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Rdio, please don’t die!

Rdio LogoAccording to Techcrunch, Rdio is laying off people – allegedly up to 35 people or 25% of the work force –  “to improve its cost structure and ensure a scalable business model for the long-term”, as TC quotes a Rdio spokesperson.

In other words: Rdio’s investors are getting cold feet thinking about the burn rate. Which is quite understandable in a way.

Seeing that Spotify and Deezer seem to be putting a lot of investments in improving their service (see my recent posts on Deezer and Spotify) I have my doubts that now is a good point to start cutting investments – least of all in engineering, where reportedly “significant cuts” have been made.

Also, if the number of (paying) users are falling behind expectations, cutting your marketing budget isn’t going to help either.

On a more personal note, I really really don’t want Rdio to day, as I’ve just decided to move over from Spotify. In my opinion, the app is superior in many ways, as I’ve discussed recently.

So Rdio: PLEASE DON’T DIE!

22
Nov 2013
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Deezer introduces “Personal Music Feed” and “Deezer Editors”

Deezer just introduced the “Personal Music Feed” as well as “Deezer Editors”. Here’s a quick wrap up on what it’s all about, and how it compares to Spotify.

The feed can be found as “Hear This” within Deezer. Looks pretty good – and quite similar to Spotify Discovery, released back in May.

In the FAQ Deezer gives a few more details on how the newsfeed is generated:

“There are several types of recommendations:
– choices based on your listening habits
– selections from the Deezer Editors around the world
– new music from artists you love
– Deezer Sessions, Deezer Apps. and partnerships
– suggestions from your friends”
(source)

With the Personal Music Feed, Deezer tries to give their users a richer experience of music discovery. The big challenge Deezer tries to solve of course is to help their user find new music, without having to actively search for it.

(more…)

22
Nov 2013
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Just ran into Spotify 3,333 track limit. Not happy.

Spotify_exclamation

About 90% of the time I use Spotify on my mobile. However recently I just so happen to travel a lot in regions with a bad network. ‘No problem’ I thought, ‘Luckily there are Offline Playlists in Spotify’.

This worked quite well for a while, however I quickly ran out of space on my phone. Since I’m on iPhone I didn’t just get a new 64GB sdcard for 20 quid, no! I bought an iPod just as Steve Jobs would have wanted me to.

Anyway, so I decided to get all my playlists – and I have quite a few ones – offline. After a while however, syncing stopped and all I got was red exclamation marks next to my songs, indicating that they could not be saved offline.

After a bit of  research I quickly found in the Spotify FAQ:

You can sync a maximum of 3,333 songs per device and stay offline for up to 30 days. (source)

Well this sucks balls. Some might point out that those 3,333 songs are about a week’s worth of music, but that’s not the point: If you are a music junkie and want to carry around your entire music collection (which you could on an iPod) than those 3,333 songs (or about 250 albums at an average of 13 songs per album) are just not enough.

Why on earth would they impose such a limit in the first place? Well, as one of the forum admins suggests:

The limit is down to the licensing agreements Spotify has with the record labels. (source).

Funny thing is that Rdio or Deezer do not have such limitations. Even if Spotify was the first in the game and go a worse deal then their followers, now would be a good time to re-negotiate some of the contract’s parameters.

 

12
Nov 2013
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Y U NO HAVE COLLECTIONS, SPOTIFY?

One thing I still miss on Spotify is a convenient way build your music collection. I may be old fashioned, but what I basically want is to have a collection of “my albums” in one place so I can browse through my music and decide what I want to listen to.

Since there’s no way to do that in Spotify right now, I currently build my collection using playlists and playlist folders: I basically create a collection for every album, then put all those album into a folder called “Collection”. Since there’s no way to sort playlists alphabetically, I have to do that myself – manually. So while it kind of gets the job done, it is quite inconvenient and cumbersome – and takes ages. Here’s what it looks like:

DIYcollection

Looks quite alright and is reasonably convenient – once it’s set up. Also, there’s no way to do this within the iPhone app at all, so when I’m travelling I have to wait with my organizing until I log into my Windows app on my laptop.

I really wish Spotify would start offering a solution similar to Rdio. Rdio has done a great job allowing for this use case:

RdioColl

Really super slick and it works great!

Back in December 2012 Spotify announced they were going to introduce collections as well. As of now, however, they sadly still haven’t found their way into Spotify.

However, it seems like they’re working on it: Try entering “spotify:app:collection” into the Spotify search bar (thanks to the Spotify forum for the tip). You’ll see an early draft of the Spotify collection:

SpotifyCollection

Alas, it’s not quite a music collection a I would imagine it, as it only contains albums “Recently Added” and “Most Played”. Still, it is a start, and hopefully Spotify will continue improving on it.

 

04
Nov 2013
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Spotify Discovery now live

Spotify Discovery, announced back in December (and mentioned here) is now live for the web player:

“The Discover page is available from today on our brand new web player which is now available to all users. Just head over spotify.com on your computer to try it out. We’ve also started to gradually roll out the Discover page to users on our desktop and mobile apps. When we’re ready to update your account, you’ll receive a notification.” (source)

01
Jun 2013
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Spotify Follow now live

Spotify just posted that Follow,  announced back in December is now live.

Now on Spotify, you can follow all the people who turn you on to the music you care about. Find out what friends and artists are listening to in real time, and check out the music that matters to the trendsetters in your life.

27
Mar 2013
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The 3 stages of music discovery

Recently Spotify’s Daniel Ek introduced Spotify Discovery (read the wrap up here). In his speech he pointed out the benefits of context for music discovery. So just to pick up his point, here’s what I think are the three stages of music discovery – radically simplified.

1) User searches

2) Recommendations

3) Context

In the most simple form, music streaming services offer their users access to music. To find something to listen to they would have to enter a band or song into the search tool to find what they wanted to listen to.

In the next step, recommendations, the tool will suggest something to listen to. This may be based on the user’s history, other users, genre-classification or whatever.

The next stage adds an extra layer of context on top of that. Instead of just giving recommendations, the tool will add context – why should you listen to a given song or album.

Let’s see what comes next!

22
Mar 2013
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Spotify introduces Discovery

The Spotify press event of Dec 6, 2012 is full of great feature announcements. Most importantly, Spotify has introduced their new Discovery page as well as their new Follow functionality.

As mentioned earlier, knowing what your friends listen to isn’t all that interesting. Much less does it help you discover new music. As Daniel Ek of Spotify puts it:

“Spotify today is great when you know what music you want to listen to – but not so great when you don’t.”

Check out the video of the press release (Spotify Discovery is mentioned about 16min into the vid), or read on for the highlights:

According to Ek, the biggest issue for Spotify users today is: “How can you help me figure out what I’m gonna listen to?”

The traditional approach to answering this question for online recommendations today is to present to the user a list of 500 items saying “Because you like this you might also like that.”

Spotify, on the other hand, wants to “make discovery even more seemless and intuitive” by making it “truely human” and “personal”:

“That’s not really how a friend would approach the problem. They would know what you like, and they would recommend you a few items instead – but with a ton of context.”

Hence Spotify wants to “give Discovery on Spotify the context that’s been missing”.

Whereas previously recommendations basically were just lists of songs, artist or albums (or just “cover art” as Ek puts it),

“Now in Spotify recommendations come with context for why they fit my tastes.”

The new Discovery page

He continues to present the new Discovery function on the web app:

WebPlayerDiscovery

The Discovery tab basically gives recommendations for artists or album based on your music taste.  However, there’s an extra layer of context. For example, it will give small artist biography for recommended artists. Or, it will tell you why an artist is suggested for you  (“You listen to Deadmau5. Check out Daft Punk.”). It will tell you when one of the artists you like releases a new album (“You might like this new release by Muse”), or reminds you of your old favorites (“Do you remember this song?”) – even based on your personal data such as your birthday.

Moreover, it integrates information such as upcoming concerts (from Songkick), reviews (from Pitchfork), or news about artists that I follow.

Basically, they take all the content that’s available via the Spotify app platform, and feed it into Spotify Discovery.

In summary, the Discovery page adds context and combines personalisation and recommendations to give users a more helpful and natural user experience.

Seems like quite a powerful tool to me if it’s done right. Looking forward to trying it out on my own!

Spotify Follow

Ek continues to argue that the best context that users can possibly get is a recommendation from a real person that you trust.

“Social has always been a very big part of what we do here at Spotify, but up until now finding people who can introduce you to music you cared about has been pretty hard.”

Even though “you had access to all your friends on Facebook”, but “there’s really only a handful of these guys that are amazing sources of music”. Hence Spotify has introduces a new follow functionality, which allows you to follow artists, music journalists, or companys in the music space. It works pretty much like facebook: once you follow someone, stuff they post will show up in your newsfeed.

The beauty of this really is that it a allows – like on Facebook – artist to communicate with their fans directly, be it sharing playlists or announcing new releases.

“Now artists can talk back and they engage their fans right where they already are, right when they are ready to try new music.”

Pretty cool stuff coming up I’d say!

13
Feb 2013
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Do we really care what music our friends like?

spotify_hearts_fb

Back in 2011 Spotify said that “Music is one of the most social things there is.” In what sounded like a threat they added “You’ll now start seeing new music posts and play buttons all over your newsfeeds.” And indeed, we did. Even when the posts became more balanced, I never really felt that it was that interesting to know what my friends were listening to (still far more interesting than pictures of food, offspring, or offspring eating food though. You know who you are!).

The other day I came across this article by Robert Andrews where he concludes:

“For me, music is not “social” but is, in fact, the most personal cultural artefact imaginable. So, when Spotify has shown me what my friends are listening to, I just realise this — I love my friends, but I hate their music.”

I think he’s absolutely right – of all possible sources of music recommendation, “what my friends listen to” is probably the least relevant one.

But what’s the real reason for the facebook integration?

I doubt that giving people valuable music recommendations is really the reason why Spotify wants to flood our newsfeeds with music posts. The real reason – and far more compelling at that – is probably just to get some buzz and visibility on facebook, be it relevant or not. If I see 10 times a day that someone in my network listens to SOMETHING on SPOTIFY, there’s a chance that once I decide to try online streaming Spotify’s going to be the first thing that comes to my mind.

In other words, Spotify is currently in the growth stage of the product life cyle. The advertising focus during that phase is typically to build awareness in the mass market (see Kotler’s classic ‘Marketing Management‘ or one of the summaries (e.g.).

In conclusion, Spotify does the absolutely right thing in terms of marketing their product. Helpful recommendations, however, are an entirely different story.

 

17
Jan 2013
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Spotify moving into A&R?

Musically quotes Daniel Ek, CEO of Spotify, indicating that Spotify will move more into A&R in the future:

[Y]ou’re going to see us doing more and more to break acts and try to really promote them as well. (source)

Interesting development.

14
Feb 2012
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