In the past I’ve reported on Spotify controversies such as the company creating and playing fake artists’ music as a way to reduce royalty payments to real human performers, and third parties creating counterfeit music and bot accounts to manufacture artificial listening in order to trigger Spotify paying them real royalties. (Yes, both happened.) Now comes word of a third problem . . . Stowaway Listeners.
As noted in the companies pre-IPO F1 filing approximately 2M of Spotify’s non-subscription listeners are accessing their free platform but somehow don’t have ads served to them. These listeners are gaming Spotify by using a third party gateway app which filters ads, or by installing an advanced ad blocker on the devices they listen with. Both routes prevent ads from being served which is a killer for Spotify who can’t monetize these listening hours, but must still pay royalties on the music being consumed.
The number of stowaway listeners is significant enough (about 1.3% of their audience) that Spotify was forced to reissues it user metrics excluding these hitchhikers. It’s yet another example of how vulnerable Spotify’s internal system is to manipulation.