Spotify for Artists wants to woo musicians with real-time data

Audio-streaming service Spotify generally gets mixed reviews. On one side of the fence are satisfied customers (like me), who gladly pay $10 a month to access an effectively limitless supply of music. Many artists are less keen on the idea, citing paltry payouts from streaming services, and a general inability for new and struggling musicians “to even keep their lights on” when relying on these new music distribution models.

Spotify for Artists is the streaming service’s answer to those complaints. It’s a new tool designed to help artists make sense of the digital morass, letting them leverage the power of Spotify’s listener data to figure out in real time what Spotify subscribers are listening to.

Artists will be able to sift through Spotify’s data and figure out what gets fans grooving.

Spotify has a lot of data at its disposal. As of March the service boasted 24 million users around the globe, each one a potential fan. Artists and their managers will have access to a dashboard that serves up real-time information on when and where their music is being streamed, the age and gender of their fanbase, and their music’s popularity over time. That information could prove vital to any band planning a concert tour—or, my inner cynic remarks, brainstorming their next chart-topping hit.

But this is about far more than data. Spotify’s reputation is at stake here, as the service relies on artists being willing to license their music. The Spotify for Artists site works at length to remind artists that it pays 70 percent of all the revenue it receives right back to rights holders in the form of royalty checks based on individual contracts.

Further still, Spotify reminds us all that the average American is a bit of a cheapskate: Only about 45 percent of the U.S. Internet population pays for music, and customers spend an average of only about $55 a year on online music buys. A Spotify Premium subscriber pays $120 a year, ostensibly generating more revenue for the music industry, where it’ll eventually trickle into a minstrel’s pockets.

Spotify still has a long way to go. Of its 24 million subscribers, only 6 million pay the price for Premium—the rest sit through advertisements, which pay out significantly less.

Oh, what a wonderful world (provided everyone subscribes to Spotify).

Spotify’s grand vision is to grow its user base to a size closer to those of juggernauts like YouTube and iTunes—all the way up to 40 million paying subscribers. A Spotify bolstered by that many premium users would be a force to be reckoned with, and would put a lot more cash into the pockets of artists and record labels.

And besides, as more people jump on board and realize just how easy it is to use Spotify, they’ll never bother pirating music again! Yeah, right.

The lofty goals Spotify hopes to hit will happen only if fans open their wallets, and artists open their minds to lower payouts with the promise of something better for everyone later. I remain optimistic. Spotify for Artists is a huge step in the right direction that lends quite a bit of transparency to the nebulous world of music streaming. But the service may improve things only after Spotify’s competitors sit up and take notice.

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