Did Humanizing The Technology Experience Help Spotify Surpass Half A Billion Listeners?

Spotify’s annual Stream On event unveiled the platform’s latest announcements, growth numbers, features and celebrity partners live from Los Angeles this week.

Starting and ending with CEO Daniel Ek’s unbridled optimism, Stream On 2023 showcased the organization’s innovations – most notably a new TikTok-esque scrollable home screen – and program pivots fronted by key Spotify leaders across technology, music, editorial and podcasting, bringing a human element to a brand largely experienced through an app or speakers.

Dozens of data points and new creator tool updates were delivered in the 90-minute program. Here are the top seven.

  • $40 billion has been paid to music rights holders.
  • Half a billion monthly active users have been reached.
  • The Anchor podcast creator tools brand acquired by Spotify in 2019 has been sunset – the technology and team have been wrapped into Spotify for Podcasters.
  • The questionably equitable Discovery Mode program has been expanded.
  • Smart Shuffle and Autoplay for all content has been added.
  • The voice behind Spotify’s AI-powered DJ feature was introduced.
  • A new integration is now available for creators on Spotify to monetize their content through subscription platform Patreon.

On target to reach Ek’s reinstated goal of 1 billion users by 2030, Spotify’s now 500 million users experience the balance between algorithmic-powered recommendations and clearly organized and easily searchable content when they interact with product – core reminders that a human is behind each touchpoint.

Spotify’s technology foundations create a unique recipe that continuously prioritizes transparency, design, functionality and innovation to set the platform apart from competitors. Take a scroll through Apple
Podcasts or Amazon
Music to find an experience devoid of connection, pleasure or aesthetic. Following the event, Spotify’s stock price rose from 126.99 to 129.35.

In 2019, Spotify took a $100 million bet on podcasting, signing exclusive deals with high profile celebrities and flexing its acquisition muscle through deals with Parcast, The Ringer, Gimlet, and Anchor, which will now be rolled into Spotify for Podcasters brand name. Doubling down even further on podcasting despite a recent layoff affecting the same group, Spotify will now focus on video podcasts and buzzy big names like comedian Hassan Minaj and popular gaming YouTuber Markiplier. The podcast product led by Maya Prohovnik, will be further streamlined to benefit creators.

Scaling a technology company undoubtedly comes with critique and for Spotify, the royalty conversation has always been top of mind for creators. “The deals in place that persist between companies like Spotify and major labels protect their bottom line interests above the livelihood of creators,” said Los Angeles-based singer and songwriter and 100 Percenters board member, Zac Poor. “Fair compensation for songwriters, producers and artists has never been a focus for major music companies and streaming services have exacerbated this inequality.”

New data from Spotify shows that in 2022, 57,000 artists generated more than $10,000 in revenue, over 10,000 artists generated at least $100,000 and 1,o6o artists generated $1 million on the platform. In 2021, Spotify said it paid out over $1 billion to publishing rights holders and $4 billion to major record labels. How much of the artist-generated revenue made its way to the artists after publishing and label payouts is not known.

“We hear the same things again and again from creators, get me closer to fans and help me better monetize my art,” said Ek. With new tools aimed to help creators monetize their entire businesses – from audio streams to in-app merch and ticket sales – expanded marketing features like Marquee and Discovery Mode which uses algorithms to editorialize audio content in exchange for a discounted royalty rate, may come with some contention.

The Discovery Mode feature, which is somewhat reminiscent of a payola – currency in exchange for plays – creates an interesting business case for artists and labels alike. Last year mangers told Billboard’s Elias Leight that the royalties they received on plays from Discovery Mode were 30% less than the royalties they received from plays elsewhere on Spotify.

Quite literally adding a human element into the mix, Spotify’s AI-powered DJ pulls unique information about your favorite music and artists to add story between songs. The voice behind the DJ product is Xavier “X” Jernigan, Spotify’s head of cultural partnerships. While a virtual DJ may sound fun in theory, in practice, it is quite disturbing and unnatural for what many consider to be an intimate listening experience. Perhaps the feature will resonate with laid back listeners who don’t mind a robot narrator and want to learn while listening. As Wired’s Boon Ashworth writes, the AI DJ has no soul.

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