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Johan Röhr: The secret king of Spotify playlists

Johan Röhr: The secret king of Spotify playlists  ·  Source: Allstar Picture Library Limited. / Alamy Stock Foto

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The Swedish composer Johan Röhr is one of the most successful artists on Spotify. Who, you ask? Hardly anyone has ever heard of him, yet he has racked up an impressive 15 billion (!) streams with about 2700 published tracks. That’s more plays than Britney Spears or Abba. The Stockholm-based musician appears on the streaming platform under more than 650 different pseudonyms.

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Johan Röhr: The invisible king of streaming

According to the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN), Röhr has used names like “Maya Åström”, “Minik Knudsen”, “Mingmei Hsueh”, and “Csizmazia Etel”, among many others, to publish more than 2700 songs on Spotify. Looking at all of his alter egos combined, Röhr easily makes it into the top 100 most streamed artists on the platform – even leaving the likes of Michael Jackson, Metallica, and Mariah Carey behind. Not too shabby!

  • Metallica
  • Michael Jackson Thriller

His success can largely be attributed to his songs being included in more than 100 Spotify-curated instrumental playlists. With titles like “peaceful piano” or “stress relief”, these playlists are popular with Spotify users looking for background music for work or relaxation. The takeaway: Being included in one or more of these popular playlists can give your career (and streaming income) a serious boost!

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How to Spotify: The incredible success of Johan Röhr

Last year, Spotify paid out a record-breaking 8 billion euros to the music industry (read our report here). CEO Daniel Ek claims that this enables many up-and-coming artists to “break through” and finally make a living with their music. However, critics say that the huge success of anonymous artists like Röhr, who silently dominate the market, is in stark contrast to the platform’s claims. After all, how do independent artists, labels, and composers benefit from a system that favors “streaming phantoms” like Röhr? Ek also recently said that the cost of creating music is “almost zero”.

How much money Johan Röhr has earned on Spotify is unknown. However, reports indicate that his private business posted an income of 32.7 million Swedish kronor (about 3.1 million US dollars) – in 2022. Röhr, who previously worked as a conductor for concert tours and on television, declined to comment to DN and didn’t respond to a request from the Guardian.

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The king of instrumental playlists on Spotify

Niklas Brantberg, the CEO of Overtone Studios (the label that publishes Röhr’s music), confirms that Röhr is a pioneer of “mood music” and has published music under multiple aliases. There’s nothing wrong with using pseudonyms on Spotify – I also have several different aliases that cover different genres of music.

According to a Spotify spokesperson, “there is an increased interest in functional music created to enhance everyday activities such as relaxation, focus, or studying, and these playlists are created to match the listeners’ demand. This type of music typically exists in Spotify’s Focus hub which limits competition with artists from traditional genres of popular music.”

What’s your opinion about this phenomenon? Have artists like Johan Röhr simply figured out how to use Spotify to their maximum advantage, or are they making it more difficult for others?

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Note: This article by Marcus Schmahl was originally published in German on gearnews.de.

Johan Röhr: The secret king of Spotify playlists

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2 responses to “Johan Röhr: The Secret King of Spotify Playlists”

    Gustav says:
    1

    If by ”figured out” you mean he made a deal directly with Spotify giving him less money per stream but getting in on all the playlists then yes he sure did figured it out. It’s a win win for Spotify and him, but a loose for other artists and customers that will be fed the same producer. No difference to old ”heavy rotation” on analog radio tough, AI will luckily change that so you wont be locked to the companies ”radio” playlists.

    Diki Ross says:
    0

    There’s absolutely nothing mentioned in the article that he has negotiated and ‘deal’ with Spotify. Do you have anything factual to back that up or did you not read anything but the title before you jumped in?

    The article simply seems to imply that Spotify have a far broader definition for ‘relaxation’ music than they have for the incredibly Balkanized and walked off pop music genre. Hence his music is played more because the algorithm is far less focused. If relaxation music was as divided up into sub-genres as much as pop is, he’d be in the same shoes as the rest of us.

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