WUOMFM

How this Ann Arbor band got $20,000 from Spotify by releasing silent album

Sep 22, 2014

Credit Vulfpeck

We’ve heard it before. The music industry is changing.

But the band Vulfpeck is challenging the music industry with silence.

Vulfpeck is a funk band that got its start at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

They are in the middle of a cross-country tour.

They aren’t charging admission, they aren’t paying out of pocket.

Their tour is completely funded from an album they put up on the online music steaming service Spotify – an album that was completely silent.

Back in March, Vulfpeck released their “Sleepfiy” album on Spotify, and asked their fans to stream the ten 30-second tracks on repeat while they slept, so that the band could get fast royalty payments through Spotify.

Here’s how Vulfpeck’s keyboardist and drummer, Jack Stratton, explains it in the YouTube pitch for the silent album.

“When you listen to a Vulfpeck song on Spotify, Spotify pays us a half a cent. So if you were to listen to Sleepify all night on repeat. You’d generate $4,” Stratton says.

That might not sound like a lot for a night of sleep. But Vulfpeck got a lot of people to do it. Their promise was if they generated enough money in royalties, they would put on free shows to the cities where their Sleepify album was streamed the most. After about a month of fans streaming the album on Spotify, Vulfpeck ended up making $20,000 in royalties.

But Vulfpeck didn’t get away with their Sleepify album without a fight. Stratton says Spotify said Vulfpeck’s silent album violated their terms of use. Spotify removed the silent album in April.  

“I was in touch with one of their spokespersons and it was kind of a back and forth and it ended in them kind of taking them down. I woke up and it was gone,” Stratton says.

But even though Spotify removed the album, Vulfpeck still ended up getting the full $20,000 in royalties. They are now delivering their promise to fans who streamed their albums and are putting on free shows in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and New York. They will be at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor Tuesday night.