There's a quiet riot happening on Spotify. Silence is gold for a band that's urging fans to continually play an album of total silence, earning royalties to fund a tour of free shows.
Sleepify by LA funk band Vulfpeck consists of ten 30-second tracks of complete silence. The idea is that fans put the album on repeat and repair to bed, the tracks repeating all night thus racking up the plays and raking in royalties for the band.
The boys in Vulfpeck reckon they earn around 0.5 cents per play and around $4 for your night's spinning. So far each track has spun around 3,000 times.
It isn't just a cash grab, though, as Vulfpeck plan to use the money raised to fund a tour this autumn consisting only of free shows. Spotify data will also be used to schedule the tour, taking the tour bus to locales where the most people have been listening to the band. It's a similar method to that employed by heavy metal heavyweights Iron Maiden, who have made millions by bringing daughters to the slaughter in places where people are pirating their music.
Spotify calls Sleepify "a clever stunt" but admits, "We prefer Vulfpeck's earlier albums. Sleepify seems derivative of John Cage's work," referring to Cage's infamous silent work 4′33″, composed in 1952.
"Please don't 'shuffle' sleepify," says the band. "I know this might come off snobbish, but we spent a lot of time on track order." Vulfpeck also clarifies that, "Z is a single. The following tracks (Zz, Zzz, Zzzz ... etc) are remixes of Z."
For me, Z and Zzzzzzz are the standout tracks, while Zzzz deftly underscores the original track's notes of tension and creeping unease before the album settles back into the relaxed groove with the fuzzy stylings of Zzzzz. Just as things are getting too laid-back, the bristling Zzzzzzzzz provides a welcome shot of adrenaline to proceedings before Zzzzzzzzzz rounds things out with a suitably epic denouement. My only complaint is that with just ten tracks on the album, I was left wanting more. Four stars!
As an audiophile, I strongly suggest you listen to Sleepify on a decent stereo to really tease out the nuances of the tracks.
Royalties and records
Spotify users listened to 4.5 billion hours of music in 2013, with the Sweden and UK-based streaming company claiming it's paid out more than more than $1 billion in royalties since launching in 2009. You can see how payments work at the Spotify Artists site, launched as a belated reaction to controversy over royalty amounts.
Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke has been one of Spotify's most vocal critics, pulling his solo and non-Radiohead projects from the service last year.
If you want to share the wealth with some of Spotify's less successful contributors, you can listen to the 4 million songs that have never been played with Forgotify.
Ways of gaming Spotify, iTunes and other services include flooding them with music. Musician Matt Farley has earned literally some dollars posting short tracks under 60 different names, writing 20 songs a day and packing each album with up to 100 songs. One of his wizard wheezes is to record birthday or prom-related songs hundreds of times with different names substituted in.