Did a playlist-maker scam nearly $1 million from Spotify?

A Bulgarian user of the streaming service could have manipulated the system to receive a big payout

A Bulgarian playlist-maker could have scammed Spotify out of nearly $1 million or more, it has been reported.

The potential scam was uncovered last year when two third-party playlists in the streaming service’s weekly, confidential global playlist chart were noticed by a major label executive.

‘Soulful Music’ and ‘Music From The Heart’ both contain music with International Standard Recording Codes – the system used to identify recorded music and music videos – that can be traced back to Bulgaria. As Music Business Worldwide reports, both featured in relatively high positions on the charts, which are believed to be ranked by the amount of revenue generated each week.


According to the website, ‘Music From The Heart’ was positioned at number 84 on the September 23 global chart and at number 23 on the US-only list. ‘Soulful Music’, meanwhile, came in at number 35 on the same global chart, and number 11 in the US alone.

Spotify scam

The latter playlist contained 467 tracks, all of which appeared to be by unknown artists with little information about them online. At the time, it had only 1,797 people following it, while the majority of its tracks were barely over 30 seconds long, according to reports. Half a minute is the minimum time a track needs to be to make money on Spotify.

A source said data from Spotify’s analytics revealed the ‘Soulful Music’ playlist was receiving around 1,200 listeners per month, who were pressing play on every song on the list – a low number for a playlist ranking so highly. That fact has led to speculation that its creator was scamming the streaming service, by using paid-for, premium accounts to get enough plays on the tracks to generate a huge profit.

To run 1,200 premium accounts, it would cost $11,988 (£8598) a month, but could reap hundreds of thousands of dollars in reward. MBW worked out that it was possible to rack up 60,000 listens in a month per account, giving a potential total of 72 million plays each month. That alone could bring the playlist-maker $288,000 (£206,571), based on an estimate of Spotify’s average per-track payout of $0.004 per day.

However, if they used bots to skip tracks once they reached the 30-second mark, they could obtain 103 million tracks a month, and $415,000 (£297,658). Given the user is thought to have had at least two playlists involved in the alleged operation, that figure could rise to $830,000 (£595,487).


The scam technically isn’t illegal, however, because all of the accounts used to generate the money would be paid for.

A spokesperson for Spotify told NME: “We take the artificial manipulation of streaming activity on our service extremely seriously. Spotify has multiple detection measures in place monitoring consumption on the service to detect, investigate and deal with such activity.

“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.”