Spotify Cracking Down On “Playola” Playlist Payments

Sean Parker’s “Hipster International” playlist is credited as popularising Lorde’s “Royals”

For several months there have been increasing reports of “playola” around playlists on Spotify, a method in which curators of popular playlists will request money from labels in exchange for adding their tracks to the playlist.

Playlist promotion has become so common on streaming services that some Record Labels have been incorporating it into their marketing strategies. Daniel Glass of Glassnote Records, who has been soliciting songs to streaming companies for about 2 years, saying: “It’s part of our company culture and our lingo in the hallways.”

Streaming data has become increasingly popular in the industry often being used to dictate radio stations choices and playlist discovery leading to synch licenses for new artists.

Popular playlists have the ability to make a song go viral with hundreds-of-thousands of viewers who will then share to their friends who can share and so on, creating a spike in streams for a song through a method reminiscent of social media. So it is clear to see the potential behind playlists and why Labels are so interested in paying to get on them.

Spotify has now decided to take action to crack down on playlist promotion by changing it’s Terms and Conditions to stop users from selling accounts and playlists. Spotify also state “accepting any compensation, financial or otherwise, to influence… the content included on an account or playlist.”

There is however concern over whether playlist-pitching agencies like DigMark, a partner of Universal Music after they recruited it’s founder Jay Frank to run Universal’s global streaming marketing strategy, could find loopholes in Spotify’s policy. There is speculation over whether paying playlisters for “consultancy” rather than for putting a specific song(s) would bypass Spotify’s new Terms.

It will be interesting to see if these changes affect the landscape of Spotify and potentially the industry as a whole with songs such as Lorde’s “Royals” supposedly breaking through to the mainstream via one of Spotify’s largest playlists.

Head of Social Media and Marketing, RouteNote

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