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In March 2014 the American Band Vulfpeck released the Album Sleepify onto the online streaming platform Spotify. The album consists of ten silent songs, each with a length between 31 and 32 seconds. On the music streaming platform Spotify an Artist is eligible for royalty payments for each stream that lasts at least 30 seconds.

Sleepify was a project of informal crowdfunding.

What happened?

Upon release the band urged fans online to play these silent tracks on replay when they're not using the streaming service otherwise (for example overnight, while they are sleeping) in order to earn the band revenue from the streaming platform. The band intended to use the money this would earn them to organize a free concert tour across the USA.

In late April 2014 the Album was deleted from Spotify. By this time each track had accumulated about 500.000 plays, which totaled up to about 5,5 Million total plays from the Album. On Spotify each streamed track earns an artist between 0,0056 and 0,008$. According to reports Sleepify earned Vulfpeck roughly 20.000 $. The band subsequently used this money to organize the promised tour, free of admission. The Sleepify tour included six concerts in cities across the USA (in San Francisco, San Louis Obispo, Los Angeles, Chicago, Ann Arbor and New York).

Comparison to formal crowdfunding

It's arguable wether Sleepify really was a form of crowdfunding or just a smart advertising ploy by the band.

The major differences to regular crowdfunding processes are that:

  • the platform through which the money was transferred (Spotify) is not intended for crowdfunding nor did the platform (initially) know that a crowdfunding process was happening on their platform
  • the people who supported the instigating party (Vulfpeck) did not actually spend any money in the process instead money was generated through them spending their time listening to songs and the intermittent advertising.

Even though these differences set Sleepify apart from virtually all other crowdfunding projects at the core Sleepify still created a platform to receive funding from a crowd. Also other factors do revoke the standard crowdfunding formula. The instigators stated their goals publicly (via social media) to their supporters, they explained how one could support them and they (in broad terms) stated what they would use the money on in case of success.

Reaction from Spotify

All in all the Album was available on Spotify for little over a month. The album was pulled from the streaming site because it "violated the terms of content". It was however not made explicit in what manner those terms were broken.

Spotify also aknowledged that Sleepify was a "funny and clever stunt". After all the project did not only bring publicity to the band but also to the streaming service. This reaction also suggests the iamge of Spotify being a platform that helps out up and coming musicians. On the other hand the poor treatment from Spotify and the low royalty payments were also named as motivation for the project.

Similar Projects

In June of 2015 the Band Ohm & Sport released a website called Eternify. While this website was active, users where ably to type in any artist available on Spotify and the website would automatically start streaming songs by this artist in 30 seconds increments (again, the minimum playtime to cause a royalty payment on Spotify). The website also showed stats how much time a user already spend streaming in one session, how many payed streams were accumulated and how much money was thus funded for the artist. The website also featured the slogan "Music streaming's virtually worthless for musicians. But we can change that" elevating the implied criticism from Sleepify into an explicit and central message from Eternify. Essentially Eternify was an attempt to create a crowdfunding platform based on the principle behind Sleepify. In this case Spotify reacted much quicker and only a few days after Eternify went online the operators of the Project were “forced to comply with a takedown notice from Spotify.”