Archies Redux? Is Spotify creating ‘fake’ musicians for its playlists?

The concept of musicians using fake names, or performing under pseudonyms, is as old as music itself.

For example, anyone remember the Archies? The cartoon band had a No. 1 hit in 1969 with “Sugar Sugar.” Hindu Love Gods were a one-time band made up of Warren Zevon and the three guys from R.E.M. not named Michael Stipe, who did a pretty good cover of Prince’s “Raspberry Beret.” And speaking of Prince, he went by a fake name, Christopher, when he wrote the Bangles hit song “Manic Monday.”

However, in all of those cases, the musicians behind their names, and songs, were real. But what about the case of Enno Aare? If you have a Spotify account, go on over to it and take a listen to one of Enno Aare’s songs. The gentle piano playing may be just what you need to get in the mood for an afternoon nap.

What? You’ve never heard of Enno Aare? Is it a man? Or, is it a woman? Or, is it “them”? It’s hard to be sure, because whoever, or whatever Enno Aare is, there seems to be little information about the musician, other than “its” four songs on Spotify have been played more than 17 million times on the streaming services curated playlists such as “Sleep” and “Music for Concentration.”

The Guardian said that the case of Enno Aare is one of 50 that the music industry website Music Business Worldwide says Spotify has created to pad out several of its ambient music playlists in an effort to pay fewer royalties than it does under its standard payment deals with the main music labels. Music Business Worldwide said that by creating its own “artists,” it can pay those musicians less than it does for “real” musicians represented by old-school music-label companies.

The matter might have gone unnoticed were it not for the fact that there are dozens of “musicians” like Enno Aare who seem to have no public profile other than their position on Spotify. Another notable musician the Guardian mentioned was Deep Watch, which put out a two-song EP earlier this year and has so far claimed 4.5 million song plays, all the while without having no other information about it aside from its inclusion on Spotify’s Ambient Chill playlist.

According to the Guardian, Spotify has denied it has ever created “fake” artists for any of its playlists. Still, one has to wonder how real a “musician” named Enno Aare can be when its name is an anagram for “Area None.”

Photo: Daniel Ek, CEO and founder of Spotify, speaks at a media event in 2015 in New York City. According to a music-industry website, Spotify may be creating “fake” musicians to inflate some of its playlists and pay lower royalties than what it pays to musicians from major music labels. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty Images) 


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