Spotify has announced a new feature that would give artists a boost on their playlists if they agree to take a royalty cut for “priority” songs. Spotify described it as an “experiment” that would affect playlists such as an artist’s Radio as well as Autoplay. As a result, artists, fans and music industry workers have accused Spotify of creating a digital “payola” (a pay-to-play system).
Spotify says of the feature:
To ensure the tool is accessible to artists at any stage of their careers, it will not require any upfront budget. Instead, labels or rights holders agree to be paid a promotional recording royalty rate for streams in personalised listening sessions where we provided this service.
Just a week ago, The Union of Musicians and Allied Workers launched a new campaign called Justice at Spotify to push for increased royalty payments and more transparency. The pledge has now been signed by over 16,000 artists and workers.
The Union wrote in a letter to Spotify:
Spotify encourages labels and management companies to pay for plays on the platform. In many cases, the artists don’t even know this is happening. The practice amounts to payola, and it is unacceptable and must be stopped. Spotify should not be in the businesses of selling artists access to their own fanbase. Spotify must publicly reveal where existing payola is occurring, and then stop systems of paid access that make an already unequal platform even more imbalanced.
Learn more about The Union of Musicians and Allied Workers’ campaign here.