In September 2018, Spotify started testing a new tool for artists to upload their music to its platform directly, without needing a distributor, let alone a label. At the time, the test was with “a few hundred” US-based artists, with plans to expand it in the future.
Or not. Today, Spotify has announced that it’s closing the upload beta program – as in shutting it down, rather than opening it out to a standard feature for all artists.
“Today, we notified participating artists about our decision to close the beta program, along with how we can help them migrate their music to other distributors over the next month,” explained a post on the Spotify for Artists blog.
(Note, this is unlikely to be a big disruption, since the vast majority of artists in the beta will have already been working with distributors to get their music onto other streaming services.)
The temptation to see this as the shutdown of a feature that raised the hackles of some labels, at a time when Spotify is preparing to renew its licensing deals, is nigh-on irresistible.
However, Spotify’s stance is (to paraphrase) that this was always a test that the company wanted to learn from; that it has, indeed, learned from it; and that the lessons point towards a different strategy now.
“The most impactful way we can improve the experience of delivering music to Spotify for as many artists and labels as possible is to lean into the great work our distribution partners are already doing to serve the artist community,” is how the blog post put it.
“Over the past year, we’ve vastly improved our work with distribution partners to ensure metadata quality, protect artists from infringement, provide their users with instant access to Spotify for Artists, and more.”
There was more: “The best way for us to serve artists and labels is to focus our resources on developing tools in areas where Spotify can uniquely benefit them — like Spotify for Artists (which more than 300,000 creators use to gain new insight into their audience) and our playlist submission tool (which more than 36,000 artists have used to get playlisted for the very first time since it launched a year ago). We have a lot more planned here in the coming months.”
The beta program will stop accepting new uploads from the end of this month (July), with artists in the program being offered discount codes from Spotify’s ‘preferred’ distributors to ease any transition.
For now, any additional behind-the-scenes drama impacting on Spotify’s decision remains a mystery – and in any case, the music industry is possibly too busy rubbernecking at the Scooter Braun / Taylor Swift / Big Machine Label Group farrago to get its gossip on.
However, it’s fair to posit that the decision to close the beta and focus on distributor partnerships and other tools for artists and labels does remove one of the potential sources of friction amid those licensing-deal renewals.