Spotify has launched two new radio shows in its ‘Originals’ series.
The shows are called AM/PM and Secret Genius, and are both available as Spotify playlists, alternating spoken-word interview segments with songs chosen by their famous guests.
AM/PM features musicians talking about the music they listen to in the mornings and evenings, with two playlists per show. Artists already featured include Tinie Tempah, Wolf Alice, Jean Michel Jarre, Terry Hall, Lianne La Havas, The Maccabees, Ricky Wilson, Alexis Taylor and De La Soul.
Secret Genius focused on songwriters, interviewing them about their work and collaborations. Some of them are artists too – Ryan Tedder and James Blake – but others are more behind the scenes: Nick Van Eede, Ed Drewett and Nicky Chinn.
The two shows follow the debut last year of In Residence, a series of radio-style shows featuring Jungle, Big Narstie and Sex Pistol Steve Jones. As with those shows, AM/PM and Secret Genius have been overseen by Spotify’s Rob Fitzpatrick.
“There’s an experimental edge to what we’re doing: let’s try this out and give it a go,” Fitzpatrick told Music Ally. “These are ways of testing out ideas. And AM/PM is an artist-friendly way of doing that without it becoming a thing that turns into a slog for them.”
Spotify has worked with independent radio production companies for the two new interview-focused shows: Cup and Nuzzle for AM/PM and Grape for Secret Genius. Fitzpatrick used his experience with In Residence for the new projects.
“In Residence was wonderful, but it was a bit ‘Christ Almighty, how are we going to do this?’ Some people really went for it, and some people just spoke into GarageBand and did a few things,” he said.
“AM/PM and Secret Genius are fully realised shows: great to listen to, full of little titbits, and proper [radio] beds and editing. And what I really like about the shows is you get a real sense of who these people are. They’re talking about things they genuinely love, not just whatever’s hot this month.”
The new shows can be discovered through the Spotify Originals profile on the streaming service, which has more than 100,000 followers. Fitzpatrick said that the individual episodes will also get “a big social push”, as well as showing up in the results when people search for participating artists on Spotify.
He was also enthusiastic about Secret Genius’ emphasis on songwriters, and the ability to “talk to people who very often don’t get spoken to” in the music media.
“We’ve got Scott English lined up, a brilliant guy who wrote a song called ‘Brandy’ that became ‘Mandy’ by Barry Manilow. He’s one of those people that wrote an amazingly-popular song that’s never gone away. Also Don Black, the lyricist for James Bond themes and all kinds of other films,” he said.
“These people are at the top of their profession, but the vast majority of people [music fans] have never heard of them. Yet they have great stories to tell. You get a real sense of how their creative world works.”
Spotify’s interaction with the business world of songwriters has had its bumpy moments recently, to put it mildly. Two class-action lawsuits in the US have revealed serious issues with the company’s approach to mechanical licensing, which it is now trying to untangle.
Shining a light on songwriters through Secret Genius is a positive thing, but we’re sure it will also generate criticism along the lines that fully licensing and paying royalties for songwriters’ works is even more important.
That’s not a topic Fitzpatrick can address directly: his job at Spotify is making original content, rather than dealing with its publishing licensing.
Making a show like Secret Genius doesn’t (and shouldn’t) alter the debate about Spotify’s licensing responsibilities, but equally, that debate doesn’t mean the company’s content team couldn’t or shouldn’t be experimenting on songwriter-focused ideas.
“The idea was born from a purely editorial place – there was no sense of doing anyone a favour. It’s really a format for story-telling for people who, sometimes, don’t get a chance to tell their story. The publishers I’ve worked with so far have liked the idea as they know how much talent they have on their books that don’t get many chances to talk about what they do and how they do it,” said Fitzpatrick.
“It does have an element to it which is ‘let’s be supportive of songwriters’. These people have got really interesting stories to tell, and often a fundamentally different perspective on success. So it is about wanting to shine some light on them.”
The launch of AM/PM and Secret Genius come as part of a wider drive by Spotify to develop original, exclusive content on its service – a drive that also includes a slate of video shows announced in May.
Fitzpatrick says he’s open to more pitches from radio (and by extension, audio/podcast) producers with interesting ideas that will work well on Spotify.
“The sign above the door says ‘Open for Business’. I’m totally in the business of hearing people’s ideas for things,” he said. “We want to keep experimenting to find shows that our listeners love.”