Recently, Spotify’s “fake artist” problem, first spotted as far back as 2017, has been a topic of conversation yet again, with a playlist of 49 virtually identical songs from different artists making the rounds on the internet. And no, this isn’t a snarky jab about how all pop music is built on the same general concepts; these songs appear to be similar versions of the same piece of poorly produced music, each differentiated by random changes in pitch.
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Between its gargantuan size and anemic royalty payouts, Spotify has rarely been without controversy. As a veritable kingmaker operating, allegedly, by the invisible hand of the music marketplace, attempts to mine the service for money are nothing new. Sometimes large corporations are suspected of such behavior, including Spotify itself (which it staunchly denies). Clever artists have also deployed tongue-in-cheek stunts to try and game the system, which is widely seen as being brutally unfair to indie musicians. Recently, songs from no-name artists have been found to bear striking similarities to one another. They’re clearly the same piece of music, starting the same way and using the same melodic motifs, though the album art, artist name, and base pitch of each version varies.
On Twitter, media producer Adam Faze shared a strange discovery, collating 49 seemingly identical songs into a public Spotify playlist titled “these are all the same song.”
One quick listen and, yeah, there are shades of difference, mostly in terms of pitch. But these are undeniably all the same song.
As many pointed out in Faze’s replies, it all sounds like the product of low-effort generative music techniques or even AI productions—and, no, not the more respectable, exploratory kind that composers, electronic musicians, and visual artists have experimented with for years.
Another odd quirk of the songs found in Faze’s cursed playlist is that each track features similarly styled, bizarre,stock images for the album art.
It would also seem that this phenomenon is not exclusive to Spotify. As musician Zoë Keating discovered, Apple Music also seems to have pitch-shifted renditions of classical music attributed to faux artists.
Kotaku has reached out to Spotify and Apple for comment.
While just about anyone can upload music to streaming services with something like a Distrokid account, Universal Media Group has recently called on Spotify to take a stance against AI-generated music that lifts the likeness of established artists to create new music. As with AI-generated visual art, however, these problems aren’t likely to fade away.