We’re not in New York. We’re in London, at Spotify’s simulcast of its New York press conference for journalists and industry folk. CEO Daniel Ek is going to announce a “new direction” for the streaming music service – it’s expected to involve a beefed-up API and partners creating apps on top of it.
Read on for the details. The event has now finished, so we’ve switched the text below to chronological order.
5.14pm: While we wait for Ek to take the stage, here’s the Wall Street Journal’s well-sourced leak on what’s likely to be announced tonight.
5.15: He’s on. “You’ve all come to know Spotify even though we’ve only been around for a short period of time. This is the first event like this we’ve ever held. I really wanted to do this so we could talk about three things.” First: background and mission of the company, second is its move into social, ad third: its new features.
5.17: Ek kicks off with a “brief history of digital music”, starting in 1981, and the first CD to come off the production line (Abba, since you ask). Then he fast forwards to Napster. “It really introduced all these cool new bands like Beatles and Zeppelin to me, which was great. But the big problem was it wasn’t legal.”
5.19: He says there are 500 million people listening online: “And very few of them doing it legally… You need a better product than piracy to get people paying again… It means all the music, totally reliable, it means fast and easy to share… And it’s all about access. Can I play my music everywhere?”
5.20: Ek talks through Spotify’s tiered business model: Free and Premium. “When you think about it, it’s really portability that people are paying for, as opposed to buying music just to listen in front of their computers.” He adds that Spotify now has a catalogue of 15 million songs, and is adding 20,000 tracks a day.
5.21: “The Spotify revolution is really to make access as an alternative to ownership… Really just three years in, but we’ve already become the second biggest digital revenue source for all the labels in Europe behind iTunes. And we’ve paid out more than $150 million to the music industry so far.”
5.23: Ek moves on to his second point. “We’ve already grown to 10 million active users,” he says. “We have over 2.5 million subscribers.” Both of these milestones have already been announced, we should point out. Spotify is now live in 12 countries, having added Denmark, Belgium, Austria and Switzerland since f8 – with seven million users having been added since September alone.
5.25: “Spotify is about getting people to listen more and share more music,” says Ek, referring to the recent deeper Facebook integration. “People are sharing more music than they did before, and the most interesting way that they’re doing this is really through playlists.” Spotify users have created more than 500 million playlists so far – “and that number has doubled since just July. Playlists are kinda like the new mixtapes.”
5.27: “The ultimate goal here is to be as ubiquitous as the CD< but with all of the obvious advantages of being digital.”
5.28: “We thought long and hard about what the next big step in music ought to be,” says Ek. “We felt that the true core of Spotify is making all the music available instantly and being the best music player. Plus there’s only that much that Spotify itself can do… Today, Spotify brings music to the party. Today, we become a totally integrated platform.”
5.32: Partners include Rolling Stone, Songkick, The Guardian, Billboard, TuneWiki and others. But Ek introduces Jann Wenner from Rolling Stone to share the stage – suited and booted. “We think that Spotify is one of the great new developments in music in recent years,” he says. “We think Spotify is like the ultimate jukebox… It’s elegant, it’s fast and it just works.” APPLE SLOGAN KLAXON.
5.33: Wenner is delivering a good pitch for Spotify, but what is Rolling Stone doing? “For us, to launch on Spotify is an excellent opportunity to integrate music into our website, our magazine… to be with music fans wherever they are engaged.” Not many details, in other words.
5.35: Back to Ek, who shows off some apps, starting with Rolling Stone, which “brings us an editorial voice to Spotify, which is something our users have always asked us for”. That means albums, songs and playlists recommended by the Rolling Stone staff. He moves on to Last.fm, which is also providing recommendations.
5.37: Next up: TuneWiki, whose app shows the lyrics as a song plays in Spotify. And then Songkick, which takes people’s music library – “everything I’ve been listening to” – and suggests gigs they might want to go and see. Much like its iPhone app, in other words, but presumably based on someone’s Spotify listening history and/or playlists.
5.40: Spotify is also using its apps platform itself to add new features to Spotify, with two shown off by Ek tonight. On the right-hand side of the desktop app, people still see their friends, but they can now add their “favourite friends” – the ones they actually share musical tastes with. The right-hand pane has also been tweaked to work more like Facebook’s news ticker – real-time information on what friends are actually doing on Spotify, rather than simply their names.
5.42: “We have a lot more in the works. But more than anything we really look forward to being surprised by developers. We believe they’re going to deliver amazing new apps within the Spotify platform…”
5.45: All of the apps will live within Spotify – “we believe that’s a more beautiful and seamless experience, and it gets us closer to the song as well”. So it’s not like Facebook Connect, working on external sites. “All of these apps will be available no matter whether you’re a free or a paid customer. It really doesn’t matter here.”
5.46: Any plans to link band profiles with their merch sites and other vendors? Ek says it’s early days, but hints that labels and artists will be able to create their own apps in the platform too.
5.47: What does the new platform mean for mobile apps – will they be able to take advantage? “It’s a great question, but… we look at this first and foremost to be on the desktop, because that’s how we’ve always rolled out features before. But if this becomes as successful as we hope… Spotify is really platform-agnostic. It really doesn’t matter for us.”
5.49: Do app partners get a revenue share from this, or will there be paid apps? “This is really something we’ve done because we believe this was missing,” says Ek. “We’re creating this platform really knowing that it’s the early days and we’ve got to figure things out along the way… We believe we have a ton of users who want to find out more information about music, like buying concert tickets… Right now, there’s really no monetisation within the Spotify platform.”
5.51: As Spotify scales, does it have a sustainable business model? “We pay every time someone plays a song,” says Ek. “For us, we don’t feel that those are onerous terms in any shape or form. We’re very happy with how our model is performing… We are paying out the vast majority of all the revenues, and that’s really how we wanna keep going.”
5.52: And that’s a wrap!