Indie band Vulfpeck found a creative way to make exceedingly unusual earnings on the popular music streaming service to give their fans free concerts.
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Ann Arbor, Michigan-based funk group Vulfpeck really wanted to go on tour. Wanted to, but as most young Indie bands, couldn’t afford to pull such a costly endeavor off. So they devised a truly brilliant – and completely legal – way to use music streaming giant Spotify, which pays artists a mere $0.007 royalty grand per stream, in order to make their dream a reality.
In a well-thought-out scheme, the band uploaded a 10-track album to the industry dominating streaming service, which they called “Sleepify”. The album tracks consisted of nothing but silence, with each track lasting for 31 or 32 seconds, to meet Spotify’s 30-second minimum for royalty payouts. The band then posted a video on YouTube, urging fans to stream the album on repeat while they slept, pledging to use the revenue to fund a tour, in which all shows would have free admission, and that would be mapped around areas that streamed the album the most.
The band figured out that if one fan was to stream the album overnight, that would make for about 800 plays, earning them roughly $4. If thousands of fans were to do so that could mean a truly impressive, unprecedented-for-Indie-bands-on-Spotify royalty fee.
And sure enough, the fans complied. In over a 2 months period, Vulfpeck have earned a remarkable sum of about $20, 000 in royalties from the soundless album.
Sleepify has since been taken down, as Spotify claimed it violated the company’s terms of content. “This is a clever stunt, but we prefer Vulpeck’s earlier albums, ” said Spotify spokesman Graham James prior to the company’s ultimate decision, adding that “Sleepify seems derivative of John Cage’s work” – a reference to the minimalist composer who was famous for his use of silence in his work.
After the album was taken down, the band released a three-minute long album called Official Statement. Its opening track was aptly named #Hurt. “They probably know that I’m doing this, they probably know that I’m putting this on Spotify, ” says band leader Jack Stratton on the track. “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 was meant to help fans reflect on the situation with… 31 seconds of total silence.
The band gets to keep the money, though, and their brilliant anti-system play could change the way independent artists regard streaming services and fan engagement. “Just stream your favorite band’s music while you sleep”, as Billboard suggests, “and they could come to your city for absolutely free.”
Vulfpeck is a half-Jewish German-American rhythm section based in Los Angeles. Originally studio musicians at Vulf Records, Jack Stratton, Theo Katzman, Woody Goss & Joe Dart have released three EPs under Vulfpeck.
The instrumental group was founded in 2011, when band founder Jack Stratton set out to form a German version of the Funk Brothers – session musicians who performed most of the instrumentals on the 1960’s Motown records.
The band released its first EP, Mit Peck, in December 2011, a second EP, Vollmilch, in December 2012, and their third EP, My First Car, in August 2013.
The royalty generation scheme of their 2014 album Sleepify has earned the band wide international press coverage, including articles in top news and entertainment outlets such as Billboard, CNN, The Guardian and Rolling Stone.