What’s the worst thing about Spotify? It doesn’t pay that much to artists. No. It’s devaluing music? No. It’s the fact that the service is pretty poor when it come to music discovery. There’s so much music, that often, it’s hard to find the hidden gems – sure you can use your friends recommendations – but what happens when all your friends just listen to Adele or Jay Z.
Well Spotify has recognised this shortcoming and it’s plan to solve it is to create a new apps platform. A system of apps that look to enhance the experience of users listening to music. It will allow developers and media partners to build apps to run within the company’s desktop application – serving tickets, reviews and recommendations to Spotify users.
The announcement was made last week at a New York press conference, and see’s the Swedish company follow Apple and Facebook’s lead with their own Apps eco-system, a dramatic change for the company. But, interestingly, the apps that are going to be available on Spotify won’t be sold for a profit, in fact they won’t be sold at all – meaning developers will have to get a little creative in order to monetise the system.
Chief Executive Daniel EK said that Spotify will bring a host of new features to the software; such as recommendations, ticketing, editorial content thanks to partnerships with the Guardian, Rolling Stone, Billboard, Songkick, Last FM and TuneWiki. For example, The Guardian’s app brings album reviews from both the Guardian and Observer into Spotify’s service.
“Today, we become a totally integrated platform,” said Ek. “We’re opening up our platform in a way that lets you curate the apps that you want, and really make Spotify yours … This is the beginning of something game-changing for digital music.”
The apps will of course sit within Spotify’s desktop client, although Ek did state that if successful, the platform may extend to its mobile apps in the future too. The apps will be available for free to paying users of the service.
Developers will have to go through the usual hoops to get their apps on the service. They will have to submit their ideas to Spotify for approval before building and launching anything. This should mean that the Spotify App store won’t be full of useless apps – something Google failed to do in the early days of Android. The premiss of the system will be to add valued content alongside Spotify’s music.
Spotify will be using the apps platform itself, to add new features to the service – starting with a Facebook-style news ticker showing what friends are doing on the service. Ek said: “We have a lot more in the works. But more than anything we really look forward to being surprised by developers,” he said. “We believe they’re going to deliver amazing new apps within the Spotify platform.”
Ek didn’t talk about the recent criticisms of streaming music payouts to artists during the event, but he did defend the company’s business model, in response to a question about whether its payments to music rights holders risk becoming a bigger burden as more people use Spotify.
“For us, we don’t feel that those are onerous terms in any shape or form. We’re very happy with how our model is performing,” he said. “We are paying out the vast majority of all the revenues, and that’s really how we want to keep going.”
Spotify currently has an impressive amount of users with 10 million active users, and 2.5 million of them paying for the service. It is available in 12 countries, and its users have created more than 500m playlists – a number that has doubled since July 2011.
“The Spotify revolution is really to make access as an alternative to ownership,” said Ek. “We’re just three years in, but we’ve already become the second biggest digital revenue source for all the labels in Europe behind iTunes. And we’ve paid out more than $150m to the music industry so far.”
He also summed up Spotify’s mission statement with a carefully-crafted soundbite: “The ultimate goal here is to be as ubiquitous as the CD, but with all of the obvious advantages of being digital.”
We’ve had an extended look at some of the apps that are currently available, they’re not groundbreaking in anyway, and Apple will hardly be quaking in fear of what Spotify has planned. The new app service looks to get users engaging more, and not just running the software in the background.
We Are Hunted’s app is simple and effective, allowing you to instantly playlist 100 of the top tracks from online sources like blogs. Last.fm’s app will have potential for those of you who have scribbling their music for a while. Songkick offer easy access to contert tickets of artists you listen to and The Guardian, Pitchfork and Rolling Stone, obviously, offer more of a editorial focus.
Apple Vs Spotify
Ultimately, if Spotify becomes the next big bastion for music delivery this will surely put another nail in the coffin of the labels favoured model: selling music. Something Apple has had a stranglehold on for years. Traditionally, the Spotify vs Apple argument has been often been played down, but, with Spotify’s increased exposure with its Facebook partnership, the Swedish company is the clearest competition to the iTunes crown.
The age old battle of ownership versus access is one that is brought into sharp focus with this new announcement – we personally can’t see both coexisting without having an impact on one another. The likely winner, surprisingly, could be Spotify. Sure it’s going to take a while, but with an all-you-can-eat ethos Spotify looks to be a better deal for the consumer, and less so for the major labels, Apple and independent artists.