Having listed on the New York Stock Exchange, Spotify this month introduced a raft of changes on its platform – including the launch of new hardware, a redesign of its user interface, and a move into the video space with a Hulu partnership, as well as developing new ad opportunities.
But, despite all these new developments, will Spotify ever be seen as a true rival to other digital media giants?
Launching in 2008, Spotify got in early, carving out its position and becoming established as a new home for music libraries around the world. But, ten years on, it remains just that.
While the user base has exploded exponentially, Spotify’s offering is still largely based on the same singular purpose: music streaming. Meanwhile, the tech behemoths of Amazon, Apple and Google have barged into this space, all the while maintaining their stronghold in e-commerce, hardware and beyond.
Whatever Spotify’s services lack in terms of quality or user-friendliness, is compensated for by the fact that they are deemed a necessity by the customers in their universe. This is something Apple has been doing for years. For those who own Apple devices, life is made out to be easier if all your devices are Apple-made, from headphones, chargers and laptops to TVs and even the most recent addition of the Apple HomePod – which comes pre-installed with Siri and cunningly works best in tandem with Apple Music rather than Spotify.
In Amazon’s case, getting a Prime membership also allows you access to the Amazon Music Unlimited (AMU) service. Likewise, when you buy an Alexa, she comes with AMU installed, meaning you actually have to tamper with the default settings to change the music provider to Spotify – and to do that you also need to really care about Spotify as a brand.
As these competing tech companies take on larger roles in our day-to-day lives, the services we use become increasingly homogenised as they become more convenient for us as consumers. In turn, this diminishes the role of players that don’t quite fit in so snugly i.e. Spotify.
With this in mind, Spotify’s scramble to become more than a streaming service is not just an attempt to expand, it’s a bid to remain relevant.
Spotify must branch out before the use of its service becomes too great an inconvenience for consumers, or worst if Apple or Amazon outspend them into oblivion – something they can achieve with ease. Indeed, Apple Music’s massive push for subscribers is already beginning to bear fruit, with predictions that they are set to overtake Spotify in the US later this year.
It can’t be denied that streaming has become a behavioural norm, and Spotify currently holds an enviable audience of passionate music consumers in the UK and beyond – central to success in an ad market where scale is all-important. The additions to Spotify’s ad offering means that brands are increasingly being spoilt for choice, and they have been vocal in holding the cards to MOAT’S HAVOC (delivered impressions to humans that are viewable and audible upon completion).
However, as the digital ad giants have all made steps to woo advertisers back by improving their brand safety offering by far the biggest challenge for Spotify will be in maintaining the ad revenue gains they have inevitably made in the wake of fallout from recent scandals surrounding YouTube and Facebook.
Longer term, Spotify will look to maintain its audience share against streaming competitors. For the large part, however, it’s more about what the company has done already. For so many people, their music libraries are so inextricably linked to Spotify that changing services and starting all over again is just not an option (or at least a hugely inconvenient one).
Similarly, as one of the first streaming providers, Spotify have had the most time to optimise its service – the interface is smooth and user-friendly where Amazon’s feels clunky and relentlessly glitchy. In addition, the playlisting culture Spotify has built is un-paralleled, with playlists updated and re-curated on a weekly basis in contrast to some Apple playlists, which are left gathering dust for months on end.
Spotify’s music discovery technology is leaps and bounds ahead of – and far more accurate than – its competitors, but how long this will continue to be its winning hand remains to be seen.