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Bulgarians May Have Just Scammed Spotify

(CelebrityAccess) — An alleged scam operation in Bulgaria has pulled as much as $1 million in royalties out of Spotify last year, and did so, apparently, without breaking any laws.

According to a report in Music Business Worldwide, the Bulgarian person or persons behind the scheme created several playlists of little-known artists and songs and then appears to have created a slew of paid Spotify accounts to listen to the playlists and collect on Spotify’s percentage-based payoff system.

Per MBW, the scheme was first noted by an unnamed major label exec, who spotted the alleged scheme in revenue reports Spotify provides to industry insiders. The scheme centers on a playlist with music that’s traceable to Bulgaria via The International Standard Recording Codes.

The playlist, ‘Soulful Music’ which features songs from mostly unknown artists that all clock in about 30 seconds long, generated so much revenue in September 2017 that it peaked at No.35 on Spotify’s global 100 chart, MBW reported. An impressive feat, particularly in light of the fact that the playlist had less than 1,800 followers at the time.

The 30-second duration is notable because that’s the time that Spotify requires before registering a ‘play.’

Now, as MBW pointed out, its possible that 1,200 people loved the playlist enough to stream it on repeat, but its also possible that someone set up a bunch of Spotify subscriptions which then hit the playlist on a continual, random loop. While it might seem expensive to maintain 1,200 accounts at $9.99 per month, the scheme may have generated as much as $415,000 a month based on Spotify’s average per-track payout is $0.004 per play.

This isn’t the first time that someone has tried to game Spotify with 30 second tracks. In 2014, Vulfpeck, a Michigan-based indie arist, released “Sleepify” an album composed of 10 silent, 30-second tracks and then enjoined their fan base to stream the album at night, while they slept.

Spotify eventually removed the album, but not before, according to Vice, the band racked up more than $20,000 in royalties from the ploy. (We should note that unlike the mysterious Bulgarians, Vulfpeck was open about the plan intending to use the royalties to fund a tour of free shows, according to a video they released at the time.)