Your Spotify Feed is Fake

How fake artists plague your feed — with Spotify’s stamp of approval

Steven Gerrard
8 min readDec 13, 2022

We expect official Spotify playlists to include high-quality music from genre-defining artists… The reality is these playlists are plagued by Spotify-endorsed shell artists, keeping you from listening to and supporting real artists.

Spotify for Artists, editorials and how to identify label releases

Starting off with a bit of context. You may wonder how artists get on official editorial playlists to begin with. The answer is a site called Spotify for Artists. Spotify for Artists is a site where artists can pitch their upcoming songs to Spotify’s editorial team prior to release.

To gain access to Spotify for Artists, an artist must have one song on Spotify. The process is simple: as an artist, you upload your first song through a distributor who distributes it to Spotify. After it has released, you can claim the artist profile it is posted on through Spotify for Artists, by proving you are the artist who sent it for distribution. Once you have access for Spotify for Artists, you become a ‘verified artist’ and can now pitch any future songs to the editorial team for official editorial playlist placement.

Fool Parsley has the ‘Verified Artist’ tag — indicating they have access to Spotify for Artists and can pitch their songs to editorial teams

The only other way to get music onto editorial playlists is for a label with connections within Spotify to share it directly with the editorial team with no need to pitch. It is believed only a handful of major labels have these sorts of relationships with Spotify. To identify whether a song is released by a label or released independently by the artist, you can go to the song and scroll down.

A self-released song by the artist Fool Parsley

The above image shows ‘the day before yesterday’ by Fool Parsley. At the bottom we can see the copyrights say ‘2022 Fool Parsley’. This being the artist’s alias, real name or name of their distributor (e.g. DK for DistroKid) identifies that the song is self released.

A song released in partnership between Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak and Aftermath Entertainment and Atlantic

The difference with the above label release is that it specifies the labels as ‘Aftermath Entertainment and Atlantic Recording Company’.

Given these two options, it is safe to say that for songs to get onto editorial playlists they must either come from labels or from artists who have access to Spotify for artists — but that is not the case…

The Case

When browsing for slow, relaxing music I came across the playlist ‘lofi sleep’. This is an official Spotify curated editorial playlist. I played it from the top and enjoyed one of the songs, so went to check out the artists profile and was confused by what I saw.

lofi sleep

The current top song on lofi sleep is ‘Bring Me Back Home’ by ‘Some Guy I Know’ — but I do not know this guy. Nor does anyone. When clicking on their profile I noticed they had a singular release, an EP called I Feel Like Flying.

I checked it out and noticed it identified as a self release, with ‘Some Guy I Know’ credited under the copyright.

This suggests that the artist must have pitched it themselves. I scrolled to where the ‘Verified Artist’ indicator should be.

It is not there. This is a conflict as either they should be verified and pitched through Spotify for Aritsts or it was released by a label and they arranged the placement with a contact at Spotify — however the information we see suggests it cannot be either. I decided to dig deeper…

Digging Deeper

Looking at the next song on the playlist, ‘Morning Fog’ by Meliona, it is a similar situation. While this artist profile previously has had another song released, they did not take the opportunity to claim Spotify for Artists therefore meaning they could not pitch the song. Going to the song page it is a similar story, credited as a self release by the artist.

Morning Fog by Meniola

Notice that the artwork for Morning Fog appears to hold artifacts of AI art generation. What we have here is a soulless, shell artist profile where even the cover art on the music has no soul. Not to mention how the music itself has no soul, given that it is part of a shell artist conglomerate.

I proceeded to check the artist’s related artists and noticed how many of them appeared to be generic photographs or seemingly AI-generated art. This theme was common throughout.

Many of these artists are similar to Meniola and Some Guy I Know in that they also are unclaimed profiles with no label associated that feature on these editorial playlists. This suggests that a large amount of people who listen to the artist also listen to a large amount of other shell artists. Whether this is by choice or not, we will discuss in the next section of this post.

The Next Section of This Post

The suspicious songs and shell artists is not uncommon when playing the lofi sleep editorial playlist. In fact, the first thirty songs on the playlist all share the same traits of being ‘independent’ releases on unverified profiles.

The next eleven songs after Bring Me Back Home and Morning Fog

In the above screenshot, there are eleven songs. Checking them all will lead to the same outcome, with a handful of them also consisting of supposed AI-generated cover art and the artists’ similar artists section being the same as observed above.

Thirty. Songs… It takes thirty songs before music from a real artist reaches your ears. An even round multiple of ten. Given the average lofi song is around two-minutes long, these songs from shell artists take up the whole first hour of listening to this playlist. To reiterate: Listeners go for a whole hour before they reach a real artist.

After thirty songs, we finally see real artist’s music

Let’s break this down as a listener.

You want some lofi sleep music so you search ‘lofi sleep’.

The top result for this search is the official Spotify editorial playlist.

You click play and, like a majority of people, you play the playlist from the top — you do not shuffle it.

Five songs in (unbeknownst that these are not songs from ‘real’ artists), you really enjoy what you are listening to and click the artist’s profile to check out the rest of their music, follow them on social media to keep up with releases, or to see similar artists.

What you are faced with is a artist profile of no substance. No description, no profile picture, no banner. However there are one-to-three songs. You look in the description and there are no social media links. You click on related artists and once again unbeknownst to you, they are also shell artist profiles.

The harm

This is harmful in multiple ways. Firstly to the listener, they went out their way to engage with the artist only to find it desolate. They listened to a playlist for a whole hour and did not listen to music from a single ‘real’ artist.

To break that down — a majority of people searching ‘lofi sleep’ are going to click the first result, a majority of them are going to listen from the top without shuffling and a majority of them are not going to listen to this singular playlist for more than an hour. Essentially, the bulk of these people’s listening is being directed by Spotify away from ‘real’ artists.

It is also harmful for artists. They have made the achievement of being features on these editorial playlists and yet they are missing engagement from a lot of people who do not come across them in the first place. They are losing, in the shadow of shell artist profiles. All the while, saving Spotify paying royalties to the real artists.

Who is Responsible?

To answer it bluntly — Spotify. They are the ones who place the songs on the playlist and they are the ones placing an hours worth of soulless music at the top of the playlists.

In more depth, there are two options. As discussed earlier where labels have connections to get placements, they could be engaging in that but in an even sneakier way — where the releases are credited as independent. This is the most likely option as major labels have been known previously to bulk buy finished music and distribute on their own terms. The second option that it is Spotify who has ownership of the songs, though this is less likely.

Ultimately, the conclusion we can reach is that Spotify is not only complicit but they are responsible, whether or not the music is owned by a label. They are the ones putting these songs in the top positions. They are actively harming the listeners experience and harming artists engagements with fans.

What can you do?

If you do not want to support fake artists on Spotify, I would suggest engaging with individual-curated playlists and avoiding editorials together. You could also help by sharing this information with media, given that previous outcries towards Spotify in regards to labels dominating editorial playlists led to action being taken.

Linked below is a video walking through the article and a live view of discovering fake artists on the editorial playlist.

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