Music streaming service Spotify has denied that some of its playlists contain music tracks by “fake artists”.
A music industry publication listed 50 artists it claimed were not real.
They have racked up millions of streams by appearing on mood-based playlists such as Sleep and Ambient Chill, but many have no other visible profile.
However, one industry expert told the BBC Spotify was “not committing a crime” if it was commissioning tracks or buying production music.
“We do not and have never created ‘fake’ artists and put them on Spotify playlists. Categorically untrue, full stop,” Spotify said in a statement.
“We do not own rights, we’re not a label, all our music is licensed from rights holders and we pay them – we don’t pay ourselves.”
Some of the artist names in the list, compiled by Music Business Worldwide (MBW), did appear to have a presence on other platforms – generally rival services such as LastFM and YouTube – when checked by the BBC, but most had no website or social media presence in their own right.
For example Relajar, which has racked up 13.4 million streams, comes up only on Spotify in internet search results.
“We’re pretty sure A&R [artist and repertoire] teams from across the globe would love to hear about artists with no online presence who have managed to rack up millions of Spotify plays with their first few tracks,” wrote MBW.
Mark Mulligan, from Midia Research, said that Spotify could be commissioning others to produce content which it then pays lower royalties for in return.
“Labels are scared because they suspect this is the thin end of the wedge, but it’s not forcing those artists to do it,” he said.
It was also possible that Spotify was buying existing production music from other companies, Mr Mulligan said.
Some artists choose not to attach their real names to this sort of material.
“We still don’t have the smoking gun – there’s no proof of payment,” he said.
“This is getting creative about how Spotify might try to not have to pay out for all the music it plays.
“Ten years into the Spotify experiment, it still hasn’t made a profit despite being the most successful music-streaming platform on the planet.”