Why the new Spotify UI makes no sense. A rant.

A while back I’ve been whining about the lack of a decent music collection management Spotify. In the past months, Spotify has worked quite a bit on their UI and have changed their interface a lot. Sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. Bottom line however: the music collection management is still freaking useless.

Disclaimer: the following contains a lot of SHOUTING and CURSING. Sorry about that. But I’m really really passionate about my music player, and just hate to see that Spotify, which I otherwise LOVE, can’t seem to get their sh*t together.

So here we go: First, there’s the SONGS tab:

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Last.fm partners up with Spotify to offer on demand plays

Spotify Last.fmGreat news! Last.fm partners up with Spotify to again offer on-demand plays:

We’ve teamed up with Spotify to bring their entire catalogue, on demand, to the world’s leading music recommendation service.

About two years ago, Last.fm had dropped their on-demand plays, to “focus on the features that make Last.fm unique — scrobbling, personalised radio, and being the online home for your music taste”, or, put differently, CBS wanted to cut the costs so they decided to save the royalties.

Well I’m glad they’ve finally come up with this solution! The integration works pretty well, too: if you hit the play button on last.fm, Spotify is opened in the background to play the track. Smooth. What’s great, too, ist that on a “Top Tracks” list, such as the one below, the entire list is put in a Spotify-playlist.


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Free mobile version of Spotify to be introduced

According to the Wall Street Journal, Spotify is about to introduce a free mobile version.

The new ad-supported offering will allow nonpaying mobile users to play a limited number of songs on demand, but will mostly serve up music based on the user’s input, much like custom radio services such as Pandora.

This move makes a lot of sense.

The usual path of a Spotify user was to get the free desktop version and then they would eventually upgrade to premium. Either because of the ads or because of the mobile version which is currently limited to premium users.

But given that traditional computers are on the wane, Spotify is slowly losing their only channel for users to upgrade.

Of course the free mobile version will cannibalize some of the premium users. But how many users are there that would pay €10 for the full mobile version, that would swap that for a free radio service (with only limited on-demand songs)? Probably not many.

Hat tip for getting that deal with the record labels though. Must have been a nightmare to negotiate.

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New Artist website from Spotify gives interesting insights into business model

Exciting stuff going on over at Spotify: Today a new website for artists, www.spotifyartists.com, was introduced. On this website, Spotify gives – among other things – some interesting insights into their business model.

Spotify Revenue Model

So basically, Spotify take all the revenue from paid subscription and ads, keep 30% and multiply the rest by the times the relative number of streams of an artist. This is what the label gets. The artist ends up with whatever is left after the label takes their cut as negotiated in the individual contracts.

So Spotify does not pay per stream, but rather pays according to the formula above (i.e., in relation to an artist’s relative popularity on Spotify). Of course it’s possible calculate the per-stream payout ex-post:

Recently, these variables have led to an average “per stream” payout to rights holders of between $0.006 and $0.0084.

Has anybody calculated yet how that compares to CD sales? Taking into account – and I believe that’s crucial – the long-term revenue stream? As far as I can see it one of the key differences is that Spotify will create revenue for every stream, long after the last CD has been sold. I’ll take a closer look at that…

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Just ran into Spotify 3,333 track limit. Not happy.


About 90% of the time I use Spotify on my mobile. However recently I just so happen to travel a lot in regions with a bad network. ‘No problem’ I thought, ‘Luckily there are Offline Playlists in Spotify’.

This worked quite well for a while, however I quickly ran out of space on my phone. Since I’m on iPhone I didn’t just get a new 64GB sdcard for 20 quid, no! I bought an iPod just as Steve Jobs would have wanted me to.

Anyway, so I decided to get all my playlists – and I have quite a few ones – offline. After a while however, syncing stopped and all I got was red exclamation marks next to my songs, indicating that they could not be saved offline.

After a bit of  research I quickly found in the Spotify FAQ:

You can sync a maximum of 3,333 songs per device and stay offline for up to 30 days. (source)

Well this sucks balls. Some might point out that those 3,333 songs are about a week’s worth of music, but that’s not the point: If you are a music junkie and want to carry around your entire music collection (which you could on an iPod) than those 3,333 songs (or about 250 albums at an average of 13 songs per album) are just not enough.

Why on earth would they impose such a limit in the first place? Well, as one of the forum admins suggests:

The limit is down to the licensing agreements Spotify has with the record labels. (source).

Funny thing is that Rdio or Deezer do not have such limitations. Even if Spotify was the first in the game and go a worse deal then their followers, now would be a good time to re-negotiate some of the contract’s parameters.


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One thing I still miss on Spotify is a convenient way build your music collection. I may be old fashioned, but what I basically want is to have a collection of “my albums” in one place so I can browse through my music and decide what I want to listen to.

Since there’s no way to do that in Spotify right now, I currently build my collection using playlists and playlist folders: I basically create a collection for every album, then put all those album into a folder called “Collection”. Since there’s no way to sort playlists alphabetically, I have to do that myself – manually. So while it kind of gets the job done, it is quite inconvenient and cumbersome – and takes ages. Here’s what it looks like:


Looks quite alright and is reasonably convenient – once it’s set up. Also, there’s no way to do this within the iPhone app at all, so when I’m travelling I have to wait with my organizing until I log into my Windows app on my laptop.

I really wish Spotify would start offering a solution similar to Rdio. Rdio has done a great job allowing for this use case:


Really super slick and it works great!

Back in December 2012 Spotify announced they were going to introduce collections as well. As of now, however, they sadly still haven’t found their way into Spotify.

However, it seems like they’re working on it: Try entering “spotify:app:collection” into the Spotify search bar (thanks to the Spotify forum for the tip). You’ll see an early draft of the Spotify collection:


Alas, it’s not quite a music collection a I would imagine it, as it only contains albums “Recently Added” and “Most Played”. Still, it is a start, and hopefully Spotify will continue improving on it.


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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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Facebook launches ‘Listen with Friends’ Feature

Facebook announced on their blog a new real-time group music listening feature called “Listen with Friends”:

Look for the music note in the chat sidebar to see which of your friends are listening to music. To listen with a friend, hover over their name, and click the Listen With button. The music will play through the service your friend is using. (source)

Judging from the screenshots among the first services to make us of this are Spotify and Rdio.

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