By now you are likely sick and tired of all the news around Joe Rogan signing a megadeal with Spotify. Me too! I mean, I liked Spotify for what it was: a great music streaming service. But now, I am not too sure. Recently, whenever I experience Spotify, I come away thinking, “Man, it has really become like radio.” This is not meant as a compliment.
Its imposition of algorithmic playlists is increasingly oppressive. As I wrote earlier, “It auto-plays the music it thinks I want just because I listened to one track. And it forces its choices down my throat.” It pushes talk radio (sorry, they call them podcasts now) and generally devotes most of its real estate and algorithms to the “top of the pops.” Sure, it does all that in the guise of personalization, but with much less personality.
All technology companies say that they never want to become the very thing they despised. Microsoft didn’t want to be IBM. Google didn’t want to be Microsoft. Spotify didn’t want to be radio. (Or did they already have that as a master plan?) Whether it is Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Netflix or Spotify, companies have figured out that, once they have you on their platform, it only takes a mediocre algorithm to keep you there long enough to offer up more ads and new products. They have all been bitten by the same parasite — the need to get and control attention. Other concerns seem to matter less and less.
For Spotify getting away from music also allows the company to break free from the shackles imposed by record labels. In 2019, CEO Daniel Ek had remarked that in the near future he hoped that nearly 20 percent of listening on Spotify would come from non-music programming. Podcasts and videos would be a good example of that non-musical content. Every minute away from music is money saved for Spotify, as explained by the Music Business Worldwide. An hour of podcasts played on Spotify by twenty percent of its monthly active users would amount to over a billion music plays, Music Business Worldwide estimates. That’s approximately $4 billion.
See, there is an upside to playing the game of attention!
Adapted from my weekly newsletter.