Friday 15 December 2017

The sound of silence: LA band raises $20,000 through Spotify without recording a note

Vulfpeck, an American band, figured out how to game Spotify into making some cash for themselves
Vulfpeck, an American band, figured out how to game Spotify into making some cash for themselves
A member of Vulfpeck says the royalties from the scheme will fund a tour of totally free gigs

Tim Walker

Many musicians have criticised Spotify for offering inadequate compensation to artists, yet one ingenious Los Angeles-based band are claiming to have raised $20,000 (£11,800) through the streaming service without recording a note.

Funk act Vulfpeck posted their latest album, Sleepify, on Spotify in March, and invited their fans to stream it through the night while they slept. The gimmick? Sleepify is completely silent.

The band’s drummer and keyboard player, 26-year-old Jack Stratton, explained the strategy in a YouTube video, explaining that the royalties from the scheme would fund a tour of totally free gigs, with a route taking in all the cities and towns where Sleepify was played most.

Mr Stratton and his bandmates Theo Katzman, Woody Goss and Joe Dart have released three previous albums as Vulfpeck. Sleepify consists of 10 tracks with titles including “Z”, “Zzz” and “Zzzzzz”. Spotify’s average rate for royalties is $0.007 per track streamed, and a song must be played for at least 30 seconds to register.

All the tracks on Sleepify clock in at 31 or 32 seconds; an eight-hour night of continuous streams could thus generate more than $5 in royalties.

Shortly after the LP’s release, the band tweeted: “Please don’t ‘shuffle’ Sleepify. I know this might come off snobbish, but we spent a lot of time on track order”.

Vulfpeck’s Twitter following is a little over 1,600 people, but their fanbase is clearly passionate. In an interview with the website Vice, Mr Stratton said he believed the band was now owed approximately $20,000 in royalties.

When Spotify became aware of the scheme, however, the band received an email telling them that Sleepify violated the service’s terms and conditions. A Spotify spokesman told Billboard, “It’s a clever stunt but we prefer Vulfpeck’s earlier albums.”

The album has since been removed from the service, and it is not yet clear whether the band will receive the money. “My guess is we will,” Mr Stratton told Vice. “Spotify pays two months after the listen. So we’ll know in May sometime.”

Spotify claims to have paid out more than $1bn in royalties since it was launched in 2008, but several major musicians have criticised the service, saying its royalty rates for artists are unsustainable.

Last year, for instance, Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke yanked an album by his side-project Atoms For Peace from Spotify.

After Sleepify’s removal, Vulfpeck posted a three-track follow-up EP to the service, entitled Official Statement. On the first track, “#Hurt”, Mr Stratton – who professes to be a fan of Spotify – says: “About five minutes ago I received an email from Spotify.

The gist of it was that, while they enjoy Sleepify and thought it was funny and clever, it violated their terms of content. So I don’t know what’s going to happen with it – it’s very uncertain at the moment… I want to take 30 seconds silence to ponder the uncertainty.”

The EP’s second track, “#Reflect”, is 31 seconds long – and silent.

Spotify in numbers

24 million Global users.

6 million Paying subscribers.

$0.0006 to $0.0084 Fee owed to musicians per track played.

1.5bn Playlists created so far.

20,000 Songs added to the database every day.

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