Are Spotify playlists the new payola?

As Spotify playlists become increasingly influential, questions regarding their significance and responsibility as music industry gatekeepers have arisen.

The company’s widespread success in the US and abroad goes without saying; the streaming agent boasts more than 159 million users and more than 71 million paid subscribers. Spotify recently filed their initial public offering and, according to the company’s filing with the SEC, their total valuation hovers around $23 billion, according to CNBC.

Is Spotify becoming the new medium for “payola?”

In a recent article published by The Daily Dot, editor Austin Powell points out that “it’s impossible to overstate the value of Spotify playlists, going on to claim that the streaming agent is becoming the “New Payola.” Powell points out that for prices as low as $2, one can have their song considered by SpotLister, a service that places tracks onto prominent Spotify playlists. Powell notes that artists can secure guaranteed placement on influential playlists with the cost ranging anywhere from a few hundred dollars to upwards of $2000, depending on the playlists monthly listener count.

Spotify argued, in an official statement to the Daily Dot, that “There is no ‘pay-to-playlist’ or sale of our playlists in any way. It’s bad for artists and bad for fans. We maintain a strict policy, and take appropriate action against parties that do not abide by these guidelines.” However, Powell points out that pay-to-play schemes do, in fact, exist on Spotify, and there’s little the streaming giant can do to combat third parties from accepting such offers.

The article draws valid questions and concerns regarding Spotify’s current influence in the global music industry. With playlists such as EDM House 2018 racking up nearly half a million followers, its undeniable that Spotify is, more and more, flexing their leverage as an industry gatekeeper, and its uncertain how such a dilemma will turn out in the long run.

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