Spotify is no longer just a music streaming service. At a mega event in New York, Spotify has launched a bunch of new features, including video streaming and original content, in a bid to become an entertainment hub for its users.
Before the event, there was a fear that Spotify might cancel its free music plans due to pressure from record labels who were allegedly having their arms twisted by Apple. Apple is reportedly debuting its Beats Music streaming service soon, and Spotify’s new features seem to be the first shot in an upcoming war for your ears.
Video Killed the Radio Star
As the champion of the music industry, it’s a bit of a surprise to see Spotify get into the on-demand video business. Is there room for it alongside Netflix and YouTube? Only time will tell. For now, Spotify seems to want to retain the user in its app for as long as possible, which, according to The Guardian, seems to be the reason behind pushing more content like video.
The video content is broadly separated into two categories. Spotify’s original videos will be all about music, either explaining the process behind trending albums or doing something fun with the medium.
For example, comedian Amy Pohler’s Smart Girls initiative will be coming up with a new dance move video every day. A show called A Full English will bring together musicians and celebrities in other spheres, talking about their arts over breakfast. And The Drop complements the music you are listening to, by letting artists share the stories behind their albums.
Meanwhile, Spotify has also tied up deals with video giants like Disney, ESPN, Comedy Central, NBC Universal, VICE, TED, and others. Select shows and talks will be available to watch at any time. The roster includes some impressive names, like The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, X Games, How Stuff Works, and a whole bunch of news clips from different sources. Plus, TED is making custom playlists of their inspiring and uplifting talks for Spotify.
For Your Ears Only
On the music front, Spotify has more original content in the same vein as its videos. The company has introduced podcast support and already tied up deals with several prominent podcasters, including The Nerdist, one of the funniest podcasts on the planet.
Spotify will also have original audio shows, such as a radio show hosted by artists called Presenting. I’m particularly looking forward to Incoming, a show hosted by Billboard Magazine editor Joe Levy where he talks about the best new music.
The company hasn’t forgotten what made it so popular though. Music is still at the heart of the new update, and you will find it front and center as soon as you open the app.
The new start page, “Now”, learns your musical preferences and figures out the best tunes for you based on the time of the day. So from a Monday morning pick-me-up list to a post-lunch acoustic session, Spotify will leverage its data about you and selections from in-house experts to come up with smart playlists catered to your taste and mood.
Ready? Get Set. Go!
The big news in terms of music at this launch was Spotify Running. It’s a fantastic concept. Look, a lot of us geeks could use a push to start running for fitness and fun. Music is the best companion when you’re running and Spotify knows that.
So once you start running, the app will now detect your tempo and play songs that match your steps. Initially, this feature will only be rolled out on the iPhone, which makes sense. The dedicated motion detector chip makes the iPhone great for fitness fanatics, and Spotify is going to use that to make sure you get the best music on your runs. Win-win. That said, the motion detector is only available on the iPhone 5s, 5c, 6, and 6s, so it remains to be seen how accurate Spotify Running will be on older phones, or Android devices.
Again, the selections Spotify plays will be based on expert recommendations and your past choices, so the music should be something you like to listen to. And in a few months, Spotify will be teaming up with Nike as well as RunKeeper, which is one of the best apps to set exercise goals.
The new Spotify features are being rolled out to iPhone users in the U.S., UK, Germany and Sweden. People with iPhone in other countries will only get Spotify Running right now, and the other features will be introduced in the coming months.
Download: Spotify for iPhone (Free)
As for Android or Desktop/Web players, you’ll have to wait. “In the near future” is the most Spotify is willing to say right now, so patience is clearly going to be key.
Thoughts About the New Spotify
These are significant updates and features from one of the world’s largest music streaming services, so naturally, they have prompted a combination of raised eyebrows and loud cheers.
Re/code’s Peter Kafka says this move make sense for Spotify, since video content means video ads, which is its main revenue source for free users. And Spotify has 45 million free users right now, compared to 15 million paid users. However, he warns that music labels aren’t happy with this move, so we haven’t seen the last word on it yet.
However, that is industry talk and not as relevant to us end users right now. For us, it’s still the fact that Spotify now has so much video content for free. And yes, all of the above content will be free, as none of it requires a Spotify Premium membership.
There is a worry that Spotify might be turning into a jack of all trades, without a tremendous uplift in the actual user experience.
“Being served Broad City video clips by Spotify is marginally more convenient than switching to YouTube, sure, in the same way that it’s easier to be fed a few raisins than it is to walk to the fridge for a mouthwatering bunches of grapes. It’s also true that the feature bloat that comes with trying to be everything to everyone causes apps and services that were once very good and streamlined and smart to become a hot mess.”
Is Spotify Doing Too Much?
What’s your take on Spotify’s new features? Are you happy to be getting so much more content for free? Or would you prefer Spotify concentrated on its core business of streaming music? Please let us know your thoughts in the comments below.