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Spotify Turns 15 – My How You’ve Grown!

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(Hypebot) — As the streaming giant celebrates its 15th birthday, Fred Jacobs looks back on how Spotify has been able to grow and adapt to keep up with an ever-changing music economy.

Guest post by Fred Jacobs of Jacobs Media Strategies

As birthdays go, your 15th is not one of the big ones.  That’s reserved for your “Sweet 16,” turning 21, and then all those birthdays that end with a “0.”  Those are the ones you remember.

But we should be paying attention to Spotify’s recently celebrated birthday – “the big 1-5” – because it should serve as a reminder to all of us in media – specifically, audio – that it’s not just about having that one great idea.  It’s about innovating – with a vengeance – every damn day of your existence.

Spotify may still be a little rough around the edges, but they’ve invested their available capital in research and development – and it’s paying off.

A great story in Variety last week – “15 Years of Spotify: How the Streaming Giant Has Changed and Reinvented the Music Industry” – by Kristin Robinson says it all.

Not many adolescents earn that headline, but Spotify is serving notice on all audio players (radio broadcasters, are you listening?), and they’re taking no prisoners.

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They keep developing new innovations that keep their subscribers happy, while reminding the competition they’re in it to win it.

Robinson lists some of Spotify’s most impactful moves since 2006 when Daniel Ek started it all.  Here are a few of my favorites that serve as reminders that there’s no laurel resting when it comes to today’s digital media marketplace.

Mood playlists – In yesterday’s post, we talked about the phenomenon that takes music out of “old school” radio formats and move it into playlists that reflect emotions.

Where else do you get playlists with names like “feel free,” “all we have is now,” “desert voices,” and “to be, or not to be.”

Some will say it all started with “mix cassettes” or “party tapes” back in the ’70s, but someone in Sweden was paying close attention.

The fact that anyone can become a curator has also democratized Spotify, leading to the next effect…

Anybody can become a star DJ – Now, you don’t have to be on the radio (or be a program director) to be a music influencer.  As Robinson points out, Spotify’s team of “editors” can have the modern-day effect of “breaking a record.”

Labels vie to get their songs added to some of Spotify’s most popular playlists.

As Robinson writes, “Carl Chery, who replaced Basa, and Ned Monahan, who oversees Today’s Top Hits and New Music Friday, along with Antonio Vasquez for Viva Latino and Lizzy Szabo for the alt-leaning Lorem, have found themselves in a taste-making role not worlds away from the one formerly held by radio DJs.”

Spotify has created the best end-of-the-year list ever – That’s the one about YOU.  This truly innovative feature personalizes your music listening over the past 12 months.

Now called “Spotify Wrapped,” it is a popular gift from your audio streaming provider.  And of course, Spotify customers are compelled to share their lofty (and embarrassing) tastes with each other – all over social media.

Storytelling is alive and well – While critics – including many of us in radio – have underestimated Spotify because “it’s just a playlist service,” it is anything but that.

Now artists share their musical stories on “Spotify Clips,” a feature that accompanies some playlists.  It allow musicians to post videos geared to hardcore fans, the ones who just have to have those backstories of their favorite songs.

Spotify has tapped into something big here – something that radio used to do so well, from Casey Kasem to Jim Ladd.

Music in podcasts – This one may go down as one of Spotify’s biggest accomplishments – providing podcasters with licensed music they can integrate in their shows.

They broke this innovation last year, utilizing their recently purchase of Anchor.  If this one becomes a scalable reality, it will revolutionize podcasting.

And here are two for the road because Spotify has the car in its crosshairs:

Spotify’s morning show – We’ve blogged about the “Daily Drive,” a clever way Spotify puts together personalized collections of music and podcasts for the commuting consumer.

These curated “shows” are popular ways to get to work.  And for radio execs who might scoff at the idea that an audio streaming company could challenge radio, think about how many times you pulled out of the garage, your morning show goes into commercials, and you don’t hear any of the content you like for 10 minutes – which in traffic, feels like hours.

Spotify’s voice in cars – The newest innovation – released last week – proves that Spotify did not take its “birthday month” off.

“That Car Thing” is an in-vehicle device that makes it easier to listen to Spotify.  And the “wait list” to buy one ($80) is growing fast.

It’s a touch screen with voice commands so that drivers can more easily enjoy Spotify content.  And according to Chairman Ek:

“Our focus remains on becoming the world’s number one audio platform — not on creating hardware — but we developed Car Thing because we saw a need from our users, many of whom were missing out on a seamless and personalized in-car listening experience.”

So, don’t bother with trying to find an appropriate gift for young Spotify this year – or the next or the next.

They are busily reminding us that you get to the top – and stay on top – by never failing to do something innovative.

Rust never sleeps.

Fred Jacobs President & Founder at Jacobs Media

Fred Jacobs founded Jacobs Media in 1983, and quickly became known for the creation of the Classic Rock radio format.

Jacobs Media has consistently walked the walk in the digital space, providing insights and guidance through its well-read national Techsurveys.

In 2008, jacapps was launched – a mobile apps company that has designed and built more than 1,300 apps for both the Apple and Android platforms. In 2013, the DASH Conference was created – a mashup of radio and automotive, designed to foster better understanding of the “connected car” and its impact.

Along with providing the creative and intellectual direction for the company, Fred consults many of Jacobs Media’s commercial and public radio clients, in addition to media brands looking to thrive in the rapidly changing tech environment.

Fred was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 2018.

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