Have you ever seen your music added to a music playlist with thousands of followers, only to find that you get almost zero listens out of it? Have you ever paid to have your music submitted to a playlist, only to get rejected for no apparent reason? If so, you've been a victim of the dark side of the music playlist industry.
One word I really want to put the emphasis in my last phrase is "Industry" because as you will find out if you didn't already, that is what music was turned into by greed: a soulless industry, turning one of the most enriching elements of life, into a cheap money grabbing and dream-shattering machine.
Behind the scenes, a vast majority of playlists are managed by artists with an ulterior motive - to increase their own following and streams by any means necessary. These playlists are not created to provide listeners with a great music experience, they do not exist to help fellow musicians out by placing their music in front of listeners... these exist for one purpose and one alone: promote the playlist owner's own music.
And the result is a scam that's hurting artists every day and that sadly, I see happen day after day even in the music scene I'm part of, the retro/synth one.
In this post, I'll be talking about one such scam and how it works in detail. If you would like me to keep writing these posts here on PopArtAve and explore the other types of scams, let me know in the comment and I might turn this into a little series, tackling the different scammy aspects of playlisting.
The Base Assumption
In order to properly understand everything that follows, it's extremely important for you to realize what the real goal of a playlist is for many.
You might think that the goal of a playlist is to provide people with amazing music, or perhaps that it is to help musicians get their music in front of other people, and, for a part of them, you would be correct.
What you need to realize tho, is that the music industry, thanks to services like Spotify, has turned into a battlefield where musicians need to compete with one another in order to get rewarded with little crumbs of attention from potential listeners in order not to die of starvation.
Considering how bad the used algorithms are at properly providing musicians with streams, many of us had to turn to the only thing we could actually control on our own to increase our numbers: playlists.
As such, you need to realize that playlists are a tool used with only one purpose: to increase the stream numbers of the artists curating them.
This said, let's go on explaining how it's done.
The "GATE" scam
One of the biggest scams in the music playlist industry is the creation of playlists with thousands of followers, but no real user base.
This is how it works and how it exploits other artists: the whole concept of it is based on the creation of what is called a "gate" in the middle of the submission process.
A gate is like a closed door in a video game that will only open when you complete a certain task and, in this scenario, the task you, as an artist, will have to complete in order to be able and submit your music to a playlist, is to follow such playlist yourself.
Then, once you've followed and successfully submitted your music, you will usually receive a message asking (if not ordering) you to share and promote the playlist around. I've also had people straight threatening that unless this promotion is done, then the song will be removed from the playlist overall, actually proving how little the song quality matters and how the focus is not about providing listeners with good music, but to get the promotion.
Music Playlists With Thousands Of Followers And No Real Fanbase
Many of these people will just accept any kind of music as long as it's at least decent, just in the hope of getting free promotion out of artists on social media, and again, most of the time, these playlists will have hundred if not thousands of different songs in it.
And here's the point: if your song gets accepted and gets placed on position 2789 of the playlist, chances are no one will ever even see it, still... the playlist will get free promotion from you to your own fanbase, and guess whose music will be in the first positions of the playlist ready to take advantage of the super few real listeners that'll click?
If you guessed the playlist curator's one, then you guessed it right.
You'll also have to understand that since curators are using gates, a big 80 to 90% (if not more) of playlist followers will be other artists that will never really listen to the playlist because their only goal was to submit, they never were interested into listening in the first place.
Pay For Consideration
To make things worse, there also exist paid services that take away money from musicians to provide them with the privilege not to have their music on the playlist, but to submit their music (that can still be refused) to such playlists, providing both curators and the platform, with an easy stream of income directly from the hopes and dreams of hard-working people, in exchange, often, of nothing.
If this isn't a scam, I don't know what to call it.
Did you ever reason about it?
Did this ever happen to you?
To be totally honest a big part of these mechanics has sadly become necessary to even just have a chance at having one's music heard and this pose a question: is it really worth it? If we all would stop letting corporations decide what we should and shouldn't do in order to survive, by straight up refusing to obey, they'll immediately lose all their power and artist would finally regain it for themselves.
But of course, it would be impossible unless everyone stands on the same values, which will never happen as many would just take advantage of others' quitting to monopolize income. The sad truth about this system: it's made in such a way that artists will destroy other artists in order to get an edge on them, making it impossible for everyone to quit unless they accept starvation. It's something sad to reason on, perhaps trying to envision solutions that I'd love for you to write in the comments below.
Remember, if you'd like me to delve deeper into the dark depths of "Playlisting" in the music industry, say so in the comments. If there'll be interest in the subject, as said, I will be turning this into a small series of different articles.
All the best,