Can Spotify / Genius lyrics deal be more than a gimmick?


Spotify already has one music-lyrics partner: Musixmatch. Now it has a second: Genius – the company formerly known as Rap Genius.

The pair are teaming up for an initiative called ‘Behind The Lyrics’, based around playlists curated by Spotify and Genius.

It’s starting with a hip-hop playlist, with a ‘hits’ one to follow later this week. Pusha T, Tinashe and Diplo have also been roped in to create their own Behind The Lyrics playlists too, focusing mainly on their own tracks.

“Tracks on these playlists will include lyrical excerpts, fun facts, annotations, and stories straight from the artists and from the Genius community,” explained Spotify.

For now, the feature only works within the company’s iPhone app, with users encouraged to “watch your screen as you listen” to see the Genius content popping up.

Genius said the partnership is based on its new ‘Fast Track’ feature – “like a soundtrack… but with more facts!” – which is also available on the Genius website.

“The knowledge in these Fact Tracks comes from, but we did some extra work to time them to the music,” wrote co-founder Tom Lehman. “The goal is to crowd-source Fact Tracks, but we couldn’t do it for the initial launch… we’ll be rolling out updates about how everyone can create Fact Tracks soon.”

Two thoughts on all this. First, the ability of Spotify’s app to show contextual content for songs that are playing. There’s more potential here, from sucking in recent social updates and photos from artists, to displaying some of the buried metadata from tracks (songwriters, for example), to pointing listeners in the direction of those artists upcoming gigs and merchandise – the latter feature mainly lives on artist profiles at the moment.

Second, though: the challenge of persuading people to look at their smartphones while using Spotify, versus stashing them away in their pocket, or using other apps on the device.

Getting listeners to watch what has previously been a static-artwork screen is a behavioural change, but if Spotify can manage it, this could bolster its business in other ways – getting advertising seen as well as heard, for example.

But let’s see how listeners react. One of the key trends in streaming right now is the move towards radio-style lean-back listening: hit play on a playlist without having to then interact too much. That would seem to go against the idea of leaning forward to read pop-up lyrics annotations throughout a song, particularly on a smartphone.

The Spotify and Genius partnership may be a gimmick that gets quietly forgotten by 2017, but the potential is there for it to be more.

Stuart Dredge

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