Spotify launched its ‘On Repeat’ algo-personalised playlist in September 2019 alongside ‘Repeat Rewind’. Both were designed to serve up tracks that individual listeners had played frequently – in the last month and earlier than that respectively.
Now Spotify says that ‘On Repeat’ has generated more than 12bn streams since its debut: more than 750m hours of listening time. Which, given that it’s been just over 18 months since the launch, means a devilish average of around 666m streams a month from the playlist.
Why is Spotify trumpeting the numbers? Because it is opening up ‘On Repeat’ to brands. It’s becoming the second personalised playlist after ‘Discover Weekly’ to be made available for sponsorship – in this case in 30 countries. TurboTax, in the US, is one of the first to take advantage.
It’s another step in Spotify’s stated ambition of competing with radio for advertising dollars (and listeners: the ‘play stuff you recently liked’ dynamic of ‘On Repeat’ is very much geared towards that audience). The company is keen to kickstart more growth in its advertising business, including driving it to become a bigger percentage of Spotify’s overall revenues.
Understanding even more about its listeners to target those ads is a key part of that strategy, but there’s a controversy bubbling around some of Spotify’s efforts on that front. US digital civil rights group Access Now has written to Spotify criticising a recent patent filing by the company about tech to detect emotion, gender and age using speech recognition.
It sets out its concerns including emotion manipulation, gender discrimination, potential privacy violations and data security issues. “This technology is dangerous, a violation of privacy and other human rights, and should be abandoned,” wrote the organisation. “Spotify users deserve respect and privacy, not covert manipulation and monitoring.”
It’s a sign of the sensitivities around the technologies that Spotify hopes will power features that keep its listeners happy, as well as bringing in more advertisers. The past decade’s experience with Facebook, Google and other big tech companies has sharpened digital privacy campaigners nose for potential overreaches in this area, and Spotify is certainly big enough now to attract their attention.
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