Spotify has gone through three distinct stages in its drive to dominate the music streaming business, according to Spotify creative director Rich Frankel.
At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Frankel explained that data was the big thing that had led to these changes, and turned Spotify into a much better product over its 10-year lifespan.
The three stages Frankel outlined were:
- Utility — 2008
- Curation — 2013
- Personalisation — 2015
In 2008, Spotify provided you with essentially one thing: access to (most of) the music you wanted. It was a seemingly limitless library of music right at your fingertips. The problem was that Spotify didn’t really know what you liked. And for many people, the anxiety of staring at a search bar and not knowing what they wanted to play next limited how much they loved the service.
For music geeks who were used to doing their own discovery, this was fine. But for people used to listening to the radio, this seemed like a ton of work. They were more comfortable with radio services like Pandora.
Around 2013, Frankel says Spotify moved heavily into the area of curation. This means things like playlists designed by music specialists, tailored to a different set of likes and dislikes. The problem with this was that, even though Spotify knew some data about you, it wasn’t able to give you a personalised playlist that it knew you would love.
2015 and beyond
This all changed with the introduction of “Discover Weekly.” The feature, which debuted in July 2015, delivers a personalised playlist to its users each week on Monday morning. The playlist runs about two hours long and is assembled by Spotify’s algorithms. “Discover Weekly” has become cult hit, and we’ve seen users get very upset when it doesn’t update.
Frankel says all these changes come from how much data drives Spotify as a company. If Spotify can understand what you want to listen to — and fast — you’ll keep coming back.
Looking into 2016, Frankel says that “context is everything.” Spotify’s newest goal is to know what mood you are in, what you’re doing, where you are etc so that it can serve you up what you want to listen to.
This is how it plans to use data to win the battle against competitors like Apple Music.