By now, you’ll likely have seen yesterday’s news about Spotify hiring BBC Radio 1 and 1Xtra head of music George Ergatoudis as its new head of content programming for the UK.
It’s a PR coup for Spotify, comparable to Apple’s poaching of Zane Lowe and several producers from Radio 1 earlier this year. Ergatoudis should certainly be an asset for Spotify’s ambitions to help bring more emerging artists to a wide audience.
The notion that streaming services need more radio people is well established now, and has been since Beats Music drew many of its launch curators from the radio industry.
In the UK, at least, Radio 1 appears to be the talent pool of choice. But that in itself should perhaps spark more debate on how the streaming services plan to expand their audiences.
Ergatoudis leaves a pair of stations focused on young listeners and emerging artists with pop/urban-leaning instincts to join a streaming service whose top five UK artists in 2015 were Ed Sheeran, The Weeknd, Drake, Sam Smith and Kanye West.
A good match, then, but perhaps not one that will expand Spotify’s remit drastically. (Update, as has been fairly pointed out, an alternative way of looking at this is that Ergatoudis has wider musical tastes that he’ll be tapping in his new role, which may well be part of its appeal for him.)
If Spotify needs to continue its march into the mainstream while cribbing from radio, Radios 2 and 6 (with their older mainstream / music-fan audiences), 4 and 5 (with their spoken-word focus) would make for just as interesting fishing grounds – yes, other broadcasters are available beyond the BBC.
None of which is a slur on the well-regarded Ergatoudis and the value he can bring to Spotify beyond the (significant) we-mean-business message sent out by the hire.
There are several reasons for Spotify to double down on curation around new music and emerging artists: to show the music industry it intends to break even more new acts; and to attract more young listeners away from YouTube.
But there is also a world of listeners outside that demographic who have still to be converted to streaming, and a world of radio professionals outside Radio 1 who could help. Spotify isn’t ignoring that world, as its November hiring of US country-radio veteran John Marks showed.
Our conclusion is more that while bagging big names from the UK’s most high-profile radio station makes headlines, as the Great Radio Drain to streaming continues in 2016 – which it certainly will – it will be the moves lower down the food chain around genres beyond pop/urban that will be just as crucial to the ambitions of Spotify and its rivals to make streaming the new radio.