As the Swedish streaming giant Spotify has ascended to become the most influential company in the entire music industry landscape, it has been plagued by allegations of deception — accusations that the company has compensated producers to craft tracks under fictitious identities and subsequently granted prominent playlist positioning to these compositions. (Spotify has refuted these allegations.) It also appears relatively straightforward for external parties to employ automated bots to fabricate counterfeit streaming statistics. Now, a report from the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet asserts that criminal organizations in Sweden are utilizing Spotify streaming deceit as a means of money laundering.
As Music Business Worldwide emphasizes, the Svenska Dagbladet report features undisclosed statements from Swedish gang members and law enforcement personnel, who contend that the streaming service “has evolved into a tool for criminal activities.” The unnamed law enforcement officer asserts that “criminal organizations launder proceeds from narcotics trade, heists, fraudulent activities, and covert operations through the platform,” potentially amassing substantial sums of money.
The purported stratagem unfolds as follows: The criminal organizations identify cryptocurrency traders on Facebook and convert their illicit funds into Bitcoin. Subsequently, they employ these Bitcoin assets to purchase counterfeit streams for artists — typically Swedish “gangster rappers” — who maintain affiliations with these criminal entities. One of the report’s informants conveys, “It extends beyond the mere procurement of streams. If you operate within a network and aim to entice young individuals, featuring a successful rapper is a vital component of your strategy. It is exceptionally effective for recruitment purposes.”
In response to the Svenska Dagbladet report, a spokesperson from Spotify asserts that the company possesses “no substantiated evidence of money laundering transpiring via Spotify” and underscores that “less than one percent of all streams on Spotify have been determined to be manipulated.” Prominent leaders of major record labels, who have their own motivations for expressing discontent with Spotify and other streaming services, have exerted pressure on Spotify to intensify measures against fraudulent streams and to reconsider the distribution of royalties. It is conceivable that reports of this nature will further amplify these demands.