but artists seem to be constantly locked in a battle with the streaming giant to receive a reasonable payout. Spotify’s new algorithm boost feature is the most recent development in an ongoing struggle, highlighting once again the importance of supporting artists beyond mere streams.

What does this mean for the Christian Hip Hop community?

Ours is a community that consists primarily of independent artists. A community that already fights what appears to be an uphill battle when it comes to making any sort of profit.

The truth is, it is probably too early to know for sure. 

One thing that is certain, everyone has an opinion. That being said, we would love to know yours!

Hit the comments section and let us know your thoughts on this latest news from Spotify.

Will you look for ways to help artists benefit from the new procedures on Spotify? Is convenience more important for you than finding the best way to support artists? If there was a clearly beneficial alternative, would you choose to support it?