Back in the days when radio was king, labels would attempt to game the system by bribing radio stations to play their tracks, a practice known as payola which was then outlawed. The concept seems to be making a resurgence however, but this time with highly influential Spotify playlists instead of radio.
Guest post by Bobby Owsinski of Music 3.0
Way back when radio was the main channel for developing a hit, record labels tried to game the system by bribing radio station program directors with money and gifts to add a record to the station’s playlist, a process that became known as payola. Several scandals ensued and the practice became illegal, but labels and managers always seemed to find a way around it. Today the same thing exists only with Spotify playlists, which are now very influential in determining a hit, where paying to get your song added to a playlist is now called “playola.” The idea of playola may not be illegal (at least not yet), but it’s still gaming the system as a playlist add can sometimes go to the highest bidder.
Last week the Daily Dot posted an expose’ on the “black market for playlists” (a must read to understand how paying for playlist adds work) and named one particular third party site, Spotlister, as a particularly aggressive and successful vendor of playlist curators. SpotLister claimed to have access to more than 1,500 curators with a cumulative reach of 11.7 million followers. Artists, managers and labels would buy credits from the company for $2 each, and the company would then get the curator to listen to it. The larger the following the playlist had, the more credits a curator would charge. Spotlister would make no claim that the song would be added to the playlist, just that it would be listened to.
Spotify took issue with any outside influence on playlist curation however, and shut down Spotlister on Friday by deactivating its API. According to the Daily Dot article:
Here’s how it works: When you upload a track to the service, it gets analyzed by what it calls its Playlisting Indexing Algorithm, which uses Spotify’s API and Echo Nest to scrape the song’s characteristics and uses that metadata to identify the most appropriate playlists to submit to. That way an indie rock band isn’t wasting time sifting through EDM playlists (or vice versa).
Spotlister briefly relaunched under the new name of Jamlister, with the thought of using a subscription service to circumvent Spotify’s terms of service, but has since decided to call it a day instead. Similar 3rd party websites like SubmitHub and Playlist Push are still up and running.