If you’ve been following the music on popular Spotify playlists, you probably noticed your screen is playing more than audio: In fact, for a while now, Spotify has been testing videos in its most popular playlists. I’ve been seeing vertical lyric videos on Spotify, with lyric interpretation from Genius.com, or artist interviews and anecdotes. This is because Spotify is now actually pushing out a new mixed style format video for the songs on popular playlists. It’s almost like YouTube meets Spotify, meets Wikipedia meets Genius.com and it got me thinking a lot.
One of the biggest criticism of playlisting and streaming is that it lacks the ‘soul’ of records, when we would buy an actual physical CD and vinyl, and look at the artwork and read the lyrics. Many music executives have pointed out how a playlist by itself has no interactivity or context by itself, so it’s very important to create a connection between artists and fans.
Officially, Spotify has had a video program for a long time, where the app was focused on creating original video content just like Netflix. In theory, the idea was great and videos would include interviews, freestyles, behind-the-scenes footage and full-length music videos. Moreover, the feature would offers exclusive videos and new music from the artists that listeners follow. Seems that Spotify was going to reach out for the fans and to build engagement, rather than just playlist click numbers. They wanted fans to actually experience and to be a part of the music.
However, last year things changed when Bloomberg reported Spotify was canceling upcoming episodes of its original video series and halting development of any unreleased ones. According to this report, Spotify is exploring a new format unique to its platform called “Spotlight,” that combines audio, images and video into a single, seamless experience.
Spotify executives have publicly stated that they want to keep users on the platform during their entire music experience. In fact, a report in Billboard stated that “they want to keep fans and listeners on its platform across the entire discovery and consumption funnel, beyond just the initial stream”:
Brittany Lewis, Spotify’s video programming manager for hip-hop, delineated RapCaviar’s [A Popular Hip-Hop playlist on Spotify] aggressive ambitions to keep fans and listeners on its platform across the entire discovery and consumption funnel, beyond just the initial stream. “We want you to eat, sleep and shit RapCaviar,” she said. “I don’t want you to listen to ‘Love Scars’ [by Trippie Redd] and then go to YouTube. I want to license a video from Trippie directly and make the best original content with him.
Right now video feature is controlled exclusively by Spotify for its in-house playlists. This means that when major labels wanting to get their artists interviewed, they will have to go through its original-content division. But what if Spotify could ultimately open up this feature to independent artists? This could be huge for a lot of musicians, it could completely reshape the future of video.
As a last thought, with Spotify, video in playlists could also create major opportunities for ads on Spotify’s free tier (essentially turning it into YouTube). Of course, the Premium users would go without viewing the ads, which would create extra revenue for Spotify. It is unclear in this case if this extra revenue from video will be passed along to artists or not.
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Alper Tuzcu is a Berklee College of Music and Denison University alumni, and a Boston based guitarist, songwriter and producer. His new album ‘Aurora’ was be released on October 19, 2018 and his debut eclectic album ‘Between 12 Waters’ featuring 8 different vocalists is available on Spotify. In addition to being a musician, he regularly teaches workshops and masterclasses internationally. You can follow him on Instagram or Twitter, and for more information you can visit his website www.alpertuzcu.com