Several clients of mine have brought this to my attention, so I thought I would address it here.
It appears that on January 1, 2021, Spotify enacted a massive, global takedown of music from thousands of independent artists. Upon information and belief, some 750,000 songs were removed, the vast majority of which appear to have used Distrokid for distribution. It appears no major label artists have been affected nor has any major label music been taken down as part of this purge. Based on available information (and the form letters issued to some of my clients), Spotify is alleging artificial or “fraudulent streams” and indiscriminately removing thousands of recorded music tracks. This appears to be targeted at any independent artist who used a third party playlist or independent marketing service to promote their music - or any third party advertising outside of the Spotify platform (e.g., Spotify Ad Studio and Marquee). This is devastating for many indie artists, particularly those who invested out-of-pocket in their own advertising and promotion (something that every major label does without any problem). Again, in the case of my particular clients, we are talking about legitimate third party advertising and promotional services as opposed to “bots” or other artificial means of generating increased streams.
It is worth nothing that each of the major record labels, Sony, Universal and Warner Music, have an equity stake in Spotify. Moreover, in 2018 Spotify acquired a stake in DistroKid. Depending on the underlying facts of the situation, all of this may give rise to antitrust issues or even a possible class action lawsuit if it turns out to be true that this was done to restrict artists to only paying Spotify for advertising or if it is otherwise shown to be a ploy by Spotify to avoid accounting and paying royalties for the music of the independent artists using their Distrokid affiliate for distribution.
Again, the details of this massive purge are only beginning to come to light. One client’s manager suggested that each artist should request that DistroKid re-upload the blocked song unless they can show some type of specific proof of artificial streams. Otherwise, it seems patently unfair for Spotify to do what it has done on such a massive scale and not have to substantiate these claims.
It is not clear how Spotify came to the conclusion that complete removal of massive amounts of content is in any way a fair resolution, but certainly independent artists are getting the short end of the stick without much evidence or explanation. From time to time Twitter has removed phantom followers from specific accounts, but Twitter did not delete the accounts. A more reasonable solution here would be for Spotify to remove the allegedly artificial plays but permit the specific songs to remain available for the artist's legitmate fans to continue to listen to and enjoy.
Wallace Collins is an entertainment lawyer with more than 30 years of experience. He was a songwriter and recording artist for Epic Records before receiving his law degree from Fordham Law School. T: (212) 661-3656;.www.wallacecollins.com