For a while now, Spotify has been swarming with fake Spotify playlists. This is probably one of the reasons why they stopped promoting user-generated playlists and instead ramped up their own official playlist offering.
You might be thinking… What is a fake Spotify playlist? Why would someone create a fake playlist? And how can I spot them? Well, don’t worry. This post (part of my Advice for Artists series) will answer any and all of your questions!
What is a fake Spotify playlist?
A fake Spotify playlist is a user-generated playlist (you won’t find any fake official playlists) where either the number of followers, the numbers or listeners, or both have been artificially inflated.
Spotify is now full of this kind of thing. So much so, that whenever I come across a seemingly popular user-generated playlist, I start off by assuming it’s fake – unless I have reason to think otherwise!
Why would someone create a fake Spotify playlist?
There’s only really one reason… MONEY!
Perhaps I tiny, tiny fraction of fake playlist curators are doing it to try and make themselves look impressive or feel important. But I would guess that 99.9% are doing it to try and cash in. Here’s how it works…
- Artists want streams and they know that playlists can help them get more streams.
- Conmen and scammers know that artists want streams and they would like to create a way to profit from that desire.
- Fake playlists are made to take money from naive artists.
How can I spot a fake Spotify playlist?
Ok, here’s the bit you’ve been waiting for. How can you begin to figure out whether a popular-looking user-generated Spotify playlist is genuine or fake?
What genuine playlist numbers look like
Let me start by sharing some data for our genuinely popular Christian Rap UK Spotify playlist. Obviously, I know this playlist isn’t fake.
Unfortunately, Spotify stopped displaying the monthly listener count for playlists towards the end of January 2020. But, thanks to Chartmetric, I still have access to the last available data…
- 832 = Followers (as of 31st January 2020)
- 277 = Maximum Monthly Listeners (33%)
- 155 = Average Monthly Listeners (19%)
This is exactly what you would expect to see from a genuine playlist.
832 is a reasonable number of followers for a playlist like ours (we’re up to 1,414 now). If our Christian Rap UK playlist had 83,200 followers you’d be right to be questioning how we managed to get so many.
Maximum monthly listeners should be between 5% and 40% (depending on the size and popularity of the playlist). I’ve looked at a lot of different official and genuine user-generated Spotify playlists and that’s the accepted range.
Average monthly listeners should be about half of the maximum figure. That’s because lots of listeners will play the tracks at the top of the playlist but not everyone will get down to the middle or bottom of the playlist.
3 types of fake Spotify playlists
I mentioned the three types of fake Spotify playlists at the start of this article Here’s some more detail…
- Playlist A has a whopping 50,000 followers – but the maximum number of listeners any artist gets from the playlist is only 100.
- Playlist B only has 100 followers – but the maximum number of listeners any artist gets from the playlist is a whopping 50,000.
- Playlist C has a whopping 50,000 followers – and the maximum number of listeners any artist gets from the playlist is (also) a whopping 50,000.
These are simplified numbers but you get the idea.
- Playlist A has artificially inflated their number of playlist followers (most of the 50,000 followers are fake Spotify accounts), but they haven’t bothered setting up bots to generate loads of streams. Or maybe they used to do that but now the bots have been switched off.
- Playlist B is using bots to generate loads of streams on tracks added to their playlist. But they haven’t got the bots to actually follow the playlist and only 100 genuine Spotify users have followed.
- Playlist C has up to 50,000 fake Spotify accounts following their playlist and these same fake accounts are also connected to bots that constantly play through the playlist generating streams for the tracks inside it.
And here’s what they’re doing…
- Playlist A is doing the “short-con”. They’ll charge an artist maybe $50 for playlist submission. The artist thinks $50 sounds pretty good value for reaching 50,000 potential fans. They even share on social media that they’ve been featured in a big playlist! But after a month, they’ve only gained 100 extra listeners and zero new Spotify followers. The playlist owner just pockets the money and doesn’t have to pay for all of the hardware and software needed to keep 50,000 bots running. He’s unlikely to get any repeat customers, though.
- Playlist B is most likely not conning the artist at all. Instead, they are on some random website selling 50,000 streams for $100. Every artist that purchases the package has a track added to the playlist and then over the next month 50,000 fake Spotify accounts (controlled by bots) play through the entire playlist. I think (I hope) that artists that pay for streams know that these streams they’re buying aren’t from real people.
- Playlist C is doing the “long-con”. They’ll look the same as Playlist A, and they’ll charge the same as Playlist A, but they’ll actually give you the streams too (like Playlist B). If Playlist C is being clever, they’ll only run bots for half the fake accounts they own each month – that way the 25,000 streams the artist receives appear to be genuine. Or, if I’m being cynical, perhaps Playlist C simply allows an artist to buy 50,000 streams without having to actually click a button that says “Buy 50,000 streams for $50”.
Hip-Hop Cocktail is a user-generated Spotify playlist created by someone called ‘Nick C’. It has 66,557 followers – impressive! Or maybe too impressive.
When we look at the maximum monthly listeners figure we’re met with a rather disappointing 1,200. That might sound like a lot but it’s less than 2% of the total followers – which is lower than we would expect for a playlist that is still being updated regularly.
When we look at the average monthly listeners, things get really weird. That’s 1,200 too! So those 1,200 people are all listening to every single track in the playlist. That seems unlikely. It’s much more likely that our friend ‘Nick C’ has paid to have 1,200 bots play through his playlist once a month
A quick look at the type of artists found in the playlist confirms our suspicions. The top artist Pete Mazzi has 11 Spotify followers. He’s done well to get the top spot in a playlist with 66k followers! The second track is by B$stone who has 98 followers. And the third track is by Payne with 83.
These are the kinds of artists who will pay to be put in a Spotify playlist with 66k followers.
I wonder if our good friend ‘Nick C’ has any other Spotify playlists? Oh yes, he does. His other playlist is called New Rap Sensation. And guess what… that playlist has 65k followers. ‘Nick C’ is either some sort of super curator or these 65k followers are the same 65,000 fake accounts he set up to follow his other playlist. I wonder which it could be.
And the final nail in the coffin for Nick C… He only has 6 followers. Now, playlist curators don’t normally have loads of followers. But you’d expect more than 6 from a guy with two “huge” playlists. We have 54 followers and our playlist only has 1,400 followers!
These fake playlists aren’t hard to find. There’s absolutely loads of them.
Pete Mazzi‘s in two other fake playlists called Rap Flame with 108k followers and Heavy Mix with 29k. Sebas (the curator of Rap Flame) has four other Spotify playlists all of them with, you guessed it, 108k followers. Joseph P (the curator of Heavy Mix) has two other playlists. I don’t even need to bother telling you how many followers they both have!
Once you go down the rabbit hole and follow the links, it only takes you about five minutes to realise just how many of these playlists there must be. I’m talking tens, if not hundreds, of thousands!
Do your own research
Before you pay to be included in a Spotify playlist with thousands of followers, make sure you’ve done a few minutes of research. The easiest thing to do is check the curators other playlists. If they have multiple playlists all with the same numbers of followers, that is a giant red flag.
If they have one playlist with 35,000 followers, another couple of playlists with 4,000 and then a few other with less (like Rapzilla.com) then perhaps they are legit.
Rapzilla’s playlists are 100% legit. They are a huge platform that’s been around for ages. It makes sense that they could have a playlist with 35,000 followers. They also have over 7,000 followers on their curator profile. These are the things you should be looking out for.
But remember, it’s best to assume a playlist is fake unless it can be proved otherwise. It’s extremely difficult for a non-official Spotify playlist to attract 10,000 followers, let alone 100,000!
And feel free to ask a playlist curator how they managed to build up such a popular playlist. If they can’t (or won’t) give you an answer then, in the words of Tee Supreme, “it’s au revoir”.