How many Spotify users listen to rap

Fake features: How young rappers manipulate Spotify with false meta information

First of all, generating attention on Spotify and thus generating plays is probably one of the greatest challenges for unknown musicians today. Some do not shy away from tricks in this situation. The latest trick: Little-known rappers, when they feed their music online, incorrectly state in the metadata that the songs are stars of the genre as guests - in order to achieve better visibility and more views on the platform to generate. OMR explains the principle and shows examples.

If you want to familiarize yourself with the oeuvre of the up-and-coming rapper Lil Loaded after one of his videos recently went viral on Youtube, you might want to listen to the “This is Lil Loaded” playlist on Spotify (Spotify puts one for every artist on automatically displays such a "This is ..." playlist of a certain size). Until recently, this playlist also included three tracks by a rapper called "Wali da great", which gave the appearance that Lil Loaded was a "feature" on them. The problem: Lil Loaded couldn't be heard on the tracks (the three tracks have now been deleted from the playlist).

Goal: The fans' “Release Radar” playlist

"Features" or "Collabos" are an instrument that has been common in hip hop for decades: rappers are guests in tracks by other rappers; Ideally, both sides benefit from this feature because each other's fans get to know a new musician. Sometimes music labels or artist managers build new artists in this way: already established artists feature new acts. The instrument has proven itself so successfully in music marketing that it is also used in the fashion and lifestyle sectors (we addressed “collabos” at our keynote speech last year).

In the music sector, however, the learned strategy is now also being deliberately misused: As the US tech blog Onezero first discovered, some young rappers are currently making false statements in the metadata of their tracks and are using better-known rappers as guests or co-authors of the song to generate more visibility on Spotify. If they are not discovered by Spotify's control mechanisms, they can thus succeed in appearing on the streaming platform with their track prominently on the artist profile page of the better-known artist. Or they end up in the "Release Radar" playlist, which is personalized for each Spotify user and is accordingly eye-catching, in which users are informed about new releases by their favorite artists.

Those in jail may not care about their Spotify profile

The track of “Wali Da Great”, which is mostly streamed on Spotify with almost 67,000 views, is “On Our Cocc” - one of eight tracks that Wali claims to have recorded together with rapper Tay-K. In many of his collaborations, however, only a few lines from other tracks of the respective guests can be heard, which Wali apparently "cut" from these and inserted into his track, writes Peter Slattery of Onezero.

Tay-K is the perfect rapper for a “fake feature”, according to Slattery: With his hit “The Race” he went viral in 2017, but afterwards repeatedly got into legal trouble. He is currently charged with two murders and is therefore behind bars. His song catalog is therefore small (and it's easy to get on his artist page with a track) and his management probably has less time to maintain his Spotify presence than is the case with other artists.

A new track by a rapper who was shot in 2018?

To Onezero, Wali Da Great denied that the features in his tracks were fake. The manager of Tay-K did not want to comment directly on Wali Da Great to the US blog, but admits that fake features are a problem for him and his artist that is difficult to combat.

As OMR has researched, Wali Da Great with his dubious "features" is not an isolated case on Spotify: When the fans of XXXTentacion were informed on Spotify in March 2020 that the rapper, who was shot in June 2018, was about to release a new single called "Nine'n" has published, a user in the social community Reddit complains: "Spotify really has to do something about all the fake features on the platform, it's getting out of control." Because the "new XXXTentaction track" does not come from the artist himself.

On the artist page of XXXTentacion on Spotify, the track "Nine’n" was briefly displayed as a new single (screenshot source: User Mc_blyatBoi on Reddit, highlighting by OMR)

220,000 streams with an incorrectly labeled "feature"

A little later, the hitherto unknown rapper Luminous Ace reveals himself to be the originator of the track and explains himself on Reddit: The track contains a sample from an interview with XXXTentacion; he wanted to pay his respects to the rapper and contacted the late rapper's management before the publication. It was not at all his intention to appear on the artist page of XXXTentacion on Spotify.

In the meantime, only Luminous Ace is listed on Spotify as the originator of the track. The play numbers show that the move was more or less worth it for Luminous Ace - regardless of whether it was a targeted trick or not. "Nine’n" currently has more than 220,000 streams on Spotify. However, Luminous Ace doesn't seem to have gained a lot of new fans - all other of his tracks are currently only getting low four-digit views.

30,000 streams for a nobody rapper

Another case: Iann Dior is currently a "rising star" in hip hop; two of his tracks (including “Gone Girl” with the even better known Trippie Redd as a guest) have already recorded more than 100 million streams on Spotify. In March, a user wrote in the Iann Dior subreddit on Reddit that he was seeing more and more "fake features" from Iann Dior on Spotify. In the comments to the thread, the track "Love is a drug" by YSG Sadboy (the song is apparently now blocked on Spotify) is mentioned as an example.

With one exception on Spotify, the tracks by YSG Sadboy all have less than 1,000 hits. A post by the rapper on Instagram with a screenshot shows that the track "Love is a drug" had been viewed at least 30,000 times before it was blocked.

A screenshot posted by YSG Sadboy on Instagram shows the streaming figures for the track "Love is a drug", which was allegedly published together with Iann Dior.

A hip hop track with R.E.M. as a co-composer?

Jorin Zschiesche

Apparently the trend towards fake features even goes beyond hip hop: In a thread on the Spotify subreddit, a user asks: “The number of fake songs on Spotify is becoming a problem, and now these songs are even getting into the curated playlists. Why hasn't Spotify done anything about it yet? "Another user comments:" Around 25 percent of my release radar playlist consists of stupid mumble rap songs by an artist each with a 70s-80s rock band. "An example : The track "Get Away", on which, in addition to "Amen Khill" and "Benny Ford $", the US alternative superstars REM should have contributed ...

"In fact, there are always users who try something like this," Jorin Zschiesche, co-founder and managing director of Recordjet, told OMR. The Berlin-based company is a sales service provider for the music industry and helps musicians, among other things, to bring their music to the major streaming and download platforms. According to its own information, Recordjet is one of the top 10 distributors on Spotify and Amazon Music in Europe in terms of sales.

Declaration as "Second Main Artist" ensures more visibility

Zschiesche explains that specifying other artists as "co-authors" of a track is possible as a feature or as a "second main artist". “As a feature, the release does not appear listed above on the artist page, but at the bottom in the 'appears on' category.” That is not particularly noticeable. If a well-known artist is named as the second main artist, he will be listed at the top of the artist page as a new release. "That is more noticeable," said the music sales expert.

Whether an artist or manager can "successfully" make false statements here depends on many parameters: "On the one hand, of course, the quality assurance of a distributor. We check each release here manually; something like that always flies up. So we can prevent that before delivery. ”On the other hand, Recordjet is provided with blacklists with major artists from some of the streaming platforms. "With this we can also filter for plausibility."

The streaming platforms try to filter in advance

Distributors who do not have such a mechanism can easily become victims of this scam, says Zschiesche. “But very few of them are.” Especially since this can also have negative consequences for distributors: “Some stores have a ranking and if errors occur too often, the releases of the respective distributor are more frequently checked directly for quality by the stores. That takes longer and the delivery time until a release is published on the platform is extended. ”In addition, there is a warning tool in Germany, so that every violation of a copyright costs money.

Finally, there are also mechanisms in the stores to prevent such fraud and to filter out these releases directly, says the Recordjet founder. "The respective tracks are either not visible at all, or they are published on parallel artist pages that are not assigned to the known artist."

"Fortunately, rarely crowned with success"

On the other hand, it is more difficult to filter artist names that sound similar to an original artist, since the blacklists do not apply immediately or only partially. "That too is of course difficult from a legal point of view and of course you do not appear on the artist page of the original artist," says Zschiesche. "All of these mechanisms ensure that such fraud attempts are fortunately comparatively seldom successful."