“Pay-for-play” on high-profile Spotify playlists isn’t dead… it’s just evolving

Spotify’s terms of service ban users from accepting payment to list songs on a playlist -- but the “black market for Spotify playlists” is still booming.


March 14, 2018

Back in 2015, Billboard released an expose reporting that PR teams could pay as much as $10k a placement to earn their artists’ songs a spot on Spotify’s most popular playlists.

Since then, Spotify’s updated their terms of service to ban users and employees from accepting any compensation to influence the content of a playlist — but, according to a recent article by The Daily Dot, the “black market for Spotify playlists” is still booming. 

And, with Spotify’s official playlists generating almost a third of its total streaming traffic, landing a spot on their most popular lists is a ticket to the top of the charts.

“Playola” is the new payola

These days, Spotify’s in-house team of curators appears to be on the straight-and-narrow, but independent influencers are much harder to police. And, a song that gains traction in several popular playlists is likely to get picked by Spotify’s algorithm-based playlists like “Discover Weekly.”

Influential “playlisters” can charge different amounts depending on how high up the song is in the list, negotiate a monthly retainer for a limited time placement, or skirt the rules using sites that connect them to artists as “consultants.” *Insert joke about scammy consultants here*

But the scammers have become the scammees

Turns out it’s pretty easy to fake your number of plays of a playlist, and playlisters can pretty easily boost their follower count using platforms via a “followgate,” which requires a follow in exchange for a free download.

So, fair warning to hype hackers, in the wise words of Justin Timberlake, “what goes around comes back around.”

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