Here’s a Kinda Genius, Kinda Evil Way People Are Gaming Spotify Playlists

It’s just the latest trick in a long history of hacking digital music services to promote your own songs

Peter Slattery
OneZero
Published in
6 min readNov 26, 2019

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Photo Illustration; Credit: © Warner Bros.; © Spotify

Welcome to The Cheater’s Guide to Spotify, a series about the schemes that rack up streams, money, and infamy on the popular streaming service.

Last week, I couldn’t get the retro song from the Joker’s first teaser trailer out of my head. So I popped “Joker soundtrack” into Spotify’s search box, clicked the top result, and browsed the resulting playlist until I found the track: Jimmy Durante’s version of “Smile,” an absolute banger from 1965.

As I went back to whatever I was doing, I kept the playlist rolling. “Smile” finished, then a cut from Hildur Guðnadóttir’s original Joker soundtrack played. But after that, I heard a song I definitely did not remember from the film. Unless “cash out” by an artist called savesomeone had dropped during my pee break at the movie theater, this Post Malone-sounding record was most certainly not on the Joker soundtrack. Looking at the playlist again, I found several other EDM and EDM-adjacent songs that definitely didn’t belong.

Turns out, I had been bamboozled. Though the playlist I’d clicked on shows up as the large “Top Result” for the search “Joker soundtrack” within Spotify (not to mention the top of Google’s results for the same query), it was almost certainly made for the purpose of cleverly marketing music that has absolutely nothing to do with the movie.

In an era when major labels pump out “streambait pop” and platforms themselves allegedly inflate their numbers, it makes sense that users…

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