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Is Spotify Trying To Bring Back Payola With Its New Feature?

The announcement arrives a week after 4,000 independent artists rolled out a campaign calling out Spotify with a list of demands including a guarantee of at least one cent per stream.

Spotify is switching things up. On Monday, the streaming platform announced a new feature that will allegedly allow artists and labels an opportunity to receive more exposure. Rolling out first in the U.S., the feature will grant creators the ability to boost specific tracks. 

According to an official press release, the new function will add the selections to Spotify’s algorithm with the sole goal of amplifying music. Artists will be able to point out brand new selects or songs that speak to a larger cultural moment. The algorithm that will be influenced is the one that determines personalized listening sessions that includes Discover Weekly.

The release reads:

“If the songs resonate with listeners, we’ll keep trying them in similar sessions. If the songs don’t perform well, they’ll quickly be pulled back. Listener satisfaction is our priority—we won’t guarantee placement to labels or artists, and we only ever recommend music we think listeners will want to hear.”

The aforementioned announcement arrives a week after over 4,000 independent artists who are a part of the Union of Musicians and Allied Workers released a campaign urging Spotify to pay at least one cent per stream. A Fader report notes that the campaign also called for an increase in royalty rates and more equitable dealings between major and independent labels alongside the platform. Additionally, the artists asked for the end of "payola" (paid for placement editorial playlists), the introduction of a user-centric model, and more visible credit for behind-the-scenes involvement in recordings.

Spotify also adds in an official statement that the new tool won’t require an upfront budget. But, instead, “labels or rights holders agree to be paid a promotional recording royalty for streams in personalized listening sessions where we provided this service.”

Initial tests of the function will begin on the Radio and Autoplay formats on the streaming platform.