Spotify has been evolving as an online music service. But how much power does it have in the music industry?
What started off as a simple tool to let people listen to music, a nice little niche between downloading music illegally and actually buying the songs themselves, has turned into a 50 million strong powerhouse, with new artists clamouring to get on board and let their music be heard. With this strength, Spotify now claims that it is able to tell its listeners which up-and-coming artist will become the next big thing.
“One of the things we use data for is to really understand — and we believe we’ve gotten pretty good at this— what artists or what songs are going to be hot,” Jeff Levick, Spotify’s chief business officer, said at the Appnation conference in Las Vegas. “We put a lot of our energy and time behind these artists and behind these songs to promote them.”
Levick also said to CNBC that the company takes a personal interest in lesser-known talents, reaching out personally to the managers of artists who are seeing spikes in engagement on Spotify to help them grow. Their efforts have paid of, with artists like Lorde and Hozier having their Spotify following to thank for their global success.
With tools like Artist Explorer, Spotify has always been the champion for discovering new music. They collect our music-playing data to gauge each individual’s musical tastes, and recommend songs that would suit it. But with Spotify taking specific interests in some artists, it seems to be acting less as a neutral song-recommending music library and more like the voice of the generation — determining what’s hot and what’s not-so-hot in each and every music genre out there.
That, to me, looks like true power. And the origin of that power seems to come from an indisputable source — data. With a 50 million strong following, it’s easy for them to claim expertise in the minds of music-lovers across the globe. The road to success for musical artists is now paved by newer and more powerful sources — like Spotify and YouTube crowning the next platinum artist. Wasn’t Justin Bieber first discovered on YouTube, anyway?
In any case, all that’s fine and dandy, as long as minority musical interests don’t get overlooked for the sake of platinum sourcing. After all, Jay Chou was named Singapore’s most-streamed artist in 2014, an interest that I’m still unable to identify with.