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News November 4, 2020

Pay for play? Spotify’s latest feature lets labels game its algorithms

Pay for play? Spotify’s latest feature lets labels game its algorithms

Spotify is testing a new initiative by which artists and labels can promote their music on the platform through a ‘Discovery Mode’ feature with personalised playlist recommendations.

This signals what songs labels and artists define as a priority for them, which then alerts algorithms that determine personalised listening sessions.

This is done in two ways where music discovery is high.

Autoplay tracks after users finish listening to an album or playlist based on past consumption, and Spotify Radio which picks similar songs to the fave tracks of the user.

The company blogged, “Listeners enjoy Spotify because we introduce them to music to fall in love with—including music they might not have found otherwise.

“In fact, Spotify drives 16 billion artist discoveries every month, meaning 16 billion times a month, fans listen to an artist they have never heard before on Spotify.

“We’re proud of that and are actively refining our algorithms to enable even more fan discoveries of new artists each month.”

But if the tracks suggested do not resound with audiences, they will be removed.

The service insisted: “Listener satisfaction is our priority—we won’t guarantee placement to labels or artists, and we only ever recommend music we think listeners will want to hear.”

Artists and labels won’t have to pay upfront, but will agree to a lower royalty rate. It does not specify what that lower rate is, but it has certainly had music industry eyebrows rising.

The initiative is certain to anger acts like King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard, Sad13, Deerhoof, Frankie Cosmos and Zola Jesus.

In late October they, and 4,000 others, were signees of the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers’ ‘Justice at Spotify’ campaign which demands Spotify to increase royalty rates to at least a cent per-stream – and eliminate any pay-to-play arrangements.

Last year it introduced a scheme where labels could pay cash to the Swedish streaming service to advertise priority albums before their release to users – which led to accusations of a glorified payola, and in which the wealthier labels gained an advantage.


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