Mystery Listeners, Mystery Tracks: Explaining Spotify Glitches
Fri, December 3, 2021

Mystery Listeners, Mystery Tracks: Explaining Spotify Glitches

Spotify has recently been bugging users due to a surge of mystery tracks and mystery users. / Photo by: Deepanker Verma via Pexels

 

Spotify is absolutely having a ball with this music streaming boom, constantly fighting with Apple Music for the top spot as the best streaming platform and winning. For the most part, pointing out which of the two platforms is better usually relies on pure subjective opinions. Some like Spotify’s little add-ons and some appreciate Apple’s simple layout. 

Whatever it is, these two platforms are useful in their own right although they can be plagued with problems sometimes. Spotify has recently been bugging users due to a surge of mystery tracks and mystery users, even, who are jumping on the platform and using it either to steer consumers into listening to a certain yet-obscure artist or are just blatantly hijacking someone’s account. 

Here is a brief account of the problems that Spotify users have encountered. 

Fake Artists and Escaping Royalty Rates

There’s no escaping fraudulent data on the worldwide web. It’s just par for the course by now to fend off fake things on the internet while trying to browse for real ones. The difference with this Spotify issue was that people didn’t expect to find that these fraudulent things were so rampant in their Spotify accounts. 

In a story covered by Music Business Worldwide, an online platform that publishes B2B news, analysis, and job vacancies for the international music industry community, they discussed the issue of the platform allegedly “paying producers a flat fee to create tracks for its playlists—some of which garner over 1 million subscribers—instead of licensing the content and paying out royalties to the rights holders.” 

A quick browse on the Home page on Spotify will show you all kinds of playlists you can possibly think of and it’s only a matter of which one you want at times. While there are just playlists that seem to just contain collected songs from artists in certain genres of music (i.e., Kendrick Lamar appearing on a RapCaviar playlist), the playlists that MBW is probably referring to here are those that Spotify makes constantly and are filled mostly with just moderate to obscure tracks. 

 

A quick browse on the Home page on Spotify will show you all kinds of playlists you can possibly think of and it’s only a matter of which one you want at times. / Photo by: prykhodov via 123rf

 

The accusation was that Spotify was apparently doing this to either bolt undercover in-house artists to the top or worse, do it so as to reduce paying royalty rates. 

An example of these false artists can be seen in one such artist in Spotify’s Ambient Chill playlist called “Deep Watch” which, after research from MBW, doesn’t seem to have any footprint outside of Spotify. 

According to The Verge, an American technology news and media network, Spotify was quick to debunk this, coming out to talk to Billboard via a spokesperson who rather aggressively shut the rumors down. The spokesperson said: “We do not and have never created ‘fake’ artists and put them on Spotify playlists. Categorically untrue, full stop. We do not own any song right, we’re not a label. All our music is licensed from rights holders and we pay royalties for all tracks on Spotify.”

“New” Artist? 

Given that this expose MBW has done on Spotify was written two years ago, one would think this is probably the end of it—not really. In a more recent article by international news source BBC, yet another fake-artist controversy plagued Spotify users just the start of this year when “mysterycore” began, or when unknown “artists” began releasing 40-track albums with one-word titles. 

If it had just been lying around Spotify, it would have been fine, except these playlists continued to mysteriously go around and even became part of some of the user’s regular song rotations. On Reddit, users were furious to find an artist by the name of “Bergenulo Five” playing in their account despite having nothing to do with the artist at all.

So what could be the possible explanation for this? The first school of thought is that it’s connected with the Facebook data breach of September 2018 when 50 million accounts left many users’ access tokens vulnerable. In Spotify, access tokens are those log-in requirements the service asks of its users in which they log in to their Facebook accounts to access Spotify. 

Explains security software Tim Mackey of software company Black Duck, the breach could have given rise to this weird occurrence in Spotify. Obviously, Facebook has already swooped in to fix it but Mackey still said that a breach of that magnitude means that some users may have ended up with a small glitch, a small error that was not taken into account, leading to the said problem. 

The other side of the speculation, as reported by Daily Mail, a British daily middle-market newspaper published in London in a tabloid format, was that perhaps, someone was using the said access tokens to stream these artists because, well, why else would anyone get plied with an artist they didn’t know if they’ve already upgraded to Premium?

Another theory is that Spotify might have been changing up their rules for artists and that it was the reason the site was having technical difficulties. The Daily Mail said: “It could also be a result of Spotify changing its rules around how artists upload their material to the platform.”