“We don’t have it all figured out at Spotify. In many respects, we’re just getting started.” These are the words of Spotify global VP, partner solutions, Danielle Lee at her keynote address at Brandweek last week, an address dedicated to celebrating the 10 year anniversary of the Swedish music streaming giant.
Indeed, the company is looking to open its next decade of streaming on a more humble note, emphasizing facilitation of talent by “equipping artists, creators, brands and fans with the tools they need to share their stories and be inspired.” The tone of humility is one that rings true to recent press releases by Uber amid similar rebranding efforts, with the ride-sharing firm keen to distance itself from the accusations of mistreatment of employees, drivers and users that has plagued the company in recent months.
Spotify, too, has its detractors. Sure, the recent music industry revenue boom can draw its origins to the rise in streaming, but it is well known that the artists themselves see only a fraction of the profits wrought by the comeback. Spotify’s royalty rate is notoriously marginal: the top 10 percent of artists dominate 99 per cent of the service’s streams. Ed Sheeran is a perfect example of this, getting 16 tracks into Spotify’s Top 20 after the release of his album ÷ last year.
The so-called “trickle down” economy that Spotify has promoted among artists is seen by many as exploitative; at just over $10 a month for a subscription, the service is designed to benefit consumers disproportionately to artists.
The use of personalised recommendations has also come under fire, seen as limiting the challenge of music discovery and curbing the creation of new, truly original, music for favour of one homogenous sound guaranteed playback success. New York Times pop critic Jon Caramanica has termed this new genre, not favourably, “Spotifycore”.
Still, there are many positive reviews for the Swedish giant. Thanks to the combined forces of Spotify and YouTube, anyone with an internet connection no longer needs to pay to listen to music; “[this is] music’s most radically democratic era,” says music editor Ben Beaumont-Thomas. At the same time, the rise of non-Anglophone music has spread to the West, from K-pop band BTS to Puerto Rica’s Daddy Yankee.
That Spotify is a well-oiled algorithm machine is hardly a negative, says its supporters: for those with a more…niche taste, this feature of recommendations is something to be cherished. Ultimately, it is Spotify’s access that “makes it essentially utopian,” Beaumont-Thomas continues.
So what does the next ten years hold for this music disrupter? Some only see domination, like Backingminds’ Sara Wimmercranz: “Spotify will be one of the most important players in the entertainment industry.” Still others see a rocky road ahead, like Izettle’s co founder and CEO Jacob de Geer: “look at how Facebook’s business model now has been used in an unethical and wrongful way.”
As Spotify embarks on a new era of facilitation-led branding, the proof will be in the proverbial pudding. Without the support of the creative communities upon which Spotify relies, the next ten years will be very short indeed.