Make Spotify Better

February 11, 2013 § 2 Comments

I guess alternatively stylized as Sp°tify

Per the Media Summit I checked out at the end of last semester, Spotify is the music listening service that’s going to save the industry and save the world. I definitely dig what they’re doing. Here’s how it could be even better:

Difficulty Level: Easy

I was a Spotify Free user for a while, then clicked an ad that said “Try 30 free days of Spotify Premium.” That was cool for a few months, but then recently I made the switch back to Spotify Free.

I don’t mind that all the ads came back. I do mind that a lot of the ads say “Try 30 free days of Spotify Premium,” only when I click them, I’m taken to a page that explains “Sorry, you’ve already used up your free 30 day trial.”

Why serve broken ads like this to users? Clearly there’s data on me somewhere that says “already used his premium trial.” It’ll also be tough to induce me to another run at Premium via a second 30-day trial (a tactic that Netflix seemed to employ heavily for its ex-users).

Difficulty Level: Medium

Tabbed browsing.

Really, with the ability to look up artists, switch between discographies and bios, flip between apps, and more, the Spotify desktop app is as much an Internet browser as it is a music media browser. If I’m in the middle of reading up on The Flaming Lips’ biography, and want to change tracks, why should I need to hit the back button a half dozen times to get back to what I was doing? Even the much-maligned Internet Explorer 6 has peripherals that allow for tabbed browsing. And according to Wikipedia, that was released in 2001.

Difficulty Level: Medium

Literally the only reason why I ever open iTunes anymore is to download Podcasts. Because for some dopey reason, as far as I can tell, that’s the only way to download anything from the ESPN audio library (you can stream it from their website otherwise).

This seems like it’d be an easy thing to add, but I get why introducing Podcasts has some kinks. I think there are some premium podcasts which you have to pay for, which wouldn’t really jive with the current Spotify setup. Perhaps more importantly, the podcast might last 30-60 minutes without affording an opportunity for commercial interruption…so maybe it’s something exclusively available to Spotify Premium users? Is it better to pretend that Podcasts don’t exist, or drive customers to get their fix from 3rd parties? Wouldn’t you rather have your users camped on your application for as long as possible?

Difficulty Level: Medium

Spotify touts that it’s a tremendously powerful engine for music discovery. True, no question. But given that this is a focus, it seems a bit strange that you can’t really search for a music genre through Spotify’s search bar. A query of “hip hop” results in a few tracks (“Hip-Hop Saved My Life” by Lupe Fiasco, “Hip Hop Hooray” by Naughty by Nature, etc.), then a few user-created playlists, then a few artists (in this case, I guess, “Hip Hop Beats” and “Top 40 Hip Hop Hits” are listed as artists) and finally a few albums (Classic Hip-Hop, R&B: From Doo-Wop to Hip-Hop, etc.)

I suppose you can kind of do the music genre discovery thing by proxy of an app. The Soundrop app, for example, has a bunch of user-curated radio stations based around different themes like Electronica, Dub Step, Hip Hop, Indie Rock. My guess is that a Spotify Genre result page would look somewhat similar to whatever the top ranking user-created playlist is—a bunch of songs by various artists in the genre, just default sorted by popularity instead of by one individual’s whim. Is there some chance that Spotify doesn’t have genre information coded in? That’d make this harder. But generally, I just don’t see why Spotify should have to or want to depend other parties for this functionality. (H/t Casey.)

Difficulty Level: Hard

An extra $10 a month out of pocket, standing on its own, feels like kind of a big deal.

But bundled in and obscured under some other significantly larger recurring payment?

One of the biggest value-adds of Spotify Premium is that it enables the full-featured mobile application. What if the $10 to Spotify Premium was just baked in to the $100-whatever you’re already paying to AT&T for your phone+data plan? Only 10% more to have access to every song in the Spotify library? Not as daunting.

In addition, you’ve got the fact that cell phones generally lock users in to 2-year contracts, and have notoriously abysmal customer service. Once AT&T is Spotify’s operator, I’d imagine user attrition rates depreciating precipitously.

*UPDATE* I just saw an ad suggesting that I can route the balance of my Spotify Premium subscription to my Sprint bill. Which is neat, and it’s close to what I’m envisioning, but not quite. I was thinking more along the lines of opting for a type of Spotify account the same way you’d opt for a bigger or smaller data plan, or number of anytime minutes, or whatever the options are these days. This would give Spotify more of a consumer-facing presence on the carrier’s store- and web-front, as well as (hopefully) serve to really lock users in long-term.

Difficulty Level: Extreme

Same idea, bigger game.

Spotify could obliterate the car radio. Like SiriusXM, but way better.

Ideally, you’ve got a unit that replaces the radio, has a steady 3G/LTE/whatever connection, and lets you play whatever you want, whenever you want. If that’s too much into the futuristic/unfeasible end of the spectrum, then maybe just a hard drive that can download all the songs you ever want while the car is in the garage and connected to your WiFi at home.

Paying an extra $10 on the $X00 a month for the car, and utterly perfecting the radio? Knockout.

Difficulty Level: Extreme

On a preliminary level, it seems like there’s a pretty strict upward limit to the amount of revenue Spotify can generate on a per user basis: $9.99/mo. No matter how much music I consume, that’s the price of the Premium account.

How might Spotify upsell (price segregate?) its most avid fans?

Perhaps there might be some premium apps in the app store which users pay extra for. For reference, Apple generally takes a 30% cut of all sales made through the iTunes store.

Perhaps there are other goods that Spotify can sell. A custom poster based on my listening history over the past 12 months? Could Spotify traffic users to buy concert tickets and take a small cut of those sales?

Perhaps there are bigger subscription bundles Spotify might be able to offer. Competitor Rdio, for example, has family plans available—you can buy two accounts for $17.99/mo, or three for $22.99/mo. Perhaps this also addresses some market of people who share a single Spotify Premium account. I don’t know many friends who do this with Spotify, but then again, it feels like everyone I know does this with Netflix accounts (sorry I watched House of Cards using your account last week, Kevin).

I consider all of these options extreme, by the way, since they generally fundamentally alter the way users interact with the platform, rather than just offering marginal improvement like the easy and mediums.

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