Cheating on streaming music: the secret affair of playlists

VS’is a small business done off the radar. While the National Music Council (CNM) just revealed that wrong listening represented 1 to 3% of the 93.5 billion streamed listens recorded in 2021, another, more subtle cheat has been in play for some time on streaming platforms: namely playlists.

On streaming platforms it is a considerable advantage in listening to artists, and therefore a means of gaining visibility. According to CNM, two thirds of plays on Spotify come from playlists. This shows the importance of getting your title out there, especially for rappers.

“Playlists are somewhat on par with radio or media, testifies to Simony, a young Parisian rapper signed to Wagram’s Bureau 3e label (Orelsan, Gringe, -M-…). When sound enters a playlist, it will be heard by more listeners. »

On Spotify, for example, there are official “PVNCHLNRS” – for “punchliners” – (1.3 million subscribers) or “Fresh rap” (760,000) playlists, which are maintained by specialized publishers. To integrate it, artists have to “throw” their title onto the platform: “If they feel it’s appropriate, and if they appreciate it, they put you at the top of the bill”, says Simony, whose title garnered several million listens.

The temptation is great

But behind this exhibition, Spotify is full of thousands of unbranded playlists like “Rap français 2023”* (273,000 subscribers) or Drill France (62,000 subscribers) maintained by anonymous persons, each user can create their own compilation on the platform. .musical.

READ ALSOEnergy calm: what if we tackle streaming platforms? It was enough for the entrepreneur to see the business potential and start contacting the rapper: “Every day, people message me selling me a promotion, for example you pay 1000 euros and we put you at the top of the playlist, ”explains Simony , who stated that he did not respond this proposal, the label already has a budget dedicated to its promotion.

But for new indie rappers, the temptation is great. Théo (first name has been changed), a young Parisian rapper, calls on some playlist curators to gain visibility: “In general, people contact you with a price list and several playlist possibilities. I paid 130 euros to appear for ten days on the French Rap 2022 playlist, ”he testified.

“Visibility and money”

The strategy is simple: the user creates a playlist and attracts a large number of subscribers to the playlist by selecting hits before gradually slipping in some unfamiliar titles, for a fee. This is how one of Théo’s songs reached 100,000 streams, a considerable gain when you know that streams generate an average of 0.004 euros on Spotify, Apple Music or Deezer.

Most importantly, the more a title is listened to, the more it shows up in the recommendation algorithm and reaches new listeners, creating a virtuous circle: “You get visibility, money, and if people like it, they subscribe and message you”, emphasizes Theo, who are hoping to recover 400 to 500 euros in revenue from this title.

READ ALSOOn TikTok, a war is raging between artists and their labelsWhile the business has grown in recent years, the practice remains prohibited by Spotify. In its user terms, the Swedish platform stipulates that it is prohibited to “sell user accounts or playlists, or accept or offer to accept any compensation, financial or otherwise, to affect the name of an account or playlist or the content included in an account or playlist” .

Some cute surprises

That said, cheating is nothing new in the music industry. Until ten years ago, record companies bought entire CD cases in stores to boost or direct album sales, including rock and pop music. The advent of streaming has only dematerialized and democratized the practice.

Beyond the legal aspect, this practice distorts the redistribution of revenue from streaming, as explained by Jean-Philippe Thiellay, president of CNM: “The revenue distribution system works ‘market centric’: we calculate all screenings for a year and we divide them by artist’s market share, so whoever steps up gets compensation from who doesn’t cheat. »

READ ALSODisinformation: Spotify announced action after heavy criticismIf young artists are often tempted to improve their hearing, they can have a few funny surprises: “Sometimes, the results are disappointing because the streams come from Germany or the US, which is not the audience we ‘want to target’, says Theo, who has spent several hundred euros on this type of promotion.

Simony believes, for his part, that the game is not worth the candle: “Of course, our goal is for as many voices to flow as possible, but not just any. It is important to have a good listener-to-listener ratio. “Rappers also believe that con artists always end up being unmasked: “The best thing for an artist is to produce the music live, when the room isn’t filled and people don’t know the sound, you know there’s cheating. »

*Contacted several times, this playlist creator is not responding to requests.

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