A New Spotify Initiative Makes the Big Record Labels Nervous

Representatives for the three major labels declined to comment for this article.

In what may be another sign of the tensions between the entrenched music industry and the streaming service, the three conglomerates have lately favored Spotify’s rivals with promotional goodies. Universal, for example, created an exclusive playlist with Apple Music.

“It’s almost a warning shot by the labels to remind Spotify that, as these stories play out, it’s not just Spotify that controls the narrative,” said Bill Werde, the director of Syracuse University’s Bandier Program on the music industry and a former editor of Billboard magazine.

One company that has made a deal with Spotify is Human Re Sources, a small distributor founded by J. Erving, an artist manager who has worked with Troy Carter, Spotify’s departing head of creative services.

In an interview, Mr. Erving said Spotify had paid a modest advance that helped him establish his company. Human Re Sources, he said, is able to pitch songs directly to Spotify’s internal teams — a rare advantage in the industry’s vast do-it-yourself landscape.

Spotify has not given favorable rates to artists affiliated with Human Re Sources, Mr. Erving said, and it has not guaranteed them placement on its playlists. But the company’s artists have had success penetrating Spotify’s most influential playlists, like New Music Fridays and Rap Caviar. Some of them, like Jussie Smollett — an actor in the hit television show “Empire,” who makes slithery R&B — have also made it onto a Spotify billboard in Times Square.

“Spotify has been very supportive of the stuff that we have released to date,” Mr. Erving said. “But Apple and Pandora have been very supportive as well.”

In preparation for its public stock listing, Spotify hinted that it had big plans to change the “old model” of the music business, which it said relied on “gatekeepers” like record companies and radio. In their place, Spotify said, it wanted to usher in a new era that would help new artists break through more easily.