Rumors and Speculation
8 min read

Rumors and Speculation

Hello, this week’s newsletter is going to be fairly different, but I’ll explain that below. Beyond that welcome new followers! If you like the newsletter recommend it to a friend and I’m always down to email about this stuff at

At my day job with Gizmodo Media Group I’m currently reporting on a number of stories in the world of music streaming, so I’ve sort of been in a more reporting and less big picture mindset. That’s why I sort of wanted to jump around a few stories and rumors that’ve swirled in my head the last few weeks. I’ll be honest and say this format was a bit harder to write than I originally thought, so this might be a once a blue moon occurrence.

Who is Leaking Lil Pump’s Record Details?

Last week Billboard and TMZ reported in that “Gucci Gang” rapper Lil Pump signed a deal with Warner Bros. with an $8 million advance. A strong advance number for a 17-year-old, but certainly less than a few of the rumored eight figure contract numbers. Obviously rumors aren’t always correct, but the entire saga of Lil Pump’s contract situation felt a bit strange, because let’s be honest: Who Fucking Cares. Obviously Tha Lights Global, who manage Pump, and Warner Bros., but anyone else?! Honestly I’d wager: Nah.

Back in December TMZ detailed Lil Pump’s contract including that he received a $345,000 advance for his first album. Not a bad pay day, but certainly not great for a rapper, who’d go on to score a Top 5 album and song. Billboard then reported about Lil Pump getting out of his deal and frames it from the perspective of Warner Bros. not wanting to lose a potential star in a moment where rap is clearly the top genre and they want to hold onto the teenager. The internal label drama in the piece raised my eye, as an extreme amount of posturing.

The two camps duking it out in press is certainly interesting, but I was more struck again by what TMZ reported about the rapper’s new Warner Bros. contract:

As for royalties, this is where Pump can score, getting 14% in the U.S. There are other royalties that are even higher. There are provisions that give him up to 66% in royalties depending on the format.

I was chatting with a music lawyer, who guessed that Pump is getting 14% royalties on streaming, then I guessed perhaps that 66% number was royalties on CDs or maybe even digital sales. Again I don’t know that for sure, but Lil Pump’s first album debut with 46,000 albums “sold” with only 8,000 being actual full albums. Anyone wanna wager how many full albums he’ll sell in 2020. Good luck paying back that advance Lil Pump!

Billboard Please Update Your Charts

I wrote about this in a newsletter last month about how Billboard announced a plan to adjust the rate that premium subscription streams are weighed against ad-supported streams. The announcement was made in late October and still so far those nothing’s changed. I’ve emailed official Billboard channels and keep receiving radio silence. Other sources in the Billboard world continue to express confusion over the delay. Spotify according to Hits Daily Double is the one holding back the change, but still I haven’t heard anything except label people saying “Yeah that sounds right.” Why are you being so petty Spotify? Why so petty? Unless someone else is holding up this process? I just wanna know.

Who is King Princess?

On Saturday night I got DM from Claire Shaffer, an aspiring writer, who heard the song “1950” by the singer King Princess on Pitchfork’s oddly named “What’s Good” playlist. She asked me if this counted as Spotify-Core, the term New York Times Critic Jon Caramanica frequently uses to describe the last couple of years of quasi-pop kind-of electronic often female driven music. I gave the song and listen and it fits that bill pretty well. But, the reason Shaffer DM’d me was because she noticed that the song reached 7 million Spotify plays with only a 200k YouTube views, which seemed a bit odd. Def seemed odd.

King Princess is signed to Columbia Records and “1950” appears to be her debut single, ignoring the couple other songs she put up on her SoundCloud page. The song was released on February 22nd this year and I went over to ChartMetric to see how it’s doing.

The song is getting a lot of Spotify playlist love. The song is barely a month old and it’s already in Today’s Top Hits, Spotify’s biggest single playlist, and a numerous other playlists with over 100k followers. What was funny to me was that most of the playlists the same day it was released. Obviously Spotify curators hear music prior to release, but the amount of playlists this one single got on seemed odd, especially for a new artist. So, let’s look at Apple Music:  

The song’s received a few strong playlists on Apple Music, but none of them before March and certainly none on the same day of release. Clearly someone at Columbia was fighting hard for this song at Spotify (holler if it was you!), because it received the type of initial push I expect of an already established act. I always love following the playlist path of songs that are relatively unknown except on a single platform. Still, I’d love to know what kind of marketing plan is in store for King Princess cause this is a lot of playlist push for a small act, but also it was interesting to see that XL playlisted it early on Apple Music, case XL and Columbia share a couple of bigger “indie” acts (Adele, Vampire Weekend), so certainly interested in what might be in store for King Princess.  

Fake YouTube Views

A rumor I constantly poke people about but can never get any solid information is on faking YouTube views. That’s why I frequently post in the links sections about Twitter bots and other forms of gaming online platforms, because it isn’t that hard to google search “Buy YouTube Views.” The ease of it makes me assume artists and labels must be doing it. I’ve heard rumors of it occurring but nothing ever too concrete though I’ll say fudging the numbers on YouTube feels aggressively bold if only because the numbers are so public. Or perhaps that’s even more reason to do it.

Playlist Fact Checking

Last week the Daily Dot reported about the playlisting service SpotLister that exposed a system of for pay playlists that people would use with the hopes of making onto official top tier Spotify playlists. I included the original piece in my newsletter last week and there was even an update that Spotify shut off API access to the owners of SpotLister and the shutdown their site. Journalism, it works! Now, part of the reason this newsletter even started was emailing friends about how articles would get basic playlisting information wrong, so let’s bring that back. Here is a quote from the Daily Dot piece "MaWayy has experienced that Spotify ripple effect first-hand. The electronic duo—Brian Way and Masoud Fuladi, who collaborate online and have never actually met in person—has 'used pretty much every platform we found online,' MaWayy says via email. That includes SpotLister and SubmitHub. The former added their track 'Wrong' onto 19 playlists in a matter of days, generating 800,000 plays in the process. That momentum caught Spotify’s attention, and the single was subsequently added to three of Spotify’s biggest electronic music playlists: mint, Fresh Electronic, and Furutos Hits. 'Wrong' is now quickly approaching 1 million streams at the time of publication.

'The speed and reliability of this process is amazing,' MaWayy wrote. They noted that some of the larger playlists they were added to seemed buoyed by fake followers, but they’re still satisfied with the results. 'We like how easily we could get our music heard by all these playlist curators.'"

This isn’t exactly true. The narrative is actually backwards. Take a look at a couple screenshots from Chartmetric about the song “Wrong.”

One can see that “Wrong” was added to major Spotify playlists (“New Music Friday Cratediggers” “Fresh Electronic” and “mint”) well before it was picked up by any other smaller network of playlists. That seemed really strange to me, so I emailed MaWayy to ask. They confirmed to me that yeah they submitted “Wrong” to Austin Kramer at Spotify it got picked up and they eventually paid for down the road promotion but that was already after the song picked up support by Spotify’s official channels.

I won’t speculate too much as to why this fact was reported wrong, but it did further confirm how suspicious these playlists services are, when one of the examples of success didn’t even make it that far with the service. Related/unrelated, I look at a lot at the major Spotify playlists and I still find it a bit odd that “Wrong” somehow made it to mint only a few weeks starting in the Crate Diggers playlist. MaWayy said they just submitted through the form Austin Kramer put out in the public, but still seemed a bit odd.

Responses 2 Last Week

I got a cool email by a reader Mikhail Klimentov, who sent me a link to a short mix by the art collective Six Impala that weaved the music of Death Grips with clips of interviews with the band. Another day, another week, maybe another season I’ll talk about how legal streaming services continue to stomp a lot of what made music on the internet so exciting through the 2000s and the early 2010s but that can wait another day. I’m too busy trying to figure out how to get Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music Friday series onto Apple Music.

Over 600,000 People Have Tuned In To Watch Drake And Ninja Play Fortnite, Smashing Twitch's Record - Kotaku
Now, I was having a bad week last week when I woke up to the news that Drake broke the record for the most popular stream on Twitch by playing Fortnite. Now, did I write about Twitch two weeks ago and how I think it’d be a really great platform for artists to explore new ways to engage with fans? Does it appear major YouTubers are starting to eye the Twitch? Do I wanna say I told you so? Yes, yes, and yes. I'll now return to my normally humble self.

A $1.6 Billion Spotify Lawsuit Is Based on a Law Made for Player Pianos - The Verge
This piece centers on the Wixen Spotify lawsuit, but it’s additionally a great primer on understanding the complicated history of music royalties. Certainly read if you're not in the industry and want to better understand how artists are actually paid and why there is so much concern over...penny fractions. I'm sorry, gotta do the pun sometimes.

How Trump Consultants Exploited the Facebook Data of Millions - The New York Times
Now at this point that I often don’t think of music in isolation, because that’d feel misguided. The reason I say that is because while Spotify is about to go public one of the aspect they’re hoping to capitalize on going forward is their advertising platform. Now what does that have to do with Facebook? Well, if Facebook’s business model is advertising and collecting data on it’s users to better target ads and Spotify spent much of their investor day chat stating how that’s one of their advantages is how much data they hold over users. I wouldn’t be shocked if they might try and be less public about how much they know about your listening habits if the public starts to get more paranoid over data protection.

YouTube’s Favorite Music Critic Is 11 Years Old - The Daily Beast
Last week an editor asked if anyone about this young YouTuber and his dad who were starting to go viral over his reaction videos. I said no, but I should've known Taylor Lorenz would’ve been on this path. Maybe I'll get around and finish my piece on YouTube music reaction videos.