So, Spotify’s big “new direction” announcement occurred yesterday in New York Town, and founder Daniel Ek got up on stage all casual like (post-Jobs, surely the truly revolutionary IT firm would dress their chief exec in a top hat, tails and monocle for these increasingly tedious press calls) and told us an app store was being added to the Spotify player. Not so much a new direction as the same direction but with more stuff shoved on the roof rack.
To be fair to the Ek-ster, he did prove Spotify can beat even Google when it comes to staging glitzy anti-climaxes. The fact that most of the journalists tuned into the big announcement already knew, by the time Ek took to the stage, about the app store and API that will allow third parties to develop in-Spot apps, possibly didn’t help. Though the PR advisors of these tech firms probably need to brush up on their “managing expectations” skills.
But still, the app channel within the Spotify player does address one commonly cited issue with the streaming music platform, that there are few tools to help users navigate the millions of tracks in the service’s libraries, beyond the playlist sharing function many users have never really noticed exists. Most of the apps available, certainly at launch, provide curated lists and editorial integrated with music on the streaming service, so users can navigate Spotify’s music content with the help of the Guardian review team, the Billboard charts, or playlists quirkily inspired by the big music news stories of the day. They are kinda cool, though whether the average Spotify subscriber will actually use them is another matter.
Possibly most interesting, though, is the fact that Spotify has applied a Facebook approach to bringing editorial and expert curation to the service, ie don’t go the expense of creating the content yourself (as a number of Spotify’s competitors already do), but get other people to do it for you free, promising “a big new audience of music fans” in return.
The apps will be free to access (certainly initially, reducing the commercial return for app makers of course), and will be accessible to both freemium and premium Spotify users. The apps are presumably available to those using Spotify for free, first to guarantee app makers a much bigger audience, and second because Spotify hopes free users will find themselves listening to more music because of the new content channels, and might run out of their free listening credits and be motivated to upgrade to a premium account.
App partners at launch include Rolling Stone, Last.fm, Songkick, Pitchfork, Soundrop, We Are Hunted, TuneWiki and Moodagent.
And here are the words of Ek: “Once you take a look, you’ll see why we believe this is truly the beginning of something game-changing for digital music. We think this will lead to integrations that keep Spotify beautiful and simple, but layer in great musical experiences designed to be social and fun. It’s what our users have been asking us for”.