Vulfpeck's Half-Joke 'Silent Album' Made Some Serious Cash

Los Angeles groove band Vulfpeck’s silent album ‘Sleepify’ may have been a mere prank intended to rack up play counts and royalties, or perhaps it was a more sophisticated act of digital performance art. It's definitely been a rocky road -- but either way, the inaudible ten-track recording has delivered the band a very real payout from Spotify of nearly $20,000, and the band is proceeding with plans to book a U.S. tour.

During its seven-week life on Spotify during March and April, ‘Sleepify’ garnered about 5.5 million plays, according to a royalty statement shared by keyboardist Jack Stratton. At payouts that varied from $0.0030 to $0.0038 per play for the short tracks, the band’s final two-month take from Spotify was $19,655.56 -- not bad for a record consisting of about five minutes’ quiet time. (That figure doesn’t count the payouts for Los Angeles-based Vulfpeck’s more tuneful records, which received smaller play counts and royalties. One cut from the band’s 2013 album ‘My First Car’ has surpassed 120,000 total plays, and several others have more than 40,000.) Moreover, Stratton said the band is anticipating another $0.0002 per stream for copyright payouts -- about $1,100.

In a YouTube video posted in March, Vulfpeck demonstrated how a listener could generate a few dollars’ worth of revenue for the band by repeatedly playing the album during a night’s sleep. The band proposed that if it reaped enough cash from Spotify payouts, it could fund a tour that would be free of charge for concertgoers. Ensuing press coverage brought more attention, and Vulfpeck’s play counts spiraled into the millions.

Although Spotify allowed ‘Sleepify’ to remain on its service for a while, it eventually asked the band to remove it, then pulled the plug itself, Stratton told Billboard in April. Spotify never cited a specific reason or violation of its terms of service, although a spokesman called ‘Sleepify’ “a clever stunt” after the company unpublished the record.

Stratton wasn’t sure at the time whether Spotify would pay royalties for ‘Sleepify’ after all -- and indeed, Vulfpeck seemed uncertain in a Twitter posting that poked fun at another digital music company -- but eventually, the Swedish streaming service came through with a pair of monthly checks.

And the tour? Stratton says the band is targeting Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, New York, and its former hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Although it’s aiming to play the dates during the second half of September, Stratton acknowledged that its plans are still up in the air.