Spotify has often been criticized for the extremely low rate it pays in licensing fees to copyright holders ($0.007 per song played) — mostly because artists don’t make much money.
With that in mind, Michigan-based band Vulfpeck came up with a plan to grab a bigger payout from Spotify without doing much work. Vulfpeck created an album called Sleepify that contains only silent tracks that are 30 seconds in length, which is the amount of time someone must play a track on the service before Spotify will pay out the tiny licensing fee. The band told its legion of fans to let the album play on repeat when they go to sleep a little over a month ago.
The strategy was apparently a success, netting the band about $20,000 in fees, Vulfpeck told Vice. Unfortunately, Spotify became aware of what was going on and removed the album, which it said violated the company’s terms of service.
It’s not at all surprising that Spotify would move to ban the silent album. What is very surprising, though, is that someone managed to game Spotify’s platform long enough to get a significant payout. That means Vulfpeck fans had to listen to 2,857,143 silent tracks to hit the $20,000 number. Some of the motivation for this might have been that the band promised a free tour using the money it “earned” from Spotify. (See the video embedded below for the band’s explanation.)
If copycats try to get away with similar stunts, Spotify will face the very painful job of trying to verify that every song by indie artists doesn’t violate its terms of service.
We’re reaching out to Spotify for further comment about Vulfpeck’s silent album and will update this post with any new information.