You may be aware that Spotify was last year accused by Music Business Worldwide of installing "fake" artists on the platform, to profit from the streams generated by placing those acts on playlists called things like "Peaceful Piano" (makes sense: lots of people don't like working to music with lyrics, and therefore playlists like this get millions of streams). And recently, we reported that the streaming service is allegedly allowing labels to pay for their artists to show up as "sponsored songs" on playlists only seen by users who aren't paying for the premium service. Amidst the bad press, however, Spotify deigned to comment on MBW's almost year-old accusations:
We do not and have never created 'fake' artists and put them on Spotify playlists. Categorically untrue, full stop […] We pay royalties – sound and publishing – for all tracks on Spotify, and for everything we playlist. We do not own rights, we're not a label, all our music is licensed from rights-holders and we pay them – we don't pay ourselves.
Hmm. As MBW point out, however, Spotify haven't denied flat-out that the platform may be home to fake artists, though they've said plainly they aren't behind said fakes. That's all well and good, but the main question raised by all of this is "who are these possible fakes and is their music actually any good?" I listened to a few of them to see if they seemed real (they did not). Behold reviews of five of the most popular potential fakes from the list of 50 (!) that MBW identified in their piece.
Gabriel Parker - "Intervention"
I don't know man. This is unsettling. I feel like I am in a very creepy horror film, like, for some reason one where a haunted jewellery box plays a large part? This also sounds like the sort of music that would soundtrack a scene from The Fall where Gillian Anderson sits in the back of the car driven to the latest crime scene where Jamie Dornan's just murdered a beautiful woman before he sniffed her bra and slinked off. Mostly: piano and moodiness. I feel weird I'm turning it off.
Fake or not fake? Absolutely fake OR created by a sociopath.
Charlie Key - "Stairs and Steps"
This sounds like something that a poorly written Manic Pixie Dream Girl would cite as her favourite song in a film like (500) Days of Summer but worse, and then it would play during a scene shot with soft focus where she and the complete wetter of a protagonist lie on a really nicely made bed just fucking looking at each other. It's heavy on piano, again, and though it's only three minutes long, the intro is so tedious it'll make you want to skip forward a bit. Also "Charlie Key"'s Spotify picture looks like someone airbrushed the shit out of a photo of David Bowie. The jig is up.
Fake or not fake? The production on this is weirdly harsh for a #sensitive neo-classical track and this makes me think it's fake.
Ana Olgica - "Sugarcane"
Probably the most real-sounding one of the lot. It would play during the wedding ceremony between Sophie, 27, an up-cycler who is wearing a flower crown, and Jonas, 31, a freelance silversmith.
Fake or not fake? Doesn't sound that fake but in the context it's probably extremely fake.
Lo Mimieux - Berceuse
This is getting boring now because these all sound very much the same which leads me to yell: FAAAAAKE. Even more so: this one doesn't even have an artist picture. It's just artwork. Are we getting closer to the truth? I just Googled Lo Mimieux and they have no visible artist profile outside Spotify, beyond a Genius lyric page for this song that literally just reads "[Instrumental]" for the whole track.
Fake or not fake? I have largely stopped caring but probably FAKE.
Piotr Mikeska - "Squares of Life"
This sounds like the sort of song that would be on a YouTube montage of scenes from the Twilight films and thus it is my personal favourite.
Fake or not fake? Obviously fake.
Basically, these pieces of piano music are generally very short and they're also very boring. They're also the same generically, meaning that it's very feasible that the same person could have made them all. Above all else I can't really imagine anyone putting these songs out into the world as their Art™, though if the future of music is just about streaming services milking a cash cow, that's a pretty sad thought. Thank you all for playing.
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(Image via Freestocks)