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The Business of Content

May 7, 2018

With over 150 million users, Spotify has the ability to launch the careers of previously-unknown music artists. It does this by featuring these artists on its playlists, which are maintained by a mixture of users, Spotify staff, and algorithms. Playlists count for half of all listening on Spotify, and getting your song listed on a few of the most influential lists, some of which boast millions of subscribers, has the ability to thrust you onto the Billboard 100 charts. Several rap artists featured on Rap Caviar, one of the app’s most powerful lists, have become overnight sensations.

But with individual users wielding that much power, it shouldn’t be surprising that some have succumbed to illicit backroom deals in which artists pay the playlist owners to include their songs, a practice that’s been illegal since the payola scandals in the 1950s that led to a Congressional investigation into radio DJs.

Daily Dot managing editor Austin Powell recently published his investigation into the black market for Spotify playlists. I interviewed Powell about how these markets operate and what Spotify is doing to stop it.