Marketing

The Battle of Billie Eilish: Spotify, Apple and YouTube scrap it out


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Original content is a big strategic focus for the major streaming services in 2019, as is ‘claiming’ as many rapidly-emerging artists as possible, in terms of creating said original-content for and with them.

Billie Eilish, whose debut album ‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?’ is out today, looks set to become one of the case studies for how an artist can benefit from the DSPs’ willingness to battle to be associated with them.

We’ve already reported, in February, on YouTube making Eilish the first artist to get one of its new ‘mini series’ documentaries: the first episode has been watched nearly 3.5m times so far, while the second has 2.1m views.

Then, last week, Apple Music came out swinging trumpeting its own support of Eilish, citing more than 800,000 ‘pre-adds’ of the new album on its service. “For Billie in particular it’s really exciting because she is such a big part of the Apple artist community and someone the whole company has really rallied around,” said Apple Music boss Oliver Schusser.

That interview was a very-deliberate jab at Spotify: “While most services focus the majority of their efforts around playlists, Apple Music still emphasises albums because we understand their value as a storytelling tool for artists to create context around their music,” said Schusser).

But today, we can see Spotify’s riposte to that suggestion, with a multi-pronged campaign around the release of ‘When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?’.

First, there’s a ‘Fans First’ vinyl release for the album: a £21.99 picture-disc promoted via a mailout to Eilish’s top fans on Spotify in the UK and Ireland, as an exclusive. Second, there’s a physical “enhanced album experience” – a pop-up exhibition, basically – at Skylight Row in Downtown Los Angeles, which opens to the public today until the end of the weekend.

“Every song from Billie Eilish’s album will come to life with each of her tracks being given its own room in the space resulting in 14 unique fan-driven experiences,” as the blurb puts it.

Billie Eilish ExperienceAnd third: the album is getting its own ‘multimedia playlist’ on Spotify itself, promoted on the service’s home-screen. At the moment, it’s the album (audio) tracks plus some videos. Spotify says that it’ll showcase “new product features” too: “This playlist will allow for vertical video content, custom assets, and editorial storylines all with the goal of creating more meaningful and engaging context for Billie’s fans.”

Music Ally isn’t picking sides here: Apple Music *does* have a longstanding record of supporting Eilish (and not just because it bought the company, Platoon, which helped her first break through).

Spotify *does* do interesting, innovative things around albums – and the nature of its multimedia fandango for Eilish raises the prospect that the playlist, as a format, might be able to enhance ‘the album’ rather than rival or destroy it. YouTube is a good platform for Eilish, and so is Instagram, and so on.

The sight of DSPs falling over themselves to be associated with and to create content and experiences for an artist is what’s interesting and encouraging here, even though few artists can hope for this scale of cross-DSP push.

Our hope, though, is that the effort and thought being put in to these kinds of ‘storytelling’ campaigns at the top end of the artist pyramid *will* have an impact further down, with product features and learnings that other musicians can use to properly connect with fans, rather than just being another line on a playlist.

Stuart Dredge

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