· By Sarah Frye
Matej Harangozo Featured On The Liberty Music PR Podcast To Talk Why Do Songs Get Removed From Spotify in 2021
Why Do Songs Get Removed From Spotify? Especially during these last few months?
Our Founder Matej Harangozo was recently featured on the Liberty Music PR Podcast where they discussed the recent purge of nearly 750,000 songs from Spotify's platform along with business theory and what it really means to be a musician or creative in 2021. The podcast labeled Matej as "a true fountain of knowledge, with an even more inspiring story."
Podcast Description on Apple Podcasts states: "As an experienced entrepreneur, Matej has been a driver of innovation and strategy while being instrumental in the development of cutting-edge platforms and automation protocols within all of his past and current business ventures. He stays ahead of the most recent trends in e-commerce and digital transformation to deliver quality technical and brand management solutions."
Here is a brief excerpt from the podcast:
Interviewer: Wow, that's amazing. There’s bits of your journey that resonated with me. So I did the same thing. I was actually an office manager. We spent a lot of money on PR campaigns & we got so much bad stuff, you know, so many bad services and bad agencies out there. I think a lot of the agencies are not very good at supporting those emerging grass root artists, at the very start of their career, and I think a lot of artists are really dazzled by the fancy rosters and big names, and think if I go with these guys, they are going to look after me. It's always quite the opposite, actually, I think because a lot of agencies don't know how to work with smaller artists. This is hard. It's very easy to work with the big artists. So, yes, I would think one of the hottest topics I suppose right now and what has been huge when we do what we do at Liberty, is pitching, doing some branding for Tiktok. Tiktok is huge for us. But one of the biggest things everyone always asks is, you know, what about my Spotify and I think a lot of artists are really blindsided by numbers like I need to get thousands of plays because of X, Y and Z. I didn't quite understand what they needed those plays for. And actually what is truly more valuable is, you know, followers and engagers. But at the start of the year, we would have seen and this is how we connected. Spotify doing a huge purge of songs that first I think they dumped around 3+ million tracks from mostly smaller artists. Now, do you want to tell us a little bit more about that?
Matej: Sure. And let me first start by saying you hit the nail on the head. Guess what? Spotify is one of the only platforms that shows the numbers publicly, of how many streams you got and all that, which gets artists into the same psychological issue as younger audiences have with Spotify. That's why Spotify took away likes and views. It's a psychological trick to release endorphins. But Apple Music doesn't give that information up. Neither does Amazon music. Plus, you make three times more the amount of money. So let me talk about the Spotify take down. Spotify has been playing this cat and mouse game since day one. One of the reasons they're in this cat and mouse game is because they offer free accounts and free accounts are a haven for IP address bot farms. This is how you are able to create fake likes, fake comments, fake streams. You think about it, all social media platforms are free so you can create millions of accounts and try to get them to behave as a real human being. And then you can offer these services, fake views on YouTube, like all the stuff that I mentioned. So this is how the fake streams work. Not saying all playlists do that, but this is how, first of all, fake streams work.
So Spotify has been going after this for a while. And the reason a lot of artists got taken down from DistroKid specifically and I mentioned this in the video that you saw, is that a lot of people that know that Spotify actually has an equity stake inside of DistroKid and we don't know what the amount is. It could be 5 percent, 20 percent. But generally, when you have a stake in a company, you have sort of some control. So wouldn't it be easy for Spotify to reach out to CD Baby or Ditto music, which I mentioned Ditto music, had a client who got their tracks taken out from Ditto music. It's just very small numbers. But of course through Distrokid it’s much easier for Spotify to say, “hey, we detected a million songs using 90, 80 percent fake bot streams that we are sure that we detected. Take them down.” Again, why? Spotify doesn't want to pay out on fake streams. Imagine hiring an employee, they come to your office and they give you fake 10 hours of service. Are you going to pay the money? Probably not as a business owner. So you think about what, Spotify? Yes. Spotify is a multibillion dollar company, but you look at their quarterly revenues, they lose money. There's multiple reasons for that. They're squeezed by the major labels because when a major label has a license agreement with Spotify, Spotify pays out a different amount that independent artists get through Distrokid, CD baby, Tune Core and these others independent distributors. But to answer your question, surely the reason that happened to those artists is because Spotify has more control over Distrokid than any other platform. And Spotify is getting better and better at detecting fake bot streams.
Interviewer: And it's interesting because I've spoken to a range of people. Now, I had a look at Twitter. There's loads of negative comments on there. I mean, I really think some people would say I built an album last year, it's purely as a fundraiser for the artists during the pandemic with no, we had no paid promotions, purely organic plays, they took them down. I spoke to a personal friend of mine who's a producer. His song was taken down. He can't afford to use an agency. He's quite clever and he's doing some organic pitching. So where and, you know, do we think it is a blanket kind of take down of the artists that maybe didn't fall into that net, what do you comment on those genuinely innocent people that were dragged into that?
Matej: That's a good question. And I would really have to see more data, like when they say they didn't partake in any... Were they on any playlists? Right. If they said they organically pitched themselves to playlists and organically accepted them. Here's the problem with playlists. In late 2019 and early 2020, we did at our client's request. Some of them have a lot of money to spend per month, like six thousand dollars a month to market. They were bombarding us like “get us on playlists. Get us on a playlist.” So me being in a software development company. I've already had an API to Spotify. I'm like sure let's figure this thing out. So I started tracking playlists by listenership. How many listeners do they truly have? Completely avoided followers. But we did have the followers in the equation. Right. And we're trying to identify the quality of playlists. We also started reaching out to companies that were pitched to playlists, that seem very reasonable companies. You know, we spoke to the owners or the people that would pitch it on a very reasonable to understood business. But here's the problem with these third party playlists. How much do they truly know about the third party playlist? They can't control what they do and what I've noticed playlists do them by looking at the statistical data is that somehow over time, first of all, playlists may get greedy. If you're a playlist company, that's all you do. You've got to make money. So one issue is that you take any artist’s money and put them on your playlist, which in my opinion drives down the quality of listenership because they put some trash on there, you know, again, my opinion, but we all know we reject them. But the playlist becomes low quality to the listener.
Second thing I noticed is that they try to supplement these extra streams by maybe doing a hybrid like 40 percent fake bots, 60 percent real listeners, which they're constantly chasing through Facebook ads or whatever. So you never know, and these playlist companies are not going to disclose it. So that's what might have happened to these artists. Unfortunately, they thought they were doing the right. They thought they were organically reaching out. And you know, look, they landed on a playlist that was willing to play them because they liked them. But that playlist got a little bit too greedy, that had a little bit too much bots, who knows? But here's my opinion. I don't see why Spotify, as much as they're getting strangled by major labels to constantly get more and more licensing fees to play these, I don't know why they would try to make enemies with independent artists. They want more independent artists in their platform. You see what they're doing with podcasts, Joe Rogan podcast and these other ones. They're trying to become sort of more exclusive. Spotify knows better than anyone in this world that they are a consumer game. They have to be consumer centric. And, yes, even though they're sort of trapped by these major labels, because, look, if Universal was like, “OK, Spotify, fine, we're taking our whole universal catalog off of Spotify.” That's so many artists we all know to love. Maybe Adele, will be taken down. Taylor Swift, certainly, you know, all the cash money rappers like that's all gone. Think about what this does to the consumer. So Spotify doesn't have much room to negotiate in that sense because essentially they're doing the same thing Apple Music is doing and Amazon music and Tidal, and you name it. I mean, how many digital streaming platforms are out there right now? Like a hundred plus, you know, that much smaller.
Interviewer: We only have talked about same kind of one's, don't we? But the thing is, with the whole I mean, I have to agree with the major labels are actually the big purchasers of fake streams. And actually some of the biggest artists, we know, have the first couple of days of releases amplified fake play, just to give it that way. And then obviously the natural reaction comes thereafter. So it seems like it's one for one and one for the other. Do you think the independent artists might leave Spotify completely? What you think they're going to do? Not a hate thing on Spotify right now, especially with the kind of streams that they've needed around about, one hour and minimum wage at Spotify, how it has a thousand plays, whatever.
Matej: I mean, perhaps they should. Right. But they don't have leverage. Spotify is the leverage. If you're an independent artist, you want your music to be accessible as much as, as easily as possible. Convenience, right. It's like, look, I don't know. You know, I know Europe is way better with regulation on food. Right. The government and the population has to stand up to a company like McDonald's to stop putting trash into our food. But if they don't have enough leverage from the consumer side and the consumers are not educated, they don't care and the regulation is weak. For example, here in the US, the McDonald's is going to produce worse. Look, I go to Czech Republic every year. That's when families from Slovakia. I eat McDonald In Europe, it tastes differently. So does Coca-Cola, like we all can agree that the food in Europe is different. Yeah, so, you know, think that from that perspective, yeah, it sucks for independent artists, but that's why they have to learn the business. That's why I have my page. You have to understand the business. And in the beginning stages of your career, unfortunately, you're sort of stuck. But look, if everybody would understand how to properly market and only direct to consumer, skip playlists, direct to consumer, you won't get in trouble. We have right now 50 active clients, all marketing direct to consumers. None of them got shut down. But we have clients come to us who got shut down. And I see what type of playlist they use. They thought they were using legit playlists. Some of them got on for free.
So it's unfortunate. But if you think that 90 percent of third party playlists are a potential risk and only 10 percent are good, like, for example, if Oprah had a third party playlist and she gets you on there, that's probably a good playlist. She doesn't need money from anybody to put you on her playlist. Maybe even a department store like Macy's, a good playlist. But anything that's generated by a third party, you even have to question some of these DJs, right, that are out there. They have a big influence. Maybe they get a little bit, especially the older ones. They get a little greedy. They start taking money from anybody. Then somebody approaches them like, hey, guess what, you got a playlist, we can get you way more listeners on your playlist, they don't know better. They're not software developers. They just care about the money. Now they get some company infusing some, you know, third party bot streams. And again, you know, if I'm sitting at the Spotify office and I'm their accountant, I will be screaming at the CO, do not pay for fake streams. What are we doing, guys? We're losing money quarter after quarter, you know? So, like, what do you do on Spotify? I'm not defending anybody. They're not paying me. I wish Spotify was paying me money. But, you know, I just look at it as a businessman, from that perspective on both, the independent side artist and Spotify.
Interviewer: And what do you think? What should artists say purely wanting to rate, they don't have a team, not lucky enough to have a marketing agency? Then what should they be doing?
Matej: Learn how to become a marketer. In my opinion, in 2021, every artist or creative needs to understand marketing. Either they're on their own in the beginning, they got to wear that hat or they got to understand enough or have some side casual, side business, like you said, to hire somebody competent. Now, unfortunately, the music industry, again, who knows? 75 percent of the companies may be not competent, you know, not saying they're trying to scam people, but they don't even know. But you've got to be a marketer. So I will suggest learning how to run Facebook ads, Instagram ads, YouTube ads and direct that traffic to your URL. This is how we scale our clients Apple Music accounts.