Spotify started out as a legal way to stream popular music. Then he flirted, unsuccessfully, with being a video company as well. Now he’s trying a new identity: He wants ordinary people, not just people you’ve heard of, to start uploading songs and podcasts – and then he wants to make money getting those songs and podcasts out to many, many more people.
Spotify still wants the biggest stars in the world on the service. That’s why he spends most of his money on licensing contracts with the big sheet music, and why he paid a ton of money to sign the podcast king Joe Rogan last summer . And he also works with Barack Obama; the service has just announced that Bruce Springsteen and the former president have a new Spotify podcast where they talk about “modern day humanity. ”
But the main message was behind the Spotify advertising event held on Monday, where the company announced a series of new products and several new podcasts, aimed at a much larger group of musicians and podcasters who will not be able to famously at the Obama level, or even a little bit famous: Spotify wants them all to upload the content to Spotify.
Spotify believes it can make money by distributing that content to hundreds of millions of people through a combination of advertising and membership dollars. In theory, some of that may come back to the people who made the stuff in the first place.
After the event, I spoke to Spotify content head Dawn Ostroff, a veteran of the magazine and TV industry, about Spotify’s big picture secrets and how it is leading the transition from content distributor to content owner. And, most importantly, how he handles the challenges of being an Joe Rogan employer.
Here is an edited transcript of our conversation:
What is this event aimed at? It seemed to remind us of the video streaming events that companies like Apple and HBO and Disney have put in over the last year or so – kind of aimed at investors, but also for investors. practice.
In reality, we are trying to reach creators. For us, it was about being able to show where we came from and where we plan to go for creators.
When you think back to what Daniel is [Ek]there was an early mission and vision for Spotify, which is how we connect millions of artists and creators with billions of users. This explained that we have come a long way, we still have a long way to go, and where we are on the journey. And also to be able to communicate with the creators of the various tools, the different products we have, to help and support them on our journey in terms of not only creation, but monetization, and of course accessibility.
There has been a long-running conversation with Spotify and creators / artists, back to the earliest days, where artists complained that they were not getting value out of Spotify but Spotify was getting value from them. How much of that debate has informed what you do today – both the way you talk to artists and what you do for them?
Well, we have contracts with the labels. That has become very clear: People know what we pay, out of our income, to the artists and their labels. But I think part of what Spotify is all about is democratizing a kind of distribution for artists so they can try, create, and hope to grow. Because there is so much room for artists who are not necessarily the best artists in the world. And similarly for podcasters, there is plenty of room for people interested in podcasts, who are not the world’s leading broadcasters.
And the idea that you can make the platform global in a way that music transcends all boundaries and boundaries, and similarly, we see that with podcasts – it’s for him really uniting the world.
You do not need to look beyond the performance of the main registration forms. The music catalogs are going for the highest numbers. Hundreds of artists are now earning millions of dollars from Spotify alone. And that is part of what we wanted to be able to show today.
One thing that has changed since Spotify started is the way users and certainly regulators view major technical platforms. Feelings were generally positive about them, and now there is much more suspicion about them. Your own complaint is about Apple – you say it has too much power. But it strikes me that, on hearing, Spotify has so much power that there is likely to be even more skepticism about its causes, and what happens when you give your data or lifestyle to Spotify.
To begin with, compared to Google, Amazon, or Apple, we are still very small. We are not in that league. But we are particularly focused on audio. And there should be competition for the tech giants. And that is what we are. We are competing for them in this one area.
Since we’re talking about the giants: For years, Apple was not interested in making a business out of a podcast. He seems to have woken up – I believe because of Spotify – and now it looks like he has plans to invest in a podcast and offer a paid podcast service. What do you think of Apple starting to compete with you in a podcast?
I can’t comment on their plans. And honestly, I have no idea what their plans are. But we think any company that spends money on the audio space is smart. We think the audio industry is still growing – we’ve seen an explosion, but we don’t think we’re near a plateau yet.
You’ve spent nearly $ 1 billion on podcast and content startups. When Spotify first started buying podcast assets, you said you might spend $ 500 million in your first year. Do you think you continue to spend at this cookie?
Our goal is to keep growing. I can’t comment on the actual figure. But we follow it because it works.
When Spotify signed Joe Rogan, people like me were wondering what would happen when Joe Rogan offends someone, and that has happened. And it looks like some of the people working at Spotify.
What kind of conversations did you have about no matter what kind of blow Rogan was going to generate? And did those conversations cover what would happen if your own employees were upset?
Regarding Joe: It has been adhered to the same policies that everyone else at our platform has to follow. And for us, it’s about having a diverse voice of people, for a global audience – a wide and diverse group of people who listen to Spotify. And it happens to be very popular.
I can’t comment on our internal conversations, but discussion is also a big part of the corporate culture within Spotify. And it happens not only with something like Joe Rogan but it happens with different areas of our industry. It is nothing new to us.