Although the exact number is disputed, in what has now become an infamous statistic, at a minimum, music streaming services (“DSPs”) ingest tens of thousands of new tracks every day.
At such a scale, metadata becomes a very tricky subject; DSPs, at the mercy of the quality of information provided to them, sift through an almost unmanageable wave of data.
Overlapping metadata entries abound, with music from two or more artists of the same name often grouped together on the same artist page, creating a daunting task (for both rightsholders and DSPs) consisting of to separate individual artist catalogs after the fact.
(This author knows the subject intimately, having managed an artist whose instrumental electronic music at one time shared DSP profiles with, all at once, a French rapper, a Uruguayan reggaeton remix artist, and a Washington-based house producer , DC.)
In response to this growing problem, Spotify, for example, unveiled a dedicated platform Content Incompatibility via its Spotify For Artists platform – we imagine that thousands of artists and rights holders use it every day.
Generally speaking, these metadata delivery issues – having one’s music land on another artist’s page or vice versa – are accidents and perhaps inevitable consequences of the glut of music that is being introduced to the market. 24/7 retail.
What if tagging bad artist pages wasn’t just a headache to solve, but also a lucrative strategy?
What if obscure artists took advantage of purposely tagging big-name artists as primary collaborators, thereby reaching said artists’ fanbases via algorithmic music delivery systems like Spotify’s Release Radar?
This is the story of an artist/label, known as To diversify and plume.
This author was first alerted to the unusual practices of Diversity/Variegate after being served his releases, again and again, by Spotify’s custom algorithmic equivalent of New Music Friday: Release Radar.
Diversify is an artist project with over 100,000 monthly listeners. He also appears to be the owner behind a shadow operation of several ‘labels’ and artists whose Spotify (P) lines (representing ownership of recordings) are known alternately as ‘Diversify Entertainment Services’, ‘Veganism Records’, ‘ Diversify Record Association”, “Dream Records”, “Variegate Records” and “Variegate Entertainment” – the list goes on.
The Diversify biog page on Spotify provides many more questions than answers.
The company’s catalog, musically, is objectively a rambling mess, with songs ranging from EDM-meets-pop ballads to hip-hop tunes with lyrics that are blatant parody. There is not a unifying interpreter or theme; instead, dozens of different female and male singers recur throughout (perhaps from fiverr or a similar indie rental platform?); the vocal performers sometimes change abruptly in the middle of a single song.
One song in particular – judge its sonic merits for yourself – named “KRIPP ROYAL”, released earlier this year, even seems to declare itself as a sketchy money-making operation: “Kripp pays, Ninja kripp pays, I buy streams without real games”, as one line says (1:22).
Variegate, apparently a second Diversify alias – both pages share recurring motifs and characters, as well as the bizarre and very corporate catchphrase “this song is dedicated to Diversify” – offers an even wackier plot.
Variegate’s Spotify bio simply reads “youtuber”. A quick search revealed that his YouTube channel – which links to Variegate’s DSP pages – is, staggeringly, an e-commerce self-help advice channel whose bio reads: “Variegate is a channel Founded in 2021, Variegate has had a lasting impact on contemporary dropshipping culture and lifestyle, and the channel hopes to expand the content into other businesses.
A quick search of Diversify and Variegate’s Spotify Associated Artists quickly reveals a network of artists collaborating with and releasing under the Diversify/Variegate banner, including Lucas Stevens, Susanne Davisand Harper Minta. Each of these artists has a relatively small following, but close to or over 100,000 monthly listeners.
It’s telling that all of these Diversify/Variegate artists are also employing a tactic that is so often repeated that it seems impossible not to be on purpose: marking established artists (each with millions of monthly listeners on Spotify) as main artists on their own outings. . Some major labels and established independent artists that appear most frequently: Aries, Mike., Yeek, Ashe and WEISS, among others.
Needless to say, in neither case are these artists actually featured — or even sampled (legally or otherwise) — on the tracks.
This author’s Release Radar brought up dozens of releases from Diversify/Variety and co, many of them in the early playlist slots, and including a new one – I’m not making this up – that appeared on the exact day where this article was written.
Additionally, Diversify has algorithmically received its own official “This Is” playlist on Spotify, which appears to contain a who’s who of these aforementioned mislabeled artists among the millions of monthly listeners:
This is not a Spotify-specific issue – what appears to be an intentional mistake by Diversify and Variegate extends to all other DSPs as well.
Details are scarce on Diversify and the identity of its owner.
Its catalog’s songwriter metadata appears intentionally ironic: John Smith is listed as the sole songwriter for most releases, and where other songwriters appear, they appear to be bogus collaborators (including, for example, “Yeekus Steinberg”, for which Google, Facebook and other searches return no results. If, as suspected, it is a false name, it could even be a means of justifying the marking by popular indie artist Yeek.)
Diversify did not respond to a request for comment before this article was published.
To be clear, this piece is not intended to take on Spotify – quite the contrary, as its platform and more detailed data was the only way to connect this potentially ingenious thread of deception.
Spotify For Artists – which compares its own artist’s stats to those of any other on the platform – reveals that virtually all of Diversify’s streams (as well as those of Variegate, Lukas Stevens and the full list of labels) come from the Release Radar effect, with peaks reaching 100,000 daily streams on Friday (when the algorithmic playlist is released, weekly) before cratering mid-week (since editorial and organic streams are apparently close to zero) :
Whoever is responsible for the Diversify wallet — whose name itself seems a joke about the project’s purpose as a form of supplemental income — certainly recognizes the opportunity to exploit lax metadata protections. On “THE GRIND,” they rap, “Getting paid by streams…turned addiction into business.” And on “King of the Sheets” they say, “Diversify your fucking beats.”
One specific collaborator this author has reunited with is pre-teen rapper YNR Nervy who appears on Diversify’s latest album, For the fanson the track “Real Kripps”:
Ultimately, it is suspected that DSPs will eventually offer a popular form of “profile locking” that will prevent fake downloads. But until then, highly inventive “artists” can generate millions of streams – conservatively earning tens of thousands of dollars each – from distributing songs with intentionally incorrect metadata.The music industry around the world