Spotify Sues Self-Described 'Music Prodigy' Who Allegedly Ran Royalties Scam

Spotify says Jake Noch "[generated] hundreds of millions of fraudulent streams" and engaged in "title track parasitism" among other fraudulent practices on its platform.
19 May 2020, 10:48pm
spotify scam

Last November, the 20-year-old head of indie hip-hop label Sosa Entertainment filed a massive (and massively complicated) lawsuit against Spotify, alleging that the digital music service hadn't paid royalties on more than 550 million streams of its songs. According to Billboard, Sosa Entertainment founder Jake Noch also named his other company, PRO Music Rights, as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, and the co-plaintiffs sought millions of dollars in damages, asking for $150,000 for each infringement.

Noch's lawsuit accused Spotify of a number of transgressions, including unfair and deceptive business practices, willfully removing Sosa Entertainment's content, "obliterating" his expectations, and refusing to pay royalties. In a statement, Noch said that he was willing to "fight to the end" if it meant that Spotify would ultimately compensate the artists who were affected.

"I have a duty to see this through so that I can pay my artists what they are owed from Spotify," he said. "I know others feel the same way as I blaze this trail for the music community, who I know is behind me and roots for our success in bringing down Spotify."

Part of Noch's problems with the company started in the spring of 2017 when Spotify removed all of Sosa Entertainment's song's from its servers and "blanket banned" Noch and his companies from using the platform going forward. According to Noch—who describes himself as a "musical prodigy" in his lawsuit—Spotify informed him that the songs were removed because of "abnormal streaming activity," but the company didn't give him the opportunity to explain what could've caused the weird-looking streaming data. Noch has alleged that Spotify just "fabricated a reason" to kick him off the platform, in an attempt to avoid having to pay the royalties that he was due.

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But in its own countersuit, filed on Monday, Spotify says no, it was just because of the abnormal streaming, and also because Noch allegedly "designed a scheme to artificially generate hundreds of millions of fraudulent streams" in order to game the system and rack up a ton of royalty payments.

"Starting in 2016, Noch designed a scheme to artificially generate hundreds of millions of fraudulent streams on songs he had seeded on Spotify’s online music-streaming service," the company's complaint reads. "Noch’s objective was plain: to manipulate Spotify’s system to extract undeserved royalties at the expense of hardworking artists and songwriters."

Billboard reports that Spotify removed Noch's content from its platform after being contacted by a whistleblower who claimed that Noch had instructed a bot farmer to create literally millions of fake accounts to stream songs from the Sosa Entertainment catalog. Spotify's own analysts became suspicious when one of Noch's records went from zero streams to 400,000 in under a week, while a second album racked up 749,000 streams in two days. (Spotify also apparently determined that 5,500 of the accounts that played the latter record supposedly all lived in the same American town—even though the town's total population was just around 10,000 people.)

The company has also accused Noch of "title track parasitism," which involves uploading songs with the same name and punctuation of legitimate hit songs. Spotify's legal filing identified two "AI-generated sound loops" that had been given the same name as then-popular tracks by DJ Snake and XXXTentacion.

"This was one of the most egregious fraudulent streaming operations from a single rights holder that Spotify had to deal with in its company’s history," Spotify wrote in its complaint. The company's countersuit is asking for compensation for a long list of Noch's alleged transgressions, including fraud, fraudulent concealment, breach of contract, indemnification, unjust enrichment and deceptive business practices.

Damn, most 20-year-olds can only dream of being dragged that hard by an international streaming service. A musical prodigy, indeed.

This article originally appeared on VICE US.