In the latest chapter of 2017 a.k.a. "The Gang Watches Late Capitalism Go Cyber," the BBC reports that Spotify is currently testing out a system wherein record labels can pay to have music appear in the playlists of the service's free users. It more or less sounds like these "sponsored songs" will function a little like Spotify's regular ads for non-subscribers, but instead, they're whole pieces of music. Tight. Fader says that the sponsored songs will match the listening habits of each individual user because no marketing is better than the hyper-targeted kind. Again, if you already pay Spotify Premium's $9.99 monthly fee and don't see ads anyway, you're unaffected, and free users can opt out of sponsored songs if they can somehow locate it in their options (The Verge has a handy guide on how to do so).
As Mark Mulligan of analysis company Midia Research told the BBC and explained in this blog post, this Facebook-ish strategy is likely an attempt to mitigate the fact that Spotify has been operating at a loss ($389 million USD as of last year) despite having 140 million registered users. So, in one way, this isn't exactly payola because Spotify is being reasonably transparent in telling you they're quietly embedding music into your pre-existing personal playlists. It's just a little bit more dystopian than the Alan Freed/Dick Clark scandals of 1960 ever were. Here's the Nirvana song that was originally called "Pay to Play" and whose final title tells one what they should probably do with sponsored songs.
Phil is a Noisey staff writer. He's on Twitter.