Music Business

Spotify Cuts Off Playlist Payola Service SpotLister

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In a move that many see as long overdue, Spotify has effectively shut down pay-for-playlist slot site SpotLister. But more than a dozen similar pay for play services continue to operate.



Spotify disconnected SpotLister from its API last week, effectively shutting down the pay-for-playlist add marketplace. SpotLister offered users the ability to buy onto more than 1500 Spotify playlists with more than 11.5 million collective followers.   

Pay for play or payola is explicitly forbidden on Spotify.  Its terms of service prohibit the “selling a user account or playlist, or otherwise accepting any compensation, financial or otherwise, to influence the name of an account or playlist or the content included on an account or playlist.”

Until recently, however, the music streamer has taken little concrete action against offenders. 


In fact, rather than a terms of service violation, SpotLister appears to have run afoul of Spotify by using its Next Big Sound song matching API to help pair tracks with the right playlists. 

In recent days, Spotlister, even tried to rebrand as Jamlister, but to no avail. “Despite all of our efforts to rebrand and comply with their requests, our API key has been deactivated so we will no longer be able to operate on our platform," the company wrote in a post offering refunds. 

Playlisters Go Unpunished

Spotify may be trying to clean up its act prior to next month's public stock offering.  But more than a dozen SpotLister competitors are still operating without using the API. And to date, no playlister has come forward saying that they've been kicked off of Spotify for receiving payments to add a track.

– H/T to Daily Dot who originally broke the story.

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  1. What about the majors who have been buying Spotify accounts left and right to boost their numbers and then only share their own songs on their playlists. Soundrop’s Spotify playlists, and tens of others.

    As you may already know, Spotify deemed our platform non-compliant with Spotify’s Terms of Use and while it is true our API Key was deactivated and we had no other option but to shut down the service. In the meantime, many news outlets and bloggers picked up the Daily Dot story and portrayed us as a pay-to-playlist service and cited information that was not only misleading but completely false.
    For this reason, we decided to release the following statement and substantiate with actual metrics and facts about our platform:
    Firstly, Like Spotify, we reiterate that we are unequivocally against pay-to-playlist. However, this conviction does not negate the music promotion activities that take place each and every day around the globe, including song submissions to playlist curators, a process we decided to build upon and pledged to improve. You see, Spotlister was conceived and developed simply to give rising artists the opportunity to submit their music for consideration to the curator community never to pay for placements on their playlists.
    So, here are a few of the fake news that have been circulating around and our response according to the facts:
    1) Spotlister has been operating for about 2 years and it was a huge player in the music submission business.
    FACT: Spotlister was officially launched in November 2017 after a brief beta phase of 2 weeks. In fact, we were a rather small and upcoming player in the online music submission services arena and we only got to serve a few hundred customers. So we are still at odds and rather confused as to why we were picked as the focus in the Daily Dot article and portrayed as a huge service with in-depth knowledge of the industry with many years of operation.
    2) Spotlister was a pay-to-playlist service
    FACT: Not once did we ever communicate directly or pay a single playlister for placements on any of their playlists! While it is true submissions prices ranged between $2 and $10 and that Playlisters received $0.24 for their time invested in doing a review, the rest of the money went to develop and operate a fairly new platform looking to make a name for itself in the online music submission business. To put this in perspective, during our short-lived 3 months of operations, Playlisters collected an average of $22 from our platform. As you can imagine, there is absolutely no influence we could have made on playlist placements.
    FACT: During the entire lifespan of our platform (3 months), we had a total of 24714 Submissions, out of which 11631 expired and credits were refunded to artists and 13083 were reviewed and completed by playlisters. Only 8% of all posted submissions resulted in a voluntary placement by playlisters. In contrast, other music submission sites cite millions of submissions and an even better placement ratio.
    3) Artists paid up to $2,000 per placement on playlists.
    FACT: Our platform allowed artists to buy credits to submit songs to the different playlists available in our platform. Our credit Packages started at $10 and the most expensive package we offered was $100 which provided 75 credits (a $150 value). In average, artists spent $54 while using our service. Again, there is very little an artist can do to influence placements with that kind of budget. We reiterate, there were no backdoors in SpotLister or communications that could have enabled additional payments to playlisters for placements in our platform. Artists submissions were not even read or actively monitored by SpotLister personnel.
    4) About our rebranding effort to Jamlister
    FACT: The initial Spotify communication cited our name “SpotLister” as one of their main non-compliant issues with our service, they provided us 30-days to cure. Instead, within 24 hours of their initial communication, we halted operations, registered the domain and started migrating our platform to our new name. The service remained halted while this effort was ongoing for around 1 week after which we responded to their initial request to change the name addressing this non-compliance request. So, our name change was a direct result of Spotify’s initial communication of non-compliance.
    5) About the refunds offered to our customers
    FACT: Yes, we decided to return the unused portion of artists accounts not as an admission we were doing anything unethical but simply because it was the right thing to do! Furthermore, after we shutdown, we proactively reached out to every single customer with a pending balance offering a refund for their unused portion of the credit package they bought from us, regardless of when they bought it. As of today and only a week after our service was shutdown, we have proactively notified all users and processed most refunds. The average refund was $30 which represents an average 55% of what each artist paid us when they initially signed up to our platform.
    6) We used Echo Nest algorithms to match artists with Playlisters
    FACT: We matched artists with playlists based on genres. Basically, when artists signed up to the platform we picked up the genres Spotify had selected for them (if none, we would ask artist their genres), we then match those to the genres contained in the playlists based on the artists, and their genres, in them. This is a very basic algorithm and in no way leverages Spotify proprietary algorithms. Despite its simplicity, this matching is what actually made SpotLister such a convenient service to use as artists need not spend a long time inspecting playlists to submit to which made for a speedy and more convenient submission process. Again, nothing out of the ordinary or something that cannot be easily done with basic programming skills. As a matter of fact, the Spotify API can and has been used for far better and more sophisticated music matching algorithms in other areas of music services and applications. So SpotLister was not innovating or breaking any rules regarding Spotify TOS with its music matching algorithms.
    While we understand the Daily Dot article raised a legitimate concern and touches on the very real topic of pay-to-playlist, we believe we were caught in the middle of a sensational story that misrepresented and didn’t do justice to our effort and the platform we were building for artists to submit their music. Despite this, we shutdown swiftly, quietly and honorably. However, we can’t keep quiet when we are vilified and portrayed as facilitator of these practices when, in fact, we were providing artists a real and fair chance to have their music heard without having to pay thousands of dollars for placements..
    Best Regards
    The Spotlister/Jamlister Team

  3. Yeah, Warner bought Soundrop and they weren’t kicked off Spotify.
    It does look like collusion between Spotify and the majors, which are its partial owners, and who dominate Spotify playlists despite being representing far less than 1% of all musicians out there.
    Can’t see anything Spotlister was doing wrong in its playlisting mechanism. Warner, Universal and Sony pay their playlisters to include their artists.
    Spotify pays its playlisters which include almost entirely music from those 3 companies.
    Seems corrupt at its core and a repeat of how the majors blocked Indies from commercial radio.
    Can you say “Oligopoly”?

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