How To Spot Fake Spotify Playlists

Intro To Spotify Playlists

If you've worked with us, you know that we consistently talk about Spotify Playlists and how buying fake Spotify plays is a recipe for disaster. They give you meaningless streams, low royalties, diminish your chances of getting into Spotify’s algorithm-driven playlists and can even get you suspended. If you still want to go down this path despite all the drawbacks, go ahead, but you’re much better off getting real placements. 

There are a plethora of companies that supply these Spotify Playlists with bot followers and fake plays. Some are at least honest and upfront about their services. Others pretend to offer genuine playlist placements. These are outright scammers that are tarnishing the music industry and exploiting up and coming artists.

Guide On How To Spot Scammers

At Digital Science Media, we have shied away from the use of Spotify Playlists, but our clients still ask us about the best playlists to get on. In this case, we want you to have the best information possible to give you the tools you need to make an informed decision. We recommend doing your research on playlists and promoters that are genuine and not going to be artificially boosted by bots. If you’re contacting curators and trying to get on playlists yourself, you need to be able to tell if those playlists are genuine. Spotting scammers is at this point basically detective work but here are some of the red flags that we look out for when vetting playlists.

The “About” tab of an artist on Spotify:

The “About” tab of an artist can give us a lot of clues about any suspicious activities.

Here is what an artist's profile looks like on Desktop:

Spotify Playlists

Pay particular attention to:

  • Monthly Listeners (from the last 28 day period)
  • Discovered On – the top 5 playlists where people listened to the artist
  • Where people listen – the top 5 cities where people listened to the artist 

These stats are updated daily.

Playlisters that use bots usually create multiple playlists and generate fake followers and plays for each. When they get a big order of streams for a track, they’ll put that track on each of their playlists and sometimes reveal themselves on the “About” tab of an artist who’s paying for their service.

Red flag 1 – Where are people listening?

When we are checking for the legitimacy of a playlist, the first thing we like to do is find an artist whose “Discovered On” stats are representative of their “Monthly Listeners.”

Here’s an example we found:

Spotify playlists

The goal of this guide isn’t to name and shame anyone so we’ve blurred out the names.

This artist has total monthly listeners of 119,756. The top 5 playlists come from  the same ‘curator’ and have a total of 70,569 listeners. That’s 58% of the total monthly listeners. The “About” tab only shows the top 5 playlists but with some further digging, we found that this artist has his music in 9 more playlists from the same curator. In this case, it’s safe to say that the stats are representative.

The biggest data centers and the cheapest IPs are found in the USA. Botters usually buy in bulk and end up with IPs from 10-15 large cities, the most common being Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Dallas, Kansas City, San Jose and Houston.

We’ve analyzed hundreds of artist profiles and have found that legit artists typically see around 15% or less of their monthly listeners from their top 5 cities. Artists on bot-filled playlists will often end up with 40% or more of their listeners from 5 major cities in the USA.

As you can see in the picture above, there are 12K listeners from Las Vegas, 11K from LA, 9K from Chicago, 7K from New York and 6K from Dallas – that’s 39% of the artist’s worldwide monthly listeners coming from just 5 cities (that just so happens to be data center hotspots...Hmmmm). The world is big, but certainly not for bot companies.

Look at it this way, Dallas has a population of less than 1.5 million. That’s less than 0.5% of the US population. But artists that are using bots can have 6% or more of their total worldwide streams from there. A playlist that sounds specific to Dallas, say for instance “Hottest Hits in Dallas” could garner that kind of percentage, but for anything else, it just doesn’t add up. None of the 5 playlists blurred in the above screenshot have any connections with Dallas.

Red flag 2 – Look inside the Spotify Playlists

It’s in the interest of fake stream providers to maximize their profits by filling their playlists with artists who are willing to pay their way onto the playlists. The first 8 sellers of fake streams we found on Google divided plays equally between all the songs on their customers’ playlists.

So if you see a playlist like "EDM Top 40" and you haven’t heard most of the artists on there, there’s a good reason to be skeptical.

Red flag 3 – Is there a moderation process?

A playlist with a real and engaged following will have a curation process that ensures each track is a good fit. If you ask a curator to be on their playlist and they ask for money before even listening to your track – that’s a HUGE red flag.

Here’s a simple test: Send them the worst music you’ve ever produced and see if they blindly accept it.

Red flag 4 – Look at the ratio of saves to listeners

As we explain to our clients, bots will only play your music for around 30 seconds and will never interact with it by saving it. You can’t see that information from outside, but you can try to get it from someone already on the playlist.

If you do, pay attention to the ratio of saves to listeners. We’ve done playlist placements for hundreds of artists and never seen a ratio of saves to listeners of less than 1% – not even for music at the lower end of the production scale. When you see a track with 50K listeners and 21 saves, the only explanation is bots.

What about bots from other countries?

A quick Google search will show you that you can buy fake plays from the USA for as low as $2 per 1000 plays. Other countries were more expensive and we didn’t find anything cheaper than $5 per 1000 plays. It’s important not to make any sweeping assumptions. Not all the fake plays are from the USA and not all plays from Dallas are fake. All playlists have to be examined on a case by case basis.

Leave It to the Experts or Use Your Discretion

As you can see, investigating playlists takes time, judgment, and knowing what to look out for. However, if you aren’t confident enough or don’t have the time to do it yourself, it's best to not put all your chips in on that "curator" playlist.

Like we mentioned at the beginning of the article, we don't recommend using these kind of services. We are advocates of ORGANIC traffic by using paid advertising such as Facebook/Instagram & YouTube ads, which we are the experts in. 

Digital Science Media is a digital marketing agency in Baltimore Maryland that provides a full range digital marketing services to clients in the entertainment industry. So whether you are an independent artist, producer, DJ, or a mix of all, we've got you covered. We deliver the highest caliber of service and personalization to every client and project. Contact us today or send us a message so we can help you get your fans the RIGHT way.