Does Spotify Have An AI Problem?
There has been an uproar in the music industry regarding the use of artificial intelligence on Spotify and other live-streaming platforms.
Anyone can now produce an AI-generated song and employ another AI bot to live to stream it and generate royalties. Some individuals have even procured the services of third-party companies promising to boost streams and royalties by enlisting bot-made accounts to play and repeat online music.
This is not only a problem for live-streaming platforms since they only have limited royalties but also for human live-streaming subscribers that, as a result, receive less online content. Real artists have been caught running this AI-streaming scam before. However, the availability of more AI bots has taken this disturbing scam to another level.
In 2021, a study conducted in France established that one to three billion fake streams of online music include the most popular casino songs across a multitude of streaming platforms. There are over one million music tracks on Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music, and the competition is fierce among artists and music labels.
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Just recently, an AI-generated song faking the voices of Drake and the Weekend went viral. Spotify booted these songs as soon as the operator realised the scam. However, more and more artists are at risk as AI becomes more convincing in creating virtually undetectable impersonations.
Digital marketing companies can boost any artist's streams for a price which is apparently a standard operating procedure. Companies seduce musicians into promising to hike up streams of their songs to 200 million per month and have worked with popular Grammy winners and labels.
A fake paid-for or premium account is more weighted in manipulating the music charts on live streaming platforms. The company will create value listener accounts that can stream 'premium' music and will add the song to the account's playlist or personal library. The song will then be streamed numerous times to generate royalties and influence music charts. This way, the entire algorithm gets manipulated several times.
Sometimes, musicians and labels will hand money to a digital marketing company and unwittingly expose their music to online live-streaming manipulation. These digital companies claim to be able to boost live streams legitimately. They promise advertisements on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms.
Additionally, they'll promise to place the artist's music on non-paying platforms to create chart toppers. However, it has been found that these companies sometimes employ live-streaming AI manipulation bots to prove their claims.
These manipulation techniques go against the Code of Conduct signed by major players in the music industry and the terms of service of Spotify. Artists have been penalised when their music was connected to live-streaming manipulation on the Spotify platform. Currently, detection systems are in place that flag certain plays that are determined to be manipulated.
In January 2023, Spotify retracted thousands of releases from its platform believed to be manipulated by AI-streaming bots. The provider has also employed measures to withhold fake streaming numbers from stream results, including withholding royalties and freezing accounts.
Sony Music Entertainment has included a clear policy stating that employees are prohibited from live streaming manipulation or employing the services of a third-party company to do this on the company's behalf.
Today, there's increasing scrutiny on companies that promise increased live streams to artists in exchange for payment. The Federation of the Phonographic Industry (a non-profit organisation representing the music business' global interests) has made some headway.
The non-profit group did manage to secure many injunctions against websites in Germany over the past year and a half, arguing that these companies operate against Germany's Unfair Competition Act. Their operations intentionally misled consumers with the use of AI live-streaming results.
Many established artists have openly communicated their displeasure at AI technology being applied to their creations, which directly implies copyright infringement.
However, the fact is that there are established musicians that are currently using AI technology in the production of their songs. AI can manipulate an artist's voice, reducing the amount of labour and cost involved in producing their music.
If all musicians began using this technology, it could lead to artists taking back their power from music labels, where their recordings and live streams are often exploited. However, this may lead to a lack of actual creativity, resulting in derivative music.
One artist (Grimes) officially announced that she'll allow other producers to use her music and create alternative AI versions of her voice in return for a cut of the royalties. Another artist (Holly Herndon) also deeply faked her own vocals and created versions of her music in languages she had never learnt to speak.