When I met Zia, a sales rep from Spotify, in 2008 I remember being completely in awe that a ‘new’ service based out of Sweden had managed to muscle in on the closed and rigid music market and had somehow convinced the labels that there was a new way to distribute their music. Most of us in the media department struggled to see how long it could last. It seemed ‘too good to be true’ for the user, and for the advertiser alike, targeting audio messages to a degree a radio spot never could, and offering a visual CTA at the same time.
I was working buying radio spots for Sony BMG at the time and had witnessed first hand the changes in the industry that iTunes and torrents had brought, and another of our clients, Zavvi, had gone into administration just before Christmas. The one constant, as the health of the radio listening figures was testament to, was that people wanted access to a lot of music and preferably for free.
Spotify has come a long way since then, a US launch, and Facebook integration among the landmark shifts and consumption of the service has exploded as it gains traction in The States. Functionality has increased to the point where you can now indulge pretty much any musical need, my own most recent fascination is creating a neverending recommendation engine out of the service by scrobbling tracks I play to last.fm and then creating an ever evolving Recommendations playlist with Soundmatch. I would strongly recommend it if you haven’t tried it and subscribe to Spotify premium.
Music consumption in the digital age is clearly an ever-evolving beat and it looks like the US might be nearly ready to share some of their other goodies with the rest of the world as services like Rdio and MOG come over, not to mention recently improved Deezer gaining some traction.
This deck from (tr)ad agency JWT spells out a few of the developments in the market form a global perspective highlighting new services (like shuffler.fm) exploring functional developments on existing mainstream services (like Shazam) and grouping them into trends…enjoy!
Its definitely time for a mammoth blog post after at least a week of inactivity! And its audio themed, debating the following points, think of it as three for the price of one:
1) What we should make of Spotify’s new features
2) Is the podcast dead?
3) Is a fusion between Spotify and podcasting the best way round the music rights issues that have crippled podcasts.
Spotify is often criticized for being too niche, an exclusive club if you like, one in which hardcore ‘muso’ members make up a majority of the traffic. This is a criticism I heard from two execs at we7.com, who describe the service’s audience as solely early adopters (as a negative thing!), versus their broader more mass market platform they espoused. And I think the we7 execs were right to a certain degree. Anyone who has hankered after an invite will tell you that it can be surprisingly difficult to get one, especially in the early days (although this is to manage growth), and the more in depth features like label search, that really bring it to life, are always more likely to appeal with ‘serious’ music fans. Add to this the fact thats its an app rather than a website (and the implications foe those who work in a firewalled ofice) and I guess you could say that it is indeed for the more ‘serious’ of music fans.
The new social features on Spotify, seem to appeal to those who have the impetus to trawl through friend’s playlists, compiling the perfect mix-tape or subscribing to others. Again though I am not sure that these updates make it truly ‘social’. I mean that its still all about the music, there’s little chat or opportunity for interaction, ecept through Facebook accounts linked in. I guess that makes sense as that’s the forum for these sort of interactions but would it have been too much to ask to allow us to attach a message to tracks we send to fellow Spotify socialites. I’m also struck by how few of my friends have actually updated their Spotify and at the latest count only 20 of 350 or so of my FB friends are getting on board.
As for the second point, I have read a lot of posts recently about the death of the podcast. Certainly, podcasting as a term has lost some of the buzz it has enjoyed over the last 5 years, especially in advertising, but this isn’t to say the form is dead. The Sony Radio awards last night gave one of their their top awards (gold no less) to the Hackney podcast and its definitely worth a listen it is truly fantastic. And that goes for the rest of the nominees and the other great pieces of audio out there, bringing laughs, taking you to places in your mind you haven’t been before. Maybe its just the term podcast that is dead, in fact even the Sony’s aren’t using it referring to them as internet programmes. What we are witnessing is a broadening of the term, and we are eventually witnessing a dissolution of platform terminology, what we are essentially talking about in all these instances is audio. If we think in these terms we can include the raft of servces that have ‘stolen’ the buzz from podcasting, AudioBoo (which you can vote for in the Smarta100 list), or services like Mixcloud or SoundCloud.
Moving seamlessly on to the third point, there are also new possibilities for the traditional authored radio show to superceed the podcast through services harnessing online juke-boxes such as the aforeentioned Spotify and we7. The digital distribtor Kudos Records has come up with Playdio which will get around the current restrictions on the use of music in podcasts (limited to 30″ at present). They will essentially be playlists with spoken tracks acting as DJ voice-overs either side. The really clever thing is how they pay for production, which is ‘per stream’ of the voiced link. Services like these add value to these new audio services and although its in its infancy, they already have Phil Jupitus (recent 6music DJ) signed up.
Deciding what tracks make the cut to get that all killer no filler album must be a tough job. To any web savvy band the best way must be to throw it open to the fans and that’s exactly what legendary post punk band Devo (NOT the opera ‘band) have done.
Not only is it a joy to navigate through, with help from your host, but after you have voted and uploaded your picture you become part of the data as they are mosaics of all of your pics.