24 June 2015
- From the section Technology
A pop group unhappy at how music streaming service Spotify pays recording artists has created a web app that artificially generates royalties.
The Eternify app puts any artist’s songs on endless repeat, playing just 30 seconds at a time – the minimum required to be considered a “listen”.
Spotify said it was looking into whether it broke the service’s rules.
Eternify was devised by New York-based act Ohm & Sport, who said streaming was “virtually worthless” for musicians.
The amount artists receive from streaming services has been put under heavy scrutiny of late – buoyed by the imminent launch of Apple Music, a new music streaming service from the iPhone-maker.
Compared with physical sales – or even downloads – the money artists make from streaming is minute.
To highlight this, Ohm & Sport, an electronic and ambient pop band, launched Eternify to coincide with their new album release.
The band told the BBC that it wanted to highlight how listening habits on streaming sites were “spreading royalties too thinly”.
“People seem to use streaming less like a library, and more like a radio,” the band said, referring to Spotify’s playlist features typically generated by genre rather than artist.
“When they listen in that way, with less intention, they open themselves up to giving small amounts of money to a vast number of people.
“If people could focus on a smaller number of artists, that would have a big impact.”
Eternify plays 30-second portions of an artist’s back catalogue continually – with indicator that estimates how much money is being generated in royalties.
It makes use of Spotify’s public API – Application Programming Interface – launched by the company to help third parties make apps that incorporate the streaming site’s enormous catalogue.
“We welcome any legitimate means to help artists get their music discovered in Spotify and to be fairly compensated,” Spotify said in a statement.
Other disgruntled acts have tried to game the system in the past. Funk band Vulfpeck released Sleepify, an entire album of silence.
The band encouraged fans to play the album on repeat while they slept – and in doing so generated about $20,000 (£12,700) in royalties.
The album was later removed, with Spotify quipping: “It’s a clever stunt, but we prefer Vulfpeck’s earlier albums.”
As more and more people opt to stream music rather than buy it, several artists have voiced concern over the amount they receive in royalties.
Most vocal has been Taylor Swift, who has removed her music from Spotify altogether – and earlier this week forced Apple into a U-turn over royalty payments during a trial period of Apple Music.
Ohm & Sport said Swift’s actions had done little to improve the situation.
“We see that as theatrics,” the band said.
“At the end of the day, nothing has changed for small artists, in any way.”
Follow Dave Lee on Twitter @DaveLeeBBC