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No one knows why non-existent bands have started showing up on Spotify playlists

Published Jan 26th, 2019 9:33AM EST

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Spotify has officially acknowledged a curious phenomenon that’s manifested itself recently across the streaming music service’s platform. Fake artists and bands with strange names — and practically no Internet presence at all — have been showing up on legitimate Spotify user playlists. And, presumably, getting legitimate streaming revenue when their fake songs get played.

The bands that are putting a digital, streaming spin on that old bit of wisdom about faking it till you make it include acts like Bergenulo Five, DJ Bruej and Bratte Night. A BBC investigation found that the Bergenulo Five had racked up almost 60,000 track streams, and there seems to be a common thread with so-called “mysterycore” bands like these — songs that have basically no lyrics, minimalist song titles and barebones cover art.

From that BBC report: “Interestingly, the bands … have little to no presence on the rest of the internet. At a time when social media plays a crucial role in connecting musicians and audiences, these artists have no fan pages, no concert listings, social media accounts or even photos of the actual musicians.

“But somehow these mystery artists and a host of similar acts have snuck into people’s Spotify listening playlists, in some cases racking up thousands of listens and prompting a number of users to speculate that their accounts had been hacked.”

Spotify has released a statement that doesn’t reveal a whole lot. It just acknowledges the presence of “abnormal streaming activity” from artists who’ve been removed. “We take the artificial manipulation of streaming activity on our service extremely seriously,” the company said in a statement released to the BBC. “Spotify has multiple detection measures in place monitoring consumption on the service to detect, investigate and deal with such activity.

“These artists were removed because we detected abnormal streaming activity in relation to their content.”

One analyst told the BBC the Bergenulo Five could have made as much as $600 from 60,000 streams of their music. The band initially had just two albums posted on Spotify, titled Sunshine Here and Hit It Now. The cover art featured the album title written in black and overlaid on top of a single color, and both albums included more than 40 songs — all of them just a minute or two long, with no verses and one-word titles like Awake and Winter.

Other Spotify “mysterycore” artists that have since disappeared included the oddly named Cappisko, Hundra Ao and Funkena.

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.