Spotify: “The Music-ification of Social Media” (Soldinger, 2013)

By Madeleine Abbott, Sean Beckemeyer, and Courtney Jordan

     For the past decade, the way people listen to music has transformed dramatically. Just as the Internet transforms the way people communicate online, Spotify transforms the way people listen to music. From boom boxes to iPods, the paradigm shift brings us to streaming music online. The breakthrough in technology and social networking has led to the creation of social music sites. Spotify is a revolutionary way for people to discover, listen, and share music.

     Spotify combines the experience of accessing millions of songs with connecting friends online through sharing music. It is a commercial music streaming service that provides copyrighted digital music files from record labels such as Universal, Sony, and The Warner Music Group. Spotify was established in 2006 by Daniel Ek and a group of developers in Stockholm, Sweden. CEO Daniel Ek launched Spotify into production in October of 2008. Since 2008, the Swedish powerhouse has accumulated over 20 million users due to the unique experience it offers the marketplace (CBS News, 2009).

     Several features of Spotify make it exclusive. The site offers three different types of service: Spotify, Spotify Unlimited, and Spotify Premium (Spotify, 2013). The basic Spotify service is free, providing users access to music on their computers and laptops. This basic version has frequent commercials in between songs that the user cannot avoid. However, with Spotify Unlimited, users pay a fee of $4.99 a month to enjoy music on their computers and laptops, with additional privilege of listening to music commercial free (Spotify, 2013). Spotify Premium is $9.99 a month, which allows users to listen to unlimited, uninterrupted music anywhere (2013). By downloading the Spotify application, users can access their music on their mobile devices or tablets at their convenience. Clients also have the ability to download and listen to music while they are offline (2013). Another feature of Spotify is that it gives users the freedom to categorize and personalize their music through the creation of different playlists. Consumers can search for all different types of music and can easily add songs to their playlists by simply clicking and dragging the song to the playlist menu. There is no limit to the amount of songs a user can have in a playlist (2013). The customer also has the ability to follow other users’ playlists and can add them to their playlist collection.

      The Spotify window has many functions that make it clear and easy for the consumer. The left hand side of the window organizes into three categories: Main, Apps, and Collection.  In the Main category, the user can click on the “discover” link to find new and upcoming music (2013). Users can search new artists to follow and friends by clicking on “follow.” The inbox consists of songs sent by other users. In the “Apps” category, users can search for new apps and check out the current top 100 songs (2013).  The third category is “Collection,” where the user can find and scroll through all of their playlists (2013). The middle of the window displays all of the songs from the playlist the user is currently listening to. The songs display into columns by track, artist, song duration, album, and user. The bottom of the module gives users the ability to skip, shuffle, pause, fast-forward and rewind songs.  Finally, the right side of the window displays an activity feed that shows what songs their friends are listening to, as well as the people or artists that those friends follow. The Spotify window and functions are very simple and user-friendly, making it easy to see why Spotify has 20 million users in over 17 Countries (CBS News, 2009). Yet without its social features, Spotify would not have the worldwide following that it does today.

     The social features of Spotify are beneficial for interpersonal relationships for several reasons. First, CEO Daniel Ek “understands that the future of Spotify hinges on social aptitude; the more people come to rely on the service for recommendations from their friends, the more likely they’ll get hooked and eventually pay for the premium version” (Levy, 2011). Ek created Spotify as a place where “people could get music directly from their friends instead of from digital superstores or sketchy pirate havens” (2011). For example, iTunes is a gigantic music library where you are able to listen to about a minute of a song and then decide to purchase a tune for a dollar or so. The costs are what make iTunes lack “sociability” with its users: “those costs prohibit discovery” (Söderström, 2011). On the other hand, Spotify has “no cost barrier, which makes it much more likely that people will sign up and start listening. Once they do, friends can simply drag songs or entire albums into one another’s inboxes, [and post] links to songs online” (2011).

     Second, Spotify partnered up with the right online powerhouse: Facebook. Not only is sharing one of Facebook’s core values, but Facebook’s more than 800 million users allows Spotify to be “the ubiquitous music distribution plumbing for the entire Internet” (Levy, 2011). “Facebook users will see the songs that their friends listen to, playlists they compile, and bands they discover…[all with a] single mouse click” (2011). Furthermore, as more people are utilizing Facebook as a site “to present their best self, Spotify is the window to what people are actually doing” (2011). Even within Spotify itself, there is a live newsfeed on the left-hand side that shows users what their friends and people they follow are currently listening to. The ultimate purpose Facebook and Spotify’s partnership is that both networks are “trying to make something so that people can learn stuff from their friends and can share with them and express themselves” (2011).

     The last beneficial feature of Spotify for interpersonal relationships is how users can create their own playlists, share their own playlists with others, and follow other friends or artists. Spotify revolutionized the online music industry by allowing its users to customize their music experience and identity. Instead of providing set playlists or prohibiting users from rewinding, fast-forwarding, or skipping, like Pandora does, Spotify has a more “sharing” environment that truly fosters socialization and discovery. Having the opportunity to customize their listening experience causes users to be more satisfied and likely to share what they are listening to on their other social networking pages. Pandora does not permit users the ability to share their songs or create their own playlists, keeping the social sharing and connecting component out of music. Today, Spotify surpasses Pandora since people trust their friends more than they trust what other companies or artists are saying. Spotify knows how to create trust with people, and capitalizes on creating a “buzz.”

     Although Spotify does a decent job at creating a “buzz” through its social features, there are three ways the site could improve. First, Spotify must improve their relationship with artists both featured and not featured on their site. Spotify has been “accused of failing to compensate artists fairly”, causing an absence of well-known artists such as AC/DC or Pink Floyd (Chandler, 2013).  In turn, the absence of these artists could veer potential users away from using Spotify as a music resource. For example, if a specific user loves Metallica and they cannot find any of the band’s music on Spotify, that user is not only going to switch to Pandora, iTunes or any other music site, but they are going to tell their friends to do the same. With the site’s nature being so social, Spotify needs to be cognizant of all the factors that could send their current users to their competitors. Moreover, if Spotify mends the broken relationships and collaborates with artists when signing contracts, Spotify will, in turn, generate more users and continue to satisfy their current users. 

     Secondly, Spotify needs to further develop the home screen of their site. CEO Daniel Ek states, “Spotify acts as a catalyst for social discovery” since the core values of the company are social interaction and sharing (Levy, 2011). Consequently, the site lacks any sort of “wall” feature for users to post comments, concerns, suggestions or problems with Spotify. If the CEO prides his company on their sociable features and efforts, it seems bizarre that Spotify lacks something so simple, yet so significant. Competitor Rdio has a blog tab on their home page that gives up to date music suggestions, industry insights, and space for their users to give feedback about what works and what they want to Rdio to improve (Rdio, 2013).

     Lastly, Spotify should integrate the application Moodify as another tactic to differentiate themselves from their competitors. Moodify would allow users to select a song that describes the mood they are in, so their Spotify and Facebook friends could easily see how they were feeling at that moment. This app integration would increase interpersonal relationships since users are able to communicate with their friends through their mood, find songs and playlists that fit that mood, and discover new “mood” songs to add to your own set playlists. Spotify has become a key component within the social networks and the music industry by revolutionizing the way people share and express their moods. However, there are a few recommendations that will enhance the overall experience of Spotify for their users.

     Generations today use music as a form of expression, inspiration and an outlet to channel our feelings through, which has ultimately become the widespread norm.  To start, Spotify can enhance their platform by adding the application Moodify to capitalize on this widespread norm of how we use music. In 2004, “the launch of the social media site known as Myspace revolutionized the music industry yet again” (Stenovec). At the time, Myspace was the most recent website that contributed to the discovery of upcoming artists. On each individual’s personal web page, users could choose a song from “Myspace music,” and place it on their wall. The song that appeared on a person’s profile would typically display the type of mood or mindset that individual was in.  By pairing up with Facebook and integrating Moodify, Spotify can help promote new artists, just as Myspace did.

     The second recommendation for the site is to create a similar focus to Facebook by utilizing the home screen module as more of a “wall” with a social feed. The purpose of a social feed is to allow more interactive and immediate feedback to the consumer. The sharing capabilities will keep the buzz growing, and without the buzz, Spotify would not be what it is today. The constant buzz we are exposed to feeds our desire to keep up with the industry trends and purchase the newest and most technological products. Therefore, it is necessary for Spotify to create tangible alterations to satisfy users and maintain brand loyalty. Having relational ties, both strong and weak, within social media is key not only to maintaining users’ brand loyalty, but also to having an edge in the music industry. It is crucial to have both strong and weak ties within social networks since type serve a different purpose. Granovetter claims, “Weak ties have an advantage over strong ties.” The individuals that we are “friends” with on Facebook are usually weak ties since it is typically nothing more than an online networking bond. By having weak ties, we are personally the “bridging tie” between the music industry and our acquaintances we have on social media networks. Therefore, by utilizing the music that we listen to on Spotify through Facebook, it will help the unknown become notorious, while also allowing new music to be shared and heard from user to user.

      The last recommendation for Spotify is to improve on bettering their business outlook by recovering their relationship with artists. In order to maintain a positive brand reputation, Spotify must find a way to pay artists fairly. “Spotify has been accused of failing to compensate artists fairly”, in which Spotify needs to offer more money to artists than what they are currently receiving (Hartwig, 2013). Spotify and artists need to collaborate when creating the licensing contracts so that it is a win for both sides. Making these changes to the site should help to position the company in a more stable situation.

            By making advancements to the social platform, Spotify will encourage an increase in user frequency and a more diverse consumer market. Spotify will continue to revolutionize the way that we encounter, listen, and discover music. Music has always been a form of self-expression, and the Internet has further expanded on a shift that our generation has been able to see. The shift from the use of musical device players to the streaming of music online has allowed an exponential amount of people to expressing themselves virtually. The wave of the future has arrived and Spotify is here to stay.

References

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Chandler, Nathan. How Spotify Works. How Stuff Works. Retrieved from

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDUCrsQeedU

http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/gadgets/audio-

Hartwig, Elisha. (2013). Spotify vs. Pandora: Which Is Better?. Mashable. Retrieved from

http://mashable.com/2013/03/01/spotify-vs-pandora/

Levy, Steven. 2011). Stephen Levy on Facebook, Spotify, and the Future of Music.

Wired. Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/10/ff_music/2/.

Söderström, Gustav. (2011). Stephen Levy on Facebook, Spotify, and the Future of Music.

Wired. Retrieved from http://www.wired.com/magazine/2011/10/ff_music/2/.

Soldinger, Peter. (2013). ‘Following’ Just Got Funkier Thanks to Spotify’s Music-ification of

Social Media. Product Reviews. Retrieved from http://www.digitaltrends.com/music/following-just-got-funkier-thanks-to-spotifys-music-ification-of-social-media/

Spotify. Retrieved from https://www.spotify.com/us/.

Stenovec, T. (n.d.). Myspace History: A Timeline Of The Social Network’s Biggest Moments.

 

 

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