Spotify’s New Spotlight Feature Provides Bigger Marketing Boost For Spotify Than For Artists

Spotlight_soundrop_1040-385-1This week Spotify launched a couple of features that have marketing elements while expanding Spotify's presence on the web and deepening the content available to keep listeners engaged. Spotify Follow buttons allow you to promote your presence on Spotify from your other social media accounts and web properties. Their new Spotlight initiative deepens their publishing efforts with a more focused program moving forward. Both have implications for music marketing but they are clearly primarily about building Spotify.

Earlier this week, as discussed on Hypebot, Spotify launched Follow buttons to extend their presence on the web. But it raises the question of why artists would be promoting Spotify rather than their own official website.

Spotify also introduced Spotlight, which seems to greatly expand the publishing ambitions revealed by their first Landmark project featuring Nirvana.

Is Spotify Really Developing a "New Artist Marketing Program"?

Based on Billboard coverage, Spotlight is being pitched, in part, as a "new artist marketing program." Though it currently seems more like a Spotify marketing program, where it's going is what sounds interesting:

"The limited number of slots made available to Spotlight adds to Spotify's role at gatekeeper. [Steve] Savoca [head of content at Spotify] tells Billboard there will be one or two global Spotlight artists per quarter. The 14-employee Spotify team that works with labels and artists for Spotlight will also develop five to ten artists per quarter, on a smaller level."

Stuart Dredge gets a bit more pointed in his analysis in an interview with Will Hope, Spotify’s director of label relations.

Yet it's still too early to tell if Spotify will ultimately see "which artists are bubbling up on Spotify through plays and social activity" and break new acts or if the dynamics of Spotify will ultimately favor emerging major label acts like HAIM and Lorde.

Is Spotify Really "Going To Be Key" for New Artists?

As Hope claims:

“Spotlight will become key for breaking artists and developing artists…it’s a long-term arrangement: when you look at what streaming services can offer, it’s that ability to build an audience over time, and the ability to control your monetisation over time as that audience gets bigger. For new artists, it’s definitely going to be key.”

Hope also discussed the role of content creation for Spotify:

“There’s a real opportunity to make streaming services and platforms a far more fan and artist-based proposition..It’s not just get the music and go. And creating original content is a really good way to drive that, whether it’s live sessions, documentary series like Landmark, or the magazine-style interviews rolling out for Haim and Lorde.”

While I definitely see the benefits for fans, it's unclear just how much of this helps more than a handful of artists, and therefore does not address more widespread concerns, and how much of this is simply marketing for Spotify.

The argument that artists need to get involved with Spotify for the long haul is one that's asking artists to promote that service in order to help Spotify and their investors, including the major labels, win the battle between a wide range of music services.

Don't Base Your Career On Other People's Media Properties

Given musicians' tendency to avoid collective action, the best advice I can give is to keep building and promoting your official site even if you decide to put serious effort into promoting your presence on Spotify. At the end of the day, "that ability to build an audience over time, and the ability to control your monetisation over time as that audience gets bigger," will be more strongly affected by your direct relationship with your fans through your own media properties than by sharecropping on any one social or streaming music service.


Hypebot Senior Contributor Clyde Smith (@fluxresearch/@crowdfundingm) also blogs at Flux Research and Crowdfunding For Musicians. To suggest topics for Hypebot, contact: clyde(at)fluxresearch(dot)com.

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