The 3 stages of music discovery

Recently Spotify’s Daniel Ek introduced Spotify Discovery (read the wrap up here). In his speech he pointed out the benefits of context for music discovery. So just to pick up his point, here’s what I think are the three stages of music discovery – radically simplified.

1) User searches

2) Recommendations

3) Context

In the most simple form, music streaming services offer their users access to music. To find something to listen to they would have to enter a band or song into the search tool to find what they wanted to listen to.

In the next step, recommendations, the tool will suggest something to listen to. This may be based on the user’s history, other users, genre-classification or whatever.

The next stage adds an extra layer of context on top of that. Instead of just giving recommendations, the tool will add context – why should you listen to a given song or album.

Let’s see what comes next!

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Spotify introduces Discovery

The Spotify press event of Dec 6, 2012 is full of great feature announcements. Most importantly, Spotify has introduced their new Discovery page as well as their new Follow functionality.

As mentioned earlier, knowing what your friends listen to isn’t all that interesting. Much less does it help you discover new music. As Daniel Ek of Spotify puts it:

“Spotify today is great when you know what music you want to listen to – but not so great when you don’t.”

Check out the video of the press release (Spotify Discovery is mentioned about 16min into the vid), or read on for the highlights:

According to Ek, the biggest issue for Spotify users today is: “How can you help me figure out what I’m gonna listen to?”

The traditional approach to answering this question for online recommendations today is to present to the user a list of 500 items saying “Because you like this you might also like that.”

Spotify, on the other hand, wants to “make discovery even more seemless and intuitive” by making it “truely human” and “personal”:

“That’s not really how a friend would approach the problem. They would know what you like, and they would recommend you a few items instead – but with a ton of context.”

Hence Spotify wants to “give Discovery on Spotify the context that’s been missing”.

Whereas previously recommendations basically were just lists of songs, artist or albums (or just “cover art” as Ek puts it),

“Now in Spotify recommendations come with context for why they fit my tastes.”

The new Discovery page

He continues to present the new Discovery function on the web app:


The Discovery tab basically gives recommendations for artists or album based on your music taste.  However, there’s an extra layer of context. For example, it will give small artist biography for recommended artists. Or, it will tell you why an artist is suggested for you  (“You listen to Deadmau5. Check out Daft Punk.”). It will tell you when one of the artists you like releases a new album (“You might like this new release by Muse”), or reminds you of your old favorites (“Do you remember this song?”) – even based on your personal data such as your birthday.

Moreover, it integrates information such as upcoming concerts (from Songkick), reviews (from Pitchfork), or news about artists that I follow.

Basically, they take all the content that’s available via the Spotify app platform, and feed it into Spotify Discovery.

In summary, the Discovery page adds context and combines personalisation and recommendations to give users a more helpful and natural user experience.

Seems like quite a powerful tool to me if it’s done right. Looking forward to trying it out on my own!

Spotify Follow

Ek continues to argue that the best context that users can possibly get is a recommendation from a real person that you trust.

“Social has always been a very big part of what we do here at Spotify, but up until now finding people who can introduce you to music you cared about has been pretty hard.”

Even though “you had access to all your friends on Facebook”, but “there’s really only a handful of these guys that are amazing sources of music”. Hence Spotify has introduces a new follow functionality, which allows you to follow artists, music journalists, or companys in the music space. It works pretty much like facebook: once you follow someone, stuff they post will show up in your newsfeed.

The beauty of this really is that it a allows – like on Facebook – artist to communicate with their fans directly, be it sharing playlists or announcing new releases.

“Now artists can talk back and they engage their fans right where they already are, right when they are ready to try new music.”

Pretty cool stuff coming up I’d say!

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Do we really care what music our friends like?


Back in 2011 Spotify said that “Music is one of the most social things there is.” In what sounded like a threat they added “You’ll now start seeing new music posts and play buttons all over your newsfeeds.” And indeed, we did. Even when the posts became more balanced, I never really felt that it was that interesting to know what my friends were listening to (still far more interesting than pictures of food, offspring, or offspring eating food though. You know who you are!).

The other day I came across this article by Robert Andrews where he concludes:

“For me, music is not “social” but is, in fact, the most personal cultural artefact imaginable. So, when Spotify has shown me what my friends are listening to, I just realise this — I love my friends, but I hate their music.”

I think he’s absolutely right – of all possible sources of music recommendation, “what my friends listen to” is probably the least relevant one.

But what’s the real reason for the facebook integration?

I doubt that giving people valuable music recommendations is really the reason why Spotify wants to flood our newsfeeds with music posts. The real reason – and far more compelling at that – is probably just to get some buzz and visibility on facebook, be it relevant or not. If I see 10 times a day that someone in my network listens to SOMETHING on SPOTIFY, there’s a chance that once I decide to try online streaming Spotify’s going to be the first thing that comes to my mind.

In other words, Spotify is currently in the growth stage of the product life cyle. The advertising focus during that phase is typically to build awareness in the mass market (see Kotler’s classic ‘Marketing Management‘ or one of the summaries (e.g.).

In conclusion, Spotify does the absolutely right thing in terms of marketing their product. Helpful recommendations, however, are an entirely different story.


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Spotify moving into A&R?

Musically quotes Daniel Ek, CEO of Spotify, indicating that Spotify will move more into A&R in the future:

[Y]ou’re going to see us doing more and more to break acts and try to really promote them as well. (source)

Interesting development.

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WiMP enters German market

After the music streaming services Rdio, and Deezer only recently entered the German market, yet another player will join the merry crowd : WiMP (yes… let’s hope they change their name for the English-speaking market!) is the name of the service, and users beta access can be requested on their German website

So what are they bringing to the market? As Thor Martin Jensen, Global Editorial Manager of WiMP said on, editorial content will be at the core of the service. Also, their plan is to allow the music industry to participate in the development of the service.

According to Musikmarkt, WiMP the editorial content will come in the form of playlists, recommendations and other editorial content that’s targeted at the German music market. In addition to offering the latest releases, WiMP will also focus on allowing users to “rediscover the back catalogue”.

Let’s see how that goes. By the way, Spotify, where art thou?

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How to get 2,000 likes in 12h

Deezer UK today pulled quite a trick today: They got about 2,000 (from 499,508 to 501,503) likes in less than 12h.

So here’s what happened: this morning Dezzer tweeted to their 3,200 followers (@DeezerWorld (2,574 followers), @deezeruk (549 followers), @DeezerIRL (95 followers), but not by @deezer with 271,709 followers)

#Deezer is currently at 499,508 likes on Facebook. Go on, help us reach a half a million milestone. ()

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Piracy is the new radio?

Piracy is the new radio. That’s how music gets around.
(Neil Young at the D: Dive Into Media conference, via

As much as I appreciate Neil Young as an artist, I very much don’t agree with this sentiment. For one, if a song is played on the radio, the artist gets royalties. Second, the radio, as opposed to pirated music, is not a substitute for a CD or a legal download (turns out home taping is, after all, not killing music).

Pirated music, on the other hand, is quite a good substitute, as the popularity of piracy demonstrates.

His point is that pirated music may help to promote music. But if music “got around” by piracy, very few people would still buy CDs or legal downloads.

It may not be a perfect substitute, but it’s good enough for most people.

Furthermore, for an established artist such as Neil Young the small number of people that would still buy CDs and go to concerts may be enough to pay his rent, but it would not allow newcomers to survive.

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Social media campaign for new Tom Waits album

The latest Tom Waits album “Bad As Me” (ANTI) has been launched last year with quite a remarkable social media campaign that deserves some credit:

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Here’s the order of events

  • Aug 16, 2011: First announcement of upcoming news on Aug 23 (reminder on Aug 22)
  • Aug 23, 2011: Video clip with Tom Waits announcing new album release on Oct 25, contains snippets of new songs
  • Aug 30, 2011: Title track “Bad as me” free stream; pre-order CD, deluxe CD, LP
  • Sep 27, 2011: Single “Back in the Crowd” available as (paid for) download
  • Oct 04, 2011: Track “Back in the Crowd” free stream
  • Oct 11, 2011: Announcement: Full album for streaming available on Oct 17. Mailing list signup. Reminder on Oct 14 (“the only way you will be able to hear the new album (…) before it is released”)
  • Oct 17, 2011: Full album available for streaming; only available to people on mailing list (who received an invite code by email). People with invite codes can invite 5 friends (see below)
  • Oct 18, 2011: Interview on
  • Oct 18, 2011: Invites code available until Friday (Oct 21)
  • Oct 21, 2011: “Listen with Friends”: Set of local record stores listening parties (US only)
  • Oct 24, 2011: Album available in stores (CD, deluxe limited edition CD (+3 songs), LP
  • Nov 01, 2011: Interview on
  • Nov 08, 2011: Video for “Satisfied”
  • Nov 23, 2011: Deluxe limited edition CD “available again”
  • Jan 03, 2012: “Best album of 2011” award by Metacritic
    (Unfortunately, as of today, the album is not yet available for streaming on Spotify.)

Here’s a few more screenshots from the invitations campaign:

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Rhapsody Acquires Napster International

Rhapsody announced on Thursday that they have acquired Napster International, i.e., the non-US branch of Napster, which is currently operating in the UK and in Germany.

Unlike in the US, where the Napster brand is put on ice, Rhapsody will retain the Napster brand in the UK and Germany, because of its high brand awareness. The service as such will be replace by Rhapsody technology though, and Napster subscribers will be migrated to Rhapsody’s infrastructure by March.

After more than a decade in the US market, the music streaming pioneer had bought Napster US  from its owner Best Buy back in October 2011. With the acquisition of Napster International, Rhapsody now for the first time moves to foreign territory, shortly after Spotify entering the US market last year.

Rhapsody says they have over 1 million paying subscribers, compared to 3 milion that Spotify claims to have (see yesterday’s post).

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