October 16, 2014:Warner Music Group’s WEA buys streaming playlists startup Playlists.net

Warner Music Group’s WEA buys streaming playlists startup Playlists.net

img_kieron-donohue-2012-300x300British startup Playlists.net, which aggregates and recommends playlists created on streaming music service Spotify, has been acquired by Warner Music Group’s WEA label.

The major label snapped up the company, which currently has a collection of 150k playlists and attracts 1m unique monthly visitors, for an undisclosed amount.

We were approached by WEA earlier in the year to discuss ways in which we could collaborate and it became apparent that there was much to be gained by us joining forces,” said Playlists.net CEO Kieron Donoghue.

What’s really exciting is that WEA have committed to support Playlists.net as an independent platform, invest in its future and grow the team to take advantage of new opportunities in the streaming ecosystem.”

Donoghue will be staying with the service as it adapts to life within a major label. “This investment will enable Kieron to expand on his existing formula for success, as well as work to create new music experiences,” said WEA’s Larry Mattera.

The news isn’t a huge surprise: in July, tech news site TechCrunch reported that Playlists.net was “in talks with a number of ‘prominent music industry companies’ with one potential suitor currently in the lead”. We suspect that suitor may have been WEA, but if not, the label has trumped rivals to seal the deal.

Playlist-based curation is currently an area of intense interest for the music industry, with all three major labels already having their own sub-brands maintaining and promoting playlists on streaming services: PlaylistMe for WMG, Filtr for Sony Music and Digster for Universal Music.

Donoghue was early onto the idea, however, founding ShareMyPlaylists in 2009, a year after Spotify itself launched. He rebranded the company as Playlists.net in June 2013, reflecting the fact that while people were still using the site to share their playlists, an even greater number were visiting it to discover them.

In January this year, Playlists.net acquired a collection of Spotify playlists curated by rival startup Topsify to bolster its business, including the Topsify UK Top 40 Playlist, which was Spotify’s third most-streamed playlist in 2013.

In 2014, this kind of thing makes for a desirable business, especially in the UK since July, when the official singles chart started including streams as well as sales. “The future is here now. Owners of playlists with large follower counts can expect to be pitched priority tracks from record labels for inclusion,” wrote Donoghue in a blog post that month.

It’s definitely more common than you would think and there is a land grab happening right now with labels trying to build up playlist followers as quick as they can now that chart influence is finally here.”

Playlists.net is the second startup focused on Spotify playlists to have been acquired. Rival Tunigo was bought in May 2013… by Spotify itself – a deal that seemed to have closed off that particular exit path to Donoghue’s firm.

Ever since that deal, Spotify has been increasing the number of playlists created and curated internally, and giving them greater prominence on its service. That meant that Playlists.net was essentially competing with the platform that its business was based on, which is rarely a good situation for a startup.

However, Playlists.net was also forging its reputation as an expert in playlist-based marketing at exactly the point when the area was shooting up the priorities list for major labels.

In an interview with Music Ally in January after the Topsify acquisition, Donoghue talked about the way labels can use playlists for marketing, in what looks now like a canny pitch to labels on the merits of buying a company like Playlists.net.

“If you have a big catalogue of playlists with 1.5m followers and you seed a song into a set of them all at one time, you can see a big jump – that song will spike massively in terms of streams – which in turn can give you a push up the charts,” he said. “You can start to see this snowball effect, and we’re going to see more labels taking advantage of this as streams count towards the charts.”

ShareMyPlaylists talks Spotify, discovery and playlists as a music format

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Stuart Dredge
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