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Spotify Gives 49 Different Names to the Same Song
Composers and recording artists are all different too, but the music is identical—what's going on?
Adam Faze kept hearing the same song on Spotify over and over again.
Such things aren’t unusual. Hit songs get played repeatedly—although this one seemed more annoying than most.
But in this case, something even more bizarre was happening.
When Adam looked to see the name of the song, it was always different. The titles were a wild assortment—almost as if a random word generator had been used to pick them:
“The Proud Dewdrop Amulet”
But the music was essentially the same.
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Even stranger, the artist was also different in each instance. And if you clicked on the writer credits, those were all different too.
How could the same track be attributed to dozens of different musicians? How could the same song be written by dozens of different composers?
Adam started compiling a playlist, and adding each new iteration of this song when he found it. When he got to 49 versions, he shared the playlist on social media. “I’ve officially stumbled upon the weirdest thing I’ve ever seen,” he announced.
A Twitter user, alerted by this, quickly discovered another 10 iterations of the same song. This banal tune was everywhere. The use of multiple aliases made it difficult to gauge the full extent of the deception, but Spotify was pushing this track so aggressively that it was impossible to hide the charade they were playing.
When asked how it was possible to find so many examples, Adam replied: I’m completely serious when I say it was starting to be every other song after a while.”
The song itself is just 53 seconds. And you’re glad when it’s over, because this tune is a loser—almost a Frank-Ocean-at-Coachella level of bad. Even call centers have better taste in their on-hold music.
Some attempt had been made to give these recordings different album covers. But the images appeared to be stock photos, and not especially interesting ones. The overall sense was that the people behind this deception had to keep up pretenses, but weren’t going to put much care into it.
The whole thing was a Potemkin playlist—meant to look like an entire village of music. But everything was done is such a flimsy way. As soon as you pushed on anything it fell apart. The attempt to deceive was obvious, but also ineffective.
As this story started to spread through social media, other shams of this sort were shared by respondents.
“I found a similarly weird thing on Apple music,” Cellist Zoë Keating replied, “hundreds of classical recordings that have been pitch shifted and the performer metadata stripped. All attributed to non existent artists and uploaded in 2022.”
A few weeks ago, Jaime Brooks wrote on Substack about his surprise in discovering a viral song composed by an artist who shared the same name. The most interesting thing was that there was nothing intrinsic to the music that would explain its popularity.
“It would be misleading to describe the piece as ‘music,’” Brooks wrote. “In practical terms, it sounds like short clips of many different violin performances chopped up and re-arranged at random.” The notion that a song of this sort would go viral on its own, without a boost from behind the scenes, seemed highly unlikely.
It’s no coincidence that this mysterious song first appeared in 2022.
That was when I wrote an article about the fake artists problem on Spotify. Unknown musicians were operating with multiple names, and getting huge traction on the platform. For example, I found a jazz artist I’d never heard of before, who had received more Spotify plays than most tracks on Jon Batiste’s Grammy-winning album of the year.
One source claimed that “about 20 people are behind over 500 artist names.” Many of them appeared to live in Sweden—which is, by complete coincidence, where Spotify has its headquarters.
At first, it was hard to figure out what was happening. But an anoymous source claiming to be an inside player, said that many music businesses were involved in the same practice—and shared these comments with a journalist:
“The songwriters and producers of these tracks are either paid a fixed fee per track or a combination of a low advance and reduced royalty rate and it works because these ‘labels’ can guarantee millions of streams through their own network of search engine optimized DSP playlists and YouTube channels….”
“Make no mistake, all DSPs are engaging in the above. Spotify is taking more heat because they are the largest and most transparent, whereas Apple, Amazon, Deezer and Tencent makes it much more difficult for journalists like yourself to see what is happening since there are no stream counts, writer or even label credits.”
It’s worth noting that Spotify eventually denied the accusations. “We pay royalties—sound and publishing—for all tracks on Spotify,” they announced, “and for everything we playlist.”
If you’re interested, you can read their statement here.
In any event, the new situation is even more deceptive. By featuring the same song under so many different names, the platform prevents us from knowing how many streams it is getting. If that weren’t the case, this one song might get noticed as a huge viral hit—which could be embarrassing, given the bizarre circumstances surrounding it.
Adam Faze eventually decided that Spotify may be working to switch listeners from songs released by major labels to generative music, which could be licensed at low royalty rates or even purchased as a work-for-hire. Under this scenario, a streaming platform could lower its costs substantially, and improve profitability—but with the result of less money paid to flesh-and-blood musicians.
Would any of us be shocked to learn that this is Spotify’s goal? If that’s the case, however, the company should tell us honestly, and not force us to guess.
But I’ve given up waiting for Spotify, or other web platforms, to embrace transparency as a corporate value.
As I’ve written elsewhere, the biggest problem on the web today is that the dominant platforms have shifted from serving users to manipulating them. But unlike some other free web platforms, Spotify has tens of millions of paying customers. It’s one thing to manipulate people who are using your service for free—you might argue that they get what they’re (not) paying for. But how should we feel about a world where you pay money every month, and still get deceived and manipulated?
There are many unanswered questions here. And perhaps there’s another explanation for this bizarre phenomenon than the one I’m suggesting. I’d be delighted to learn that this isn’t a scam to hurt musicians and raise corporate profits.
But one thing is certain. Somebody is working very hard to deceive listeners. They’ve created a tangled web of conflicting names and titles and attributions. Over the years, I’ve encountered other people who kept adopting different aliases and identities. And when I learned the reason, it was always ugly. I can only assume that the same is true here.