Spotify has spent years battling the perception that it skimps on royalties; on average, the company pays out $0.007 each time an artist's song is streamed by its millions of users. In March, one Michigan-based band set out to defy the odds and bring in enough money to fund an upcoming tour. And they took a brilliant approach in getting there. Vulfpeck’s latest album Sleepify is a completely silent recording composed of tracks that are each a half-minute in length. (Users must listen to a song for at least 30 seconds before Spotify counts it as a proper "play.")
Upon its release last month, the band asked fans to stream Sleepify continuously at night as they slept, hoping the coordinated effort could morph Spotify's less-than-a-cent royalty rate into something lucrative. And it actually worked: according to Vice, Vulfpeck earned around $20,000 in royalties from the album. Those profits will be used to fund the band's next tour, which will be free to attend and mapped around areas that streamed Sleepify the most. But now the clever stunt has been cut short.
Spotify says the 'clever' and 'funny' stunt violates its content terms
Spotify has asked Vulfpeck to remove the album, complaining that it violates the company's terms of content. Headlines claiming that Vulfpeck has been banned from the service altogether appear to be unfounded; the band still has other music on Spotify. And that includes a just-uploaded three-track "album" titled Official Statement with a spoken track from keyboardist Jack Stratton that confirms Spotify's request. Reviewing an email he received from the company, Stratton says, "The gist of it was while they enjoyed Sleepify and thought it was funny and clever, it violated their terms of content."
"They probably know that I'm doing this, they probably know that I'm putting this on Spotify," he says in a track called "#Hurt." "So I don't know what's going to happen with it. It's very uncertain at the moment." And "in light of that certainty," the second track of Official Statement is meant to help fans reflect on the situation with — you guessed it — 31 seconds of total silence. Vulfpeck's original pitch for Sleepify is embedded below.