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Spotify’s ‘ghost artists’: How fake musicians trick streaming algorithms

Fri, August 05, 2022 at 10:21:40 AM EDT

Music streaming services such as Spotify and Apple Music are excellent tools for discovering new music; the apps conveniently generate curated playlists with music recommendations for each user. However, Spotify users have noticed that some of their recommended songs are not by real musicians. Instead those recommended playlists are populated by fake or “ghost” artists who have figured out a way to manipulate the streaming platform’s algorithm.

TikToker @enough_dad described how Reddit ’s Indieheads forum discovered Spotify ghost artists in this video . Throughout the video, @enough_dad references Reddit user RrentTreznor’s exposé on how fake artists exploit famous musicians’ fans to collect streaming revenue from Spotify .

@enough_dad art is a lie, nothing is real #spotify #playlist #playlists #scam #scammers #reddit #indieheads #trentreznor #bandnames #streaming #musicstreams #applemusic #ghost #ghosts #fakeartist #releaseradar #musicnews #musicstory #newmusic #storytimes #storytime #foryoupage #fypシ ♬ Hip Hop with impressive piano sound(793766) – Dusty Sky

Throughout his Reddit post, RrentTreznor used the artist Romangwap’s profile as an example (the Spotify page no longer lists any songs, but users can still see that Romangwap accumulated over 9,000 monthly listeners). Although Romangwap’s artist page on Spotify appeared normal initially, a closer look into the artist’s discography raised a red flag for RrentTreznor.

Despite Romangwap being a small artist, most of his songs allegedly linked collaborations with more prominent indie artists, such as Klaxons, Wilderado and the Rose. But when RrentTreznor listened to Romangwap’s  songs , he quickly realized that the  “ hypergeneric” songs were most likely “a front” — that this so-called ghost artist had actually figured out a way to fake a collaboration by linking their music to popular artists to exploit streaming revenue from the bigger artists’ fans.

Why do ghost artists exist on Spotify, and who is responsible?

The exact motives behind ghost artists’ decision to add songs with fake collaborations to Spotify are unknown, but many speculate that fake artists mainly want to manipulate Spotify’s algorithm for a quick cash grab. Through faking collaborations with massive artists, the ghost artists’ songs can quickly appear on “new release” playlists that can attract many streams.

In his TikTok , @enough_dad explains that there are only two ways that artists can get featured on Spotify’s auto-generated new-release playlists. The app curates a unique “Release Radar” playlist for each user by creating music recommendations based on the user’s listening history or adding new songs released by artists that the user follows.

“These kinds of ‘ghost artists’ are basically piggybacking on these well-known artists,” said @enough_dad. “And it seems like the scam is mostly because the people are making a bunch of money from streaming.”

RrentTreznor also tried to research who was responsible for the ghost artist problem. Despite uncovering various other examples of fake artists, their general lack of a social media presence makes it difficult to pinpoint who is behind this widespread music “scam.” It is unknown if fake artists work separately or in tandem to collect streaming revenue from fake collaborations with famous musicians.

“If I had to guess, I would say one group of coordinating individuals represents every single one of these artists. And my reasoning for that has to do with the music itself,” RrentTreznor speculated. “It’s all so hypergeneric and bland — almost as if the same ghost producer is making each song using templates. The only key distinction between quite a few of them is the use of a ghost vocalist. If even one of these vocalists could make themselves known — it could break the story wide open.”

How does the ghost artist issue affect other musicians’ streams?

Ghost artists aren’t just an issue on Spotify — they are running rampant across other streaming platforms , such as Apple Music, iHeartRadio and various other online music services. The takeover of fake artists across different music apps is a troublesome issue for real musicians getting started in the industry; scammers are taking away small artists’ chances at building a fanbase.

“Effectively, these ghost artists are taking a spot away on these new release playlists from newer artists who are playing by the rules,” explained @enough_dad. “It’s possible that if Spotify doesn’t do anything, these new release playlists are going to be chock-full of fake singles.”

Reddit users commented under RrentTreznor’s post to expand upon the ghost artist issue and bring up other ways that they have taken advantage of streaming services’ algorithms.

“This has been a problem where  scammers release songs under the names of popular artists . I guess this is a new tactic they’re trying that’s sneakier/harder to detect,” a Redditor replied .

“To add to this, sometimes a ‘collab’ does show on the popular artist’s page, and the band/manager will have to submit a takedown request to get it removed,” another wrote . “It’s negligent and infuriating that Spotify hasn’t introduced a simple feature wherein the artist/Mgmt/label can approve a ‘collab’ submission.”

Currently no features on Spotify allow users to block fake artists’ songs from appearing in their Release Radar playlists. However, Spotify is aware of the issue; the platform’s community forum includes pages that direct users on reporting incorrect song information and how artists can relocate or remove songs that appear on the wrong profile .

“Stream manipulation and content misrepresentation are industry-wide issues that Spotify takes seriously and are against our policies,” a Spotify spokesperson told In The Know. “We have robust, active mitigation measures in place that identify bad actors, limit their impact and penalize them accordingly. We are continuously evolving our efforts to limit the impact of such individuals on our service.”

TikTokers also commented under @enough_dad’s video to express how fake artists affect their listening experience.

“My release radar has been ruined for like 2 years because this is so common now,” a TikToker commented.

“They are infringing on copyright and monetizing it; this isn’t about playlists as much as it’s about easy passive income, by exploiting others’ IP,” another wrote.

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11 brilliant albums that aren’t on Spotify

The classic studio albums by Black Sabbath, Neil Young, AC/DC, Judas Priest and more that aren’t on the world’s biggest streaming service

Album covers of Zodiac Mindwarp’s Tattooed Beat Messiah, Black Sabbath’s Headless Cross, Neil Young’s Harvest and Judas Priests Jugulator

There are roughly 80 million songs on Spotify at any one time, which would take approximately *checks notes* a very long time to listen to back to back. But while virtually all of the all-time classics are available to stream at the tap of a phone or click of a mouse, there are a handful of great albums that aren’t on there, whether it’s due to record label politics, being withdrawn in anger or just slipping down the back of the sofa of history and getting forgotten about. In a perverse take on public service journalism, here are the best albums you can’t listen to on Spotify right now

Black Sabbath - Headless Cross (1989)

Black Sabbath were a diminished force in the late 80s, though the albums they made with singer Tony Martin have their staunch defenders. Headless Cross is held up as one of their finest non-Ozzy/Dio records - When Death Calls and Kill In The Spirit World are packed with classic Tony Iommi riffs, while the presence of Cozy Powell on drums (and co-production duties) gives the whole thing extra firepower. But the album failed to re-establish the band, their label I.R.S collapsed a few years later, and Headless Cross and follow-up Tyr currently languish in streaming limbo – though rumoured reissues my rectify that situation.

AC/DC – High Voltage (Australian version) (1975)

The international edition of High Voltage that launched AC/DC on the world in 1976 readily available on Spotify, but there’s no sign of the previous year’s Australian version. There’s little overlap between the two aside from the title and the songs Little Lover and She’s Got Balls . The other tracks were released on the ’74 Jailbreak EP and 2009’s Backtracks box set, but this version of High Voltage still isn’t on Spotify in its original form.

Neil Young – Harvest (1972)

Neil Young is Spotify’s most famous refusenik. Vocally unhappy with the quality of digital music, he launched his own short-lived download service and player, Pono, in 2014 as a high-resolution alternative to other platforms, but most of his albums remained on Spotify. That changed in January 2022, when he yanked his music from the service in response to Spotify‘s decision to continue hosting the The Joe Rogan Experience podcast after Rogan was accused of spreading Covid disinformation. None of them, including 1972’s landmark Harvest , has gone back up.

Badlands – Badlands (1989)

One of the great forgotten supergroups of the late 80s, blues rockers Badlands featured former Ozzy guitarist Jake E Lee, onetime Black Sabbath/future Kiss drummer Eric Singer and singer Ray Gillen, who had done a blink-and-you-missed it stint with Sabbath. Their classy self-titled debut album was acclaimed at the time, but Gillen and Lee fell out and Badlands were dropped by their label, Atlantic, soon after their second album, before Gillen died in 1993. Badlands was reissued in 2010 but remains MIA on Spotify.

Budgie – In For The Kill (1974)

The Welsh power trio are one of the definitive examples of a band whose influence outweighs their commercial success. Iron Maiden , Metallica and Soundgarden all covered Budgie ’s songs, but precious little of the group’s material is available on Spotify. The 2013 remasters of their eponymous 1971 debut and 1972’s follow-up Squawk are on there, but despite being the group’s highest charting release in the UK, their fourth album 1974’s In For The Kill is notably absent. It still sounds ahead of it time: Crash Course In Brain Surgery was later covered by Metallica and Zoom Club is an expansive prog metal jam.  

Joni Mitchell – Court And Spark (1974)

Joni Mitchell removed her own albums from Spotify in support of her friend Neil Young’s protest against The Joe Rogan Experience podcast. Like Young, Mitchell is at the point where her legacy is so firmly established that she doesn’t actually need Spotify – though it’s still a shame that anyone who doesn’t own Court And Spark on vinyl, CD or eight-track can’t listen to it legally any more.

Judas Priest – Jugulator (1997)

It’s tempting to wonder if there’s some concerted plot to erase the Tim ‘Ripper’ Owens era from Judas Priest’s illustrious history, given that neither of the studio albums he cut with the band, Jugulator and 2001’s Demolition , are on Spotify. A more innocent explanation may be that those were the only albums that Priest recorded for the Steamhammer label, so it could simply be a licensing issue. Whatever the cause, it’s a shame. Jugulator flew in the face of grunge and alternative rock, delivering an album that’s unapologetically metal from first note to last.

Tesla - The Great Radio Controversy (1989)

Okay, a handful of the 13 tracks from the Sacramento rockers’ second album are on Spotify, but only the ones that appeared on subsequent compilations. As for the rest? Nada. Which is a shame, because Tesla were one of the great hard rock bands of the era, and The Great Radio Controversy is their finest 59 minutes and 18 seconds.

Wolfsbane – Live Fast, Die Fast (1989)

These days, Blaze Bayley is best known as the bloke who replaced Bruce Dickinson in Iron Maiden in the 1990s, but he made his name as member of Tamworth Terrors Wolfsbane, a band whose lunatic following dubbed themselves The Howling Mad Shitheads. Such was the buzz around Wolfsbane that Rick Rubin signed them to his label Def Jam and flew them to the US to produce this, their debut album, only to strangle the life out of the band when they got in the studio. A case of great songs, rubbish production - as you’d know if the thing was actually on Spotify.

Zodiac Mindwarp And The Love Reaction - Tattooed Beat Messiah (1988)

Zodiac Mindwarp was the fevered rock star alter ego of former illustrator-turned-rock god Mark Manning, and their debut album Tattooed Beat Messiah (co-produced by Bill Drummond of techno provocateurs The KLF, no less) is a masterpiece of subversive biker rock, T-Rex -esque-gone-bad wordplay and comic book references. Was it a homage to hard rock excess or a parody of it? Maybe it was a little bit of both. The world is certainly a poorer place for being denied access to it on Spotify.

XTC – Apple Venus Volume 1 (1999) & Wasp Star (Apple Venus Volume 2) (2000)

After a long legal battle with their old label Virgin for control of their music, Andy Partridge and Colin Moulding’s art-pop mavericks XTC bowed out with a pair of albums on the Cooking Vinyl label.  Anyone hoping for another Nonsuch would have been disappointed, but Apple Venus Volume 1 is a marvel of invention, with its sparse acoustic arrangements and ingenious use of strings. The guitar-led Wasp Star is more typical of XTC’s classic sound, rich in off-kilter, delightful pop songs. While the Virgin-era material is on Spotify, XTC have held onto their swansong double bill.

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Congressional leaders struck an agreement to keep the government funded and avert a shutdown. The deal still needs to get through Congress, where it is likely to face opposition from conservatives. Stefan Zaklin/Getty Images hide caption

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We’ll show you what’s behind ghost music. Listening to classical music while studying can help you focus better. Do you like listening to piano music while doing your homework? In this case, you may have already used the playlists created by Spotify: For example, the “Intense Study” or “Instrumental Study” playlists. If that applies to you, then you have likely heard songs by Amandine Moulin. The young pianist from Paris has reached over 12 million listeners with each of her two top songs. The problem: Amandine Moulin does not exist.

What Is Ghost Music?

Some successful musicians on Spotify have an account there whose music is played frequently but doesn’t exist. This doesn’t just apply to Amandine: research suggests many more fake artists on Spotify. Behind Amandine, for example, there is said to be a Swede who runs a hundred other ghost profiles. So impersonating several different artists and earning money with it. The more a song is streamed on Spotify, the more money you can make. You can find out exactly how musicians make cash on Spotify and what tricks there are in the video.

Is There A System Behind Ghost Music On Spotify?

Research surrounding the cases revealed that some ghost artists belong to a Swedish label called Firefly. The head of this label was (joint photos on social media prove this) a friend of the person who developed the concept of ready-made Spotify playlists. So some people suspect that there is a system behind ghost music. Allegedly, ghost musicians are paid less per stream but are more likely to be included in the large and well-known Spotify playlists. Anyone who is in such a playlist can make record sales.

Spotify Recognizes Your Taste

An algorithm puts together your mix of the week. This initially examines playlists that Spotify users worldwide create themselves. This is how he recognizes which music could go together, which musical tastes, and so on. Put: If many people like to listen to Mark Forster and Sarah Connor, it may well be that a user who often listens to Mark Forster will also be suggested Sarah Connor. Since the algorithm also sees that people who like to listen to Shirin David rarely like pop music, it is unlikely that hits by Helene Fischer and Co will end up in their playlist.

Is Ghost Music A Problem?

You don’t care who made the music that supports your concentration. However, ghost artists and the system behind them become a problem for other artists. Because those who play fairly and depend on streaming income via Spotify have less of a chance of success, this can result in artists not making enough money or turning away from Spotify altogether. The system around ghost music is not fair.

Improve Your Mix Of The Week?

So that the algorithm can also better assess your taste, you can help. Spotify gets to know whether you click away on songs, listen to them several times, save them, or add them to another playlist. Clicking away means for Spotify: Okay, you don’t like that. No more songs like this in the mix of the week! Saving or listening several times sharpens the picture beyond your taste. With a few simple tips, you can improve your mix of the week to perfection!

Also Read: Advertising On Spotify: How To Create An Ad

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  1. Best Ghost Songs: Stream Our Playlist

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  2. 20 Best Ghost Songs (list with chords & lyrics)

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  3. Ghost

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  4. This Is Ghost

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  5. The 10 best Ghost songs of all time

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  6. Every Ghost Song Ranked From Worst to Best

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VIDEO

  1. Ghost Song (2022 Steam)

  2. Ghost Song

  3. Ghost songs be like Part 2

  4. Ghost // Original Special Music

  5. Ghost Songs (21 min enjoy)

  6. ghost music 😱

COMMENTS

  1. Does anyone happen to know why Zenith is the only Ghost song not on

    It's not just US, it's most of the world - it's only available in the Scandinavian area as it's on Meliora Redux and it's a Scandinavian exclusive. If I remember correctly, it was only released on a limited vinyl single at first. When it was released digitally and on a CD copy of Meliora, it was limited to Europe.

  2. Ghost songs that aren't on Spotify

    Share your videos with friends, family, and the world

  3. Songs that are not on Spotify : r/Ghostbc

    So I'm not as big a Ghost fan as some of you here (will be attending my first ritual in 5 weeks, excited) and I only listen to Ghost via Spotify, but I recently found out that some songs they did are not on there, so I'm listing these songs for people like me, who like to hear more of Ghost.

  4. Ghost Songs (Not on Spotify)

    Share your videos with friends, family, and the world

  5. Why do ghost have a lot of songs that arent on spotify or orher

    13 [deleted] • 8 days ago StockholmMetalHead • 8 days ago That is because Ghost didn't get permission from the original band to cover the song/s. Blame the original band/songwriter not Ghost. -3 More posts you may like r/democrats Join • 3 yr. ago Well well well, how the tables have turned 1 / 2 83 10 r/vinyljerk Join • 3 yr. ago They're evolving

  6. 'Ghost artists' on Spotify: How fake musicians trick streaming platforms

    Why do ghost artists exist on Spotify, and who is responsible? The exact motives behind ghost artists' decision to add songs with fake collaborations to Spotify are unknown, but many speculate that fake artists mainly want to manipulate Spotify's algorithm for a quick cash grab.

  7. Best Ghost Songs: Stream Our Playlist

    10 Best Songs October 27, 2022 9:35 AM By Brad Sanders. Last month, the Swedish pop-metal outfit Ghost had their first-ever Billboard Hot 100 hit with "Mary On A Cross," a previously obscure B ...

  8. GHOST SONGS

    GHOST SONGS · Playlist · 68 songs · 63.2K likes

  9. Theres a ghost song in my playlist

    Desktop. Click the arrow in the top-right corner and select Settings, Under Display Options switch Show unavailable songs in playlists off (grey) or on (green). I hope you'll find this helpful! This doesn't work. Have tried it multiple times and it still says 1 song in playlist when there is 0.

  10. 11 brilliant albums that aren't on Spotify

    AC/DC - High Voltage (Australian version) (1975) The international edition of High Voltage that launched AC/DC on the world in 1976 readily available on Spotify, but there's no sign of the previous year's Australian version. There's little overlap between the two aside from the title and the songs Little Lover and She's Got Balls.The other tracks were released on the '74 Jailbreak ...

  11. This Is Ghost

    This Is Ghost · Playlist · 49 songs · 389K likes

  12. Why isn't the song "Zenith" available on Spotify? It's ...

    11 Rexxii_1 • 10 mo. ago I think so. I can listen to it on spotify. 5 psycho-mouse • 10 mo. ago Scandinavia only. Ok_Commercial4407 • 10 mo. ago It's a song only published on a venyl record. In the YouTube version, when you listen closely you should hear a soft crack at the beginning, when the needle touches the record.

  13. Up First briefing: Congress announces spending deal; Lloyd Austin's

    Congress reaches a deal to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year to avoid a shutdown. Defense Sec. Austin's secretive hospital stay raises questions.

  14. Ghost Music On Spotify

    July 17, 2023 We'll show you what's behind ghost music. Listening to classical music while studying can help you focus better. Do you like listening to piano music while doing your homework? In this case, you may have already used the playlists created by Spotify: For example, the "Intense Study" or "Instrumental Study" playlists.

  15. Ghost songs not on spotify in the US

    Share your videos with friends, family, and the world

  16. All Ghost songs

    👻 All Ghost songs 👻 · Playlist · 79 songs · 2.4K likes

  17. Ghost's top 20 most played songs on Spotify (Also all songs ...

    Ghost's top 20 most played songs on Spotify (Also all songs above 20 million plays). DISCUSSION 515 79 Share Sort by: Best Open comment sort options Add a Comment excusetheblood • 1 yr. ago Nice to see Witch Image on here. Wish Spirit was on here though, I feel like that masterpiece is under appreciated MonstrancClock666 • 1 yr. ago Totally agree.

  18. Ghost song

    2018-02-26 10:13 AM Hello, This is another example of my shazam not being logged in and then resetting my phone. I lost one of the best songs ever recently and I am heartbroken. I heard it on Radio 1 in the evening around 2 weeks ago.

  19. Top 30 most streamed Ghost songs on Spotify

    Back at it! Today we'll be taking a look at a controversial Swedish rock band - Ghost. These guys are known for their satanic lyrics and costumes. Despite th...

  20. 'We heard the curlews calling': Wesley Enoch's enduring connection to

    Playwright, theatre director and Quandamooka man Wesley Enoch on how a wedding ring, curlews and a 'grandfather' ghost gum brought him the connection to country he craved.. The tale I dine out ...

  21. Heart on My Sleeve (ghostwriter977 song)

    "Heart on My Sleeve" (stylized in lowercase) is a song written and produced by TikTok user ghostwriter977, with vocals generated by artificial intelligence (AI) made to sound like Canadian musicians Drake and The Weeknd. The song was self-released on April 4, 2023, on various streaming platforms like Apple Music, Spotify and YouTube.

  22. are there any more ghost songs not on spotify : r/Ghostbc

    are there any more ghost songs not on spotify i'm relatively new to ghost i really love them and they are my new hyperfixation but i've seen that some of their songs are not on spotify and was wondering if i've heard them all now of all the unlisted songs i;ve heard here comes the son la mantra mori zenith Avalanche

  23. Ghosts songs in my playlist

    Teunnis Casual Listener 2018-12-07 07:43 PM Plan Premium Country The Netherlands Device HP Notebook Operating System Windows 10 My Question or Issue My playlist has several more songs in it than it does state on the Desktop version.

  24. Trying to find song : r/spotify

    Does anyone know why the song "Ghost Riders in the Sky" by Spiderbait is nowhere to be found on spotify? I can see where people made playlists with it in them but the song was removed from spotify all together, I really hope that spotify can add it back, I've missed hearing that guitar riff 5 3 comments Best Add a Comment Madman0nWheels • 2 yr. ago

  25. Why will I get random songs on my playlist

    Hey there you, Yeah, you! 😁 Welcome - we're glad you joined the Spotify Community! While you here, let's have a fun game and get…. Staff / Moderator / 2 years ago in Social & Random. Read more. When I go to my playlist it says that Spotify has added new songs to my playlist, from that point on I press the play button and it gets a random.