Soon anybody will be able to upload their music to Spotify, but why are they opening the doors for anybody to get their work onto the platform?
You may have heard by now, but Spotify announced some big news this week that’s sure to have lasting ramifications on the streaming industry. In the coming months the Swedish music streaming service will roll out more features for their “Spotify for Artists” platform. The main attraction in these new features is the ability for anyone to upload their own music to Spotify instead of having to go through a third party distributor or label. Some people are calling this the “death of Spotify.” I happen to disagree, and in this article I will discuss why I think this move is a sound business decision and will actually be beneficial to musicians in the long run.
This upcoming feature marks a huge shift in the online streaming service platform market. According to Forbes Spotify has 170 million users, half of whom are paying for Spotify premium. For comparison Forbes states that SoundCloud boasts 175 million registered users, but adds “very few have signed up for SoundCloud Go, the company’s premium streaming offering.” According to the same article Apple Music has 50 million users, but as Apple doesn’t currently offer a free tier of their service this number is roughly comparable to Spotify’s numbers which are augmented by their free, ad supported, users. (Forbes)
To understand this decision one needs to look at Spotify’s position in the market and the company’s business plan moving forward. One concern that I have heard in the days since this announcement is that this will lead to an over saturation of music on the platform. However Spotify already uploads 20,000 new songs to the platform every day, which is no small number. CEO Daniel Ek has said the company’s “goal is to get as much music onto the Spotify platform as we possibly can.” (Music Business Worldwide) This makes sense from a business standpoint as it costs relatively little for Spotify to add additional songs to their catalog, but the more music that is available for listeners on the platform the more time they will spend listening. More time spent listening means more ads served to free users and increased desire for people to upgrade to the premium subscription service.
An interesting way to look at this decision is in comparison to SoundCloud. SoundCloud’s initial monetization scheme was to charge music creators for additional features such as upload time, the “spotlight” feature, etc. and allow listeners to stream for free while being supported by ads. In effect SoundCloud’s target customer was musicians, not listeners. Spotify is taking the opposite approach. By allowing creators, a much smaller demographic than listeners, to use the platform for free they are creating more value for the listeners by offering an increased volume of new music.
It should be noted that this isn’t really a big departure from the current situation. Prior to this announcement there was no requirement to get music onto Spotify other than paying a third party distributor to get your tracks on the platform. Being on Spotify wasn’t “exclusive” in any way other than the extra steps necessary and a minor financial investment. So while there is certainly some risk that there will be a massive increase in music added to the platform, any concern that the quality of the product will be “watered down” now that anyone can add their music for free is unfounded. There was never any quality control that would reject songs deemed to not be “high quality” enough for the platform, and all this change does is remove the middle man. This is a good step in my opinion because it will allow independent artists who may not have been able to afford the distribution fees to get their music onto the platform.
Another concern that should be addressed is that now “quality music” will be lost in the sea of uploads by less refined artists. First of all it should be noted that art is subjective, your definition of quality may not match someone else’s. Secondly Spotify doesn’t have a “feed” where new uploads and reposts etc. are shown chronologically a la SoundCloud. If you follow an artist their new songs will show up in your release radar, and songs by artists that are similar to them will show up in your discover weekly. Additionally Spotify recently rolled out a new submission feature allowing independent artists to pitch their songs to be placed on Spotify’s officially curated playlists. Essentially what I’m saying is that quality music will always rise to the top, and there’s not much room to even come across “bad music” on Spotify unless you purposefully follow playlists that are adding “bad songs” or follow “bad artists”. Obviously, that doesn’t make much sense and therefore I don’t see this being a quality issue for Spotify at all.
What are your thoughts on Spotify’s decision to open up their platform to all musicians? Let us know in the comments and share this article with your friends to get their thoughts as well!