Spot If I am right about the future of Spotify.

As usual, the writing of this post was accelerated due to current events, namely the excellent new version of Spotify’s iPhone app.

But that’s not actually what I want to talk about today. In fact, there’s a much bigger picture here involving the brutally buzzwordised concept of “music-as-a-service”.

Ek-sactly what I was thinking

Everyone should be familiar with the Spotify app by now (and if not, email me for an invite) and some of you may even be avidly bopping away to the iPhone version- a much more powerful experience for the jailbroken contingent.  And Spotify CEO, Daniel Ek seems quite happy with this situation, explaining to Tech Crunch that “applications are better for swift music playback” and describing a strategy where the Spotify app may fill the role of quality music player in everything from mobiles to set-top boxes and games consoles.

However, the long term potential goes so much deeper than this.  If Spotify can get on top of their currently nascent API, couldn’t it become a way of accessing any music, any where, any time in familiar format?  This is a concept that should be familiar to anyone who has accessed their iPod music from other apps on the iPhone OS.

Sentimental Playlists

Ek himself has said that “playlists are the new mixtape” and to our generation, universal access to your collection may hold great currency.  At the same time, it keeps customers loyal to one service over another- if I have everything lined up in Spotify already, I may think twice before switching to the inevitable iTunes Cloud.  At the same time, Spotify integration in alternatives like the freeware Songbird or Doubletwist could help them steal marketshare from the iTunes goliath.

Indeed, by reaching users and potential subscribers in a variety of locations, this is the company’s best chance of touching a wider demographic.


So really what we’re looking at is Music-as-a-service.  For a trifling £9.99, I can listen to anything, on any device, at the touch of a button. Nostalgia on demand.

Okay, so it’s early days.  For now, I can forgive Daniel and co. while they break America and thrash out a few more licensing deals to flesh out the catalogue.  But from what I can see, all that can stop them is lack of infrastructure- something that I hope the peer-to-peer elements help them with in the face of Apple’s clear (but still mysterious) investment in the area.

One thing’s for sure, time is running out to get there first…

By Max Tatton-Brown

Max Tatton-Brown is founder and MD of Augur, and has written for publications including the Guardian, Sifted and TechCrunch.

2 replies on “Spot If I am right about the future of Spotify.”

Music as a service is important, but Spotify seems to have shirked away from it over the past 6 months. Where once the company would issue a small update every month or so, there’s been no significant desktop functionality added for a long time now. The only recent update has been the (long-awaited) addition of scrobbling for the iPhone app, which bizarrely hasn’t yet been rolled out to Android customers.

Comments recently made by CEO Daniel Ek suggest that he doesn’t like the release early, release often model so beloved of the likes of Google, instead favouring big releases very infrequently.

As a result, the next version of Spotify is probably somewhere far away for Europeans – most likely being held back for a release that co-incides with the launch of the US offering – which keeps getting delayed and delayed.

Its communications strategy has changed significantly too – to a more arrogant Apple-y “don’t talk to anyone ever, unless you have to” approach.

While Spotify’s great, it’s certainly not perfect. There’s a hell of a lot of functionality that users want from it, which it’s not delivering. That’s a problem, and it’s starting to affect its fans.

I’d suggest looking at – free music distribution site where full albums / LPs can be downloaded. The late Jay Bennett of Wilco was a contributor here, so the business model of music for free can work.

The issue I see with Spotify is the business model behind it. For the artists providing the music which ultimately drives the service forward, the return from Spotify is very small compared to other vehicles for their product to be delivered. Everyone has probably read the Lady Gaga example, but this link – – is also another good resource.

Spotify has to overcome the gap between “music is free” and “music has value” or it runs the risk of not filling the middle ground between huge established artists with back catalogues that fund their current work, and the musician-as-amateur that only makes music for the love of it. This may be stretching the argument a bit, but looking at the current economic model and blog arguments that are ongoing, this middle ground – those artists that are up and coming, and those music fans that are looking for this kind of artist – is going to be the worst served by the evolution of how music as a product is being delivered.

And Music-as-a-Service? You’re showing your IT PR roots 🙂

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