With the release of Drake‘s latest album, Scorpion, on Friday, Spotify spent the weekend spreading the news with a first-of-its-kind promotional takeover that might have helped hype up fans but also turned off some subscribers enough to ask for a refund.
Heralding what Spotify referred to as “Scorpion SZN,” Drake was placed so prominently on the streaming service’s editorial playlists that his image was even used on those that did not feature his music — “Best of British,” “Massive Dance Hits” and “Happy Pop Hits” among them. This is the first time a single artist has taken over multiple Spotify playlists on the same day, a rep told Billboard last week.
— Spotify (@Spotify) June 29, 2018
The campaign was intended to be a quirky celebration of Spotify’s top streaming artist, helping him to break the one-week U.S. streaming record in only three days and putting him on pace to debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. But some subscribers online have been decrying the decision as an imposition of advertisements on what are supposed to be ad-free accounts, with a select number taking their complaints directly to the company with requests for refunds.
Reddit user Schwagschwag shared his frustration on the website’s music forum on Sunday and claimed he received a refund for this month’s payment after contacting customer service. While some other users described similar success receiving refunds or credit for a free month with their own appeals to Spotify customer service, others reported their requests were denied, prompting some decisions to cancel their subscriptions altogether.
Spotify declined to comment, but sources tell Billboard the complaints have been relatively minimal and no refund policy has been put in place.
For some, the campaign is reminiscent of Apple’s misguided “giveaway” of U2‘s Songs of Innocence album in 2014, when the band’s album was uploaded to all iTunes users’ libraries without consent. But there is more to it too. As Spotify subscribers have become accustomed to the app personalizing its service to their interests, when the company executed total editorial influence like this, a portion of users seemingly felt betrayed.
Time will tell whether Spotify chooses to repeat a campaign of this nature down the line, but in the meantime it has raised a debate over the service’s “Browse” landing page and the level of marketing — or artist support — that is appropriate there.