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A playlist scammer may have stolen $1 million from Spotify

The music heist of the century?

  • Cameron Holbrook
  • 21 February 2018
A playlist scammer may have stolen $1 million from Spotify

In a recent report from Music Business Worldwide, a Bulgarian playlist-maker has allegedly stolen over $1 million from the streaming giant Spotify.

The music heist has been an ongoing scam that was first spotted by a major label executive back in September 2017 after two playlists titled ‘Music from the Heart’ and ‘Soulful Music’ reached #84 and #35 in the company’s global playlist chart.

The suspicious playlists contained hundreds of 30 to 40 second songs and despite each page’s high global rankings, each one had less than 2000 followers.

It was later revealed that each playlist saw consistent plays from around 1,200 individual listeners a month, leading investigators to suspect that this Bulgarian playlist maker purchased the same number of premium accounts - allowing him to use each profile to rotate through his playlists on a consistent basis.

Time for some math. Despite having to pay $12,000 dollars a month to keep these premium accounts up and running, the resulting payout taken out of Spotify’s revenue pool for every 30 second play adds up, immensely.

For recorded music right holders, each play on a track results in a $0.004 payout. Multiply that by the 72 million plays the ‘Soulful Music’ playlist saw each month, the right holders are looking at a payout of $288,000 dollars every 30 days.

More over, if bots were being used to skip each track at the service's 30 second monetization point, the total number of monthly plays would rack up to 103 million, resulting in a $415,000 dollar return on the false-curator’s $12,000 dollar monthly expense.

The craziest part of it all… none of this appears to be illegal. Both playlists were deleted in October 2017, but based on the above math and the longevity of each playlists’ existence, the revenue created from this scam could have easily reached upward of $1 million.

In an official statement from Spotify about the incident, the company proclaimed: “We are continuing to invest heavily in refining those processes and improving methods of detection and removal, and reducing the impact of this unacceptable activity on legitimate creators, rights holders and our users.”

Cameron is Mixmag's US Editorial Intern. Follow him on Twitter here

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