Spotify Technology S.A. (/ˈspɒtɪfaɪ/) is a Swedish media-services provider founded in 2006. The company's primary business is its audio streaming platform that provides DRM-protected music and podcasts from record labels and media companies. As a freemium service, basic features are free with advertisements or automatic music videos, while additional features, such as improved streaming quality, are offered via paid subscriptions.
Launched on 7 October 2008, the Spotify platform provides access to over 50 million tracks. Users can browse by parameters such as artist, album, or genre, and can create, , and share playlists. Spotify is available in most of Europe and the Americas, Australia, New Zealand, and parts of Africa and Asia, and on most modern devices, including Windows, macOS, and Linux computers, and iOS, and Android smartphones and tablets. As of July 2019, it had 232 million monthly active users, including 108 million paying subscribers.
Unlike physical or download sales, which pay artists a fixed price per song or album sold, Spotify pays royalties based on the number of artists streams as a proportion of total songs streamed. It distributes approximately 70% of total revenue to rights holders, who then pay artists based on their individual agreements. Spotify has faced criticism from artists and producers including Taylor Swift and Thom Yorke, who have argued that it does not fairly compensate musicians. In 2017, as part of its efforts to renegotiate license deals for an interest in going public, Spotify announced that artists would be able to make albums temporarily exclusive to paid subscriptions if they are part of Universal Music Group or the Merlin Network.
Spotify was developed in 2006 by a team at Spotify AB, in Stockholm, Sweden. The company was founded by Daniel Ek, former CTO of Stardoll, and Martin Lorentzon, co-founder of TradeDoubler. The company's title, according to Daniel Ek, was initially misheard from a name shouted by Martin Lorentzon. Later they thought out an etymology of a combination of "spot" and "identify". Spotify Sweden AB, headquartered in Stockholm, Sweden, handles research and development. The company is a subsidiary of Spotify Ltd., a company headquartered in London, United Kingdom, which in turn is a subsidiary of Spotify Technology S.A., headquartered in Luxembourg. Spotify has offices in 20 countries as of November 2016.
Launch in 2008
Spotify's original logo (2008–2012)
The Spotify application was launched on 7 October 2008. While free accounts remained available by invitation to manage the growth of the service, the launch opened paid subscriptions to everyone. At the same time, Spotify AB announced licensing deals with major music labels.
Early international launches
Former Spotify headquarters in Stockholm
In February 2009, Spotify opened public registration for the free service tier in the United Kingdom. Registrations surged following the release of the mobile service, leading Spotify to halt registration for the free service in September, returning the UK to an invitation-only policy. Premium cards were offered for the 2009 Christmas season that allowed recipients to upgrade an account to "Premium" status for 1, 3, 6 or 12 months.
For the service's launch in the United States in July 2011, Spotify had a six-month free ad-supported trial period, where new users could listen to an unlimited amount of music. In January 2012, the free trial started expiring, with users limited to ten hours each month and five song replays. In March, Spotify removed all limits on the free service tier indefinitely.
In April 2016, Ek and Lorentzon wrote an open letter to Swedish politicians demanding action in three areas that they claimed hindered the company's ability to recruit top talent as Spotify grows, including access to flexible housing, better education in the programming and development fields, and stock options. Ek and Lorentzon wrote that in order to continue competing in a global economy, politicians needed to respond with new policies, or else thousands of Spotify jobs would be moved from Sweden to the United States.
Towards the end of 2016, the company launched its "largest [marketing] campaign to date", by placing large-scale billboards in major cities around the world that humorously mocked users' listening habits. Billboards featured commentary such as "Dear person who made a playlist called: ‘One Night Stand With Jeb Bush Like He’s a Bond Girl in a European Casino.’ We have so many questions"; "To the 1,235 guys who loved the “Girls Night” playlist this year, We love you", and "Dear person who played ‘Sorry’ 42 times on Valentine's Day, What did you do?” Spotify's Chief Marketing Officer Seth Farbman told Creativity that "there has been some debate about whether big data is muting creativity in marketing, but we have turned that on its head ... For us, data inspires and gives an insight into the emotion that people are expressing."
In 14 November 2018, the company announced a total of 13 new markets in the MENA region, including the creation of a new Arabic hub and several playlists, while supporting right-to-left text in their apps.
In October 2015, "Thinking Out Loud" by Ed Sheeran became the first song to pass 500 million streams. A month later, Spotify announced that "Lean On" by Major Lazer and DJ Snake featuring MØ was its most streamed song of all time with over 525 million streams worldwide. In April 2016, Rihanna overtook Justin Bieber to become the biggest artist on Spotify, with 31.3 million monthly active listeners. In May 2016, Rihanna was overtaken by Drake with 3.185 billion total streams. In December 2016, Drake's just-under 36 million monthly listeners were overtaken by the Weeknd's 36.068 million. Later that month, Drake's song "One Dance" became the first song to hit one billion streams on Spotify. Upon its release in August 2017, the single "Look What You Made Me Do" by Taylor Swift earned over eight million streams within 24 hours, breaking the record for the most single-day streams for a track. On June 19, 2018, XXXTentacion's hit single "Sad!" broke Swift's single-day streaming record, amassing 10.4 million streams the day after he was fatally shot in Florida.
In March 2011, Spotify announced a customer base of one million paying subscribers across Europe, and by September 2011, the number of paying subscribers had doubled to two million. In August 2012, Time reported 15 million active users, four million being paying Spotify subscribers. User growth continued, reaching 20 million total active users, including 5 million paying customers globally and 1 million paying customers in the United States, in December 2012. By March 2013, the service had 24 million active users, 6 million being paying subscribers, which grew to 40 million users (including 10 million paying) in May 2014, 60 million users (including 15 million paying) in December 2014, 75 million users (20 million paying) in June 2015, 30 million paying subscribers in March 2016, 40 million subscribers in September 2016, and 100 million total users in June 2016.
As of July 2019, Spotify had 232 million active users, including over 108 million paying subscribers.
Initial public offering
According to TechCrunch, Spotify was planning to become public on the stock market in 2017, but instead used an Initial Public Offering (IPO) in 2018 in order to "build up a better balance sheet and work on shifting its business model to improve its margins". The value of its IPO is estimated to be in a range of $6.3 billion to $23 billion. The latter figure would make Spotify's IPO one of the biggest in the tech sector since 2012. However, unlike in an ordinary public offering, Spotify will not issue new shares, but the company's existing shareholders will be taking their shares directly to the market. This approach is not intended to raise fresh capital, but to let investors get their returns.Morgan Stanley is the company's slated advisor on the matter.
Financial Times reported in March 2017 that, as part of its efforts to renegotiate new licensing deals with music labels, Spotify and major record labels had agreed that Spotify will restrict some newly released albums to its Premium tier, with Spotify receiving a reduction in royalty fees to do so. Select albums would be available only on the Premium tier for a period of time, before general release. The deal "may be months away from being finalized, but Spotify is said to have cleared this particular clause with major record labels". New reports in April confirmed that Spotify and Universal Music Group had reached an agreement to allow artists part of Universal to limit their new album releases to the Premium service tier for a maximum of two weeks. Spotify CEO Daniel Ek commented that "We know that not every album by every artist should be released the same way, and we’ve worked hard with UMG to develop a new, flexible release policy. Starting today, Universal artists can choose to release new albums on premium only for two weeks, offering subscribers an earlier chance to explore the complete creative work, while the singles are available across Spotify for all our listeners to enjoy". It was announced later in April that this type of agreement would be extended to indie artists signed to the Merlin Network agency.
After going live on the New York Stock Exchange on 3 April 2018, CNBC reported that Spotify opened at $165.90, more than 25 per cent above its reference price of $132.
In March 2014, Spotify announced that it had acquired The Echo Nest, a music intelligence company that has "in depth musical understanding and tools for curation to drive music discovery for millions of users around the globe". In June 2015, Spotify acquired Seed Scientific, a data science consulting firm and analytics company. In a comment to TechCrunch, Spotify said that Seed Scientific's team would lead an Advanced Analytics unit within the company focused on developing data services. In April 2016, Spotify acquired CrowdAlbum, a "startup that collects photos and videos of performances shared on social networks", and would "enhance the development of products that help artists understand, activate, and monetize their audiences". In March 2017, Spotify acquired Sonalytic, an audio detection startup, for an undisclosed amount of money. Spotify stated that Sonalytic will be used to improve the company's personalised playlists, better match songs with compositions, and improve the company's publishing data system. Spotify also acquired MightyTV later in March, an app connected to television streaming services, including Netflix and HBO Go, that recommends content to users. Spotify will mainly be using MightyTV to improve its advertising efforts on the free tier of service. In April 2017, Spotify acquired Mediachain, a blockchain startup with several technologies that can aid Spotify's effort in connecting artists and rights-holders with the tracks on its service. In May 2017, Spotify acquired artificial intelligence startup Niland, and will use its technology to improve its personalisation and recommendation features for users. In November 2017, Spotify acquired SoundTrap, an online music studio startup. On 12 April 2018, Spotify acquired the music licensing platform Loudr. On 6 February 2019, the company announced it would acquire New York podcasting companies Gimlet Media and Anchor FM Inc., establishing itself as a major player in podcasting. On 26 March 2019, Spotify announced to acquire another podcast network, Parcast.
In January 2015, Sony announced PlayStation Music, a new music service with Spotify as its exclusive partner. PlayStation Music incorporates the Spotify service into Sony's PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 gaming consoles, and Sony Xperia mobile devices, in 41 markets around the world. The service enables users to listen to their favourite tracks while gaming. The new service launched on 30 March 2015.
In March 2017, Spotify announced a partnership with the South by Southwest (SXSW) conference for 2017, presenting specific content in special playlists through a SXSW hub in Spotify's Browse tab in the mobile and desktop apps. The integration also enabled Spotify within the SXSW GO app to help users discover and explore artists performing at the conference. Two more partnerships were announced in March; one with WNYC Studios, and one with Waze. The WNYC Studios partnership will bring various podcasts from WNYC to Spotify, including Note To Self, On the Media and Here's the Thing. Spotify also announced that the third season of WNYC Studios' 2 Dope Queens podcast will premiere with a two-week exclusivity period on the service on 21 March 2017. The podcasts will be available for all Spotify Free and Premium users. The Waze partnership will allow Android app users to view directions to destinations within the Spotify app, and access their Spotify playlists through the Waze app.
In October 2017, Microsoft announced that it would be ending its Groove Music streaming service by December, with all music from users transferring to Spotify as part of a new partnership.
In November 2017, it was announced that Pat McGrath Labs cosmetics would be sold through Spotify via Merchbar on singer Maggie Lindemann's artist page.
In December 2017, Spotify and Tencent's music arm, Tencent Music Entertainment (TME), agreed to swap stakes and make investment in each other's music businesses, forming an alliance in the music industry. As a result of this transaction, Spotify gained a 9% stake in TME with TME gaining a 7.5% stake in Spotify.
In February 2018, Spotify and Discord teamed up, allowing Discord desktop app users, on both PC and Mac, to publicly display on their profile what music they're listening to, and if the users have Spotify's Premium service, they can listen to each other's music together in real-time.
In April 2018, Spotify announced a discounted entertainment bundle with video-on-demand provider Hulu, which included discounted rates for university students.
In July 2015, Spotify launched an email campaign to urge its App Store subscribers to cancel their subscriptions and start new ones through its website, bypassing the 30% transaction fee for in-app purchases required for iOS applications by technology company Apple Inc. A later update to the Spotify app on iOS was rejected by Apple, prompting Spotify's general counsel Horacio Gutierrez to write a letter to Apple's then-general counsel Bruce Sewell, stating: "This latest episode raises serious concerns under both U.S. and EU competition law. It continues a troubling pattern of behavior by Apple to exclude and diminish the competitiveness of Spotify on iOS and as a rival to Apple Music, particularly when seen against the backdrop of Apple's previous anticompetitive conduct aimed at Spotify … we cannot stand by as Apple uses the App Store approval process as a weapon to harm competitors."
Sewell responded to the letter: "We find it troubling that you are asking for exemptions to the rules we apply to all developers and are publicly resorting to rumors and half-truths about our service." He also elaborated that "Our guidelines apply equally to all app developers, whether they are game developers, e-book sellers, video-streaming services or digital music distributors; and regardless of whether or not they compete against Apple. We did not alter our behavior or our rules when we introduced our own music streaming service or when Spotify became a competitor". Furthermore, he stated that "There is nothing in Apple’s conduct that ‘amounts to a violation of applicable antitrust laws.’ Far from it. ... I would be happy to facilitate an expious review and approval of your app as soon as you provide us with something that is compliant with the App Store's rules".
The following months, Spotify began efforts to "punish" artists who gave Apple Music exclusives by displaying their content less prominently on Spotify and offering fewer promotional opportunities, and joined several other companies in filing a letter with the European Union's anti-trust body vaguely accusing Apple and Google of "abusing their 'privileged position' at the top of the market", by referring to "some" companies as having "transformed into 'gatekeepers' rather than 'gateways'". The complaint led to the European Union announcing that it will prepare an initiative by the end of 2017 for a possible law addressing unfair competition practices.
Spotify released its first version of the Apple Watch app in November 2018, which features playback control of the iPhone via the watch. Users can also choose which devices to play music on via Bluetooth. In further escalation of the spat with Apple, on 13 March 2019, Spotify filed an anti-trust complaint with the European commission over unfair app store practices. Two days later Apple responded stating that the complaint was a misleading rhetoric and that Spotify wanted benefits of a free app without being a free app. Spotify responded with a statement calling Apple as a monopolist and stated in their statement that Apple's response was as expected and they had only filed the complaint as Apple's actions hurt competition and consumers and was in clear violation of law. It also said that Apple believed Spotify users on app store were Apple's customers and not Spotify's.
Organizational development strategy
An article was written in the scholarly journal IEEE Software in February 2019 outlining Spotify's strategy to assist its engineers in software development across geographically disparate offices and teams. The organizational framework supporting Spotify's software development is extensive, grouping their employees first into "tribes", which are composed of between 30 and 200 engineers each, with a clear mission, set of principles and a senior leader. Within each tribe are smaller groups called squads and chapters: squads are meant to feel like mini-start-ups facilitating creativity by including cross-functional roles, whereas chapters share the same manager and are meant to be focused on personal growth and skills development by discussing shared challenges. Bridging these groups is a concept called a "guild", which is made up of employees with similar skills and interests, hoping to share their coding experiences and knowledge. Guilds are different from the other groups in that they are voluntary and not restricted to each geographical office whereas the others are physically separate.
Spotify operates under a freemium business model (basic services are free, while additional features are offered via paid subscriptions). Spotify generates revenues by selling premium streaming subscriptions to users and advertising placements to third parties.
In December 2013, the company launched a new website, "Spotify for Artists", that explained its business model and revenue data. Spotify gets its content from major record labels as well as independent artists, and pays copyright holders royalties for streamed music. The company pays 70% of its total revenue to rights holders. Spotify for Artists states that the company does not have a fixed per-play rate, instead considers factors such as the user's home country and the individual artist's royalty rate. Rights holders received an average per-play payout between $.006 and $.0084.
Spotify encourages people to pay for music, with subscriptions as its main revenue source. The subscription removes advertisements and limits, and increases song bitrates to 320 kbit/s.
For example, in Norway, the figure of 1.2 billion unauthorized song downloads in 2008 is compared to a figure of 210 million from 2012.
BBCMusic Week or Tim Ingham wrote: "Unlike buying a CD or download, streaming is not a one-off payment. Hundreds of millions of streams of tracks are happening each and every day, which quickly multiplies the potential revenues on offer – and is a constant long-term source of income for artists."
Accounts and subscriptions
As of November 2018, the two Spotify subscription types, all offering unlimited listening time, are:
Free of ads
Limited (shuffle-only mode)
Up to 160 kbit/s
Limited (Spotify Connect speaker with new SDK)
Up to 320 kbit/s
In March 2014, Spotify introduced a new, discounted Premium subscription tier for students. Students in the United States enrolled in a university can pay half-price for a Premium subscription. In April 2017, the Students offer was expanded to 33 more countries.
Spotify introduced its Family subscription in October 2014, connecting up to five family members for a shared Premium subscription. Spotify Family was upgraded in May 2016, letting up to six people share a subscription and reducing the price.
In November 2018, Spotify announced it is opening up Spotify Connect to all of the users using its Free service, however these changes still required products supporting Spotify Connect to support the latest SDK.
In 2007, just after launch, the company made a loss of 31.8 million Swedish kronor ($4.4 million).
In October 2010, Wired reported that Spotify was making more money for labels in Sweden than any other retailer "online or off".
Years after growth and expansion, a November 2012 report suggested strong momentum for the company. In 2011, it reported a near US$60 million net loss from revenue of $244 million, while it was expected to generate a net loss of $40 million from revenue of $500 million in 2012.
Another source of income was music purchases from within the app. This service was removed in January 2013.
In May 2016, Spotify announced "Sponsored Playlists", a monetisation opportunity in which brands are able to specify the audiences they have in mind, with Spotify matching the marketer with suitable music in a playlist.
That September, Spotify announced that it had paid a total of over $5 billion to the music industry. In June 2017, as part of renegotiated licenses with Universal Music Group and Merlin Network, Spotify's financial filings revealed its agreement to pay more than $2 billion in minimum payments over the next two years.
As of 2017[update], Spotify was not yet a profitable company.
In February 2010, Spotify received a small investment from Founders Fund, where board member Sean Parker was recruited to assist Spotify in "winning the labels over in the world's largest music market".
In June 2011, Spotify secured $100 million of funding, and planned to use this to support its US launch. The new round of funding valued the company at $1 billion.
A Goldman Sachs-led round of funding closed in November 2012, raising around $100 million at a $3 billion valuation.
In April 2015, Spotify began another round of fundraising, with a report from The Wall Street Journal stating it was seeking $400 million, which would value the company at $8.4 billion. The financing was closed in June 2015, with Spotify raising $526 million, at a value of $8.53 billion.
In January 2016, Spotify raised another $500 million through convertible bonds.
In March 2016, Spotify raised $1 billion in financing by debt plus a discount of 20% on shares once the initial public offering (IPO) of shares takes place. The company was, according to TechCrunch, planning to launch on the stock market in 2017, but in 2017 it was seen as planning on doing the IPO in 2018 in order to "build up a better balance sheet and work on shifting its business model to improve its margins".
Spotify offers advertisers ten different types of advertising formats, described in 2016 as: Branded Moments, Sponsored Playlists, Sponsored Sessions, Video Takeovers, Audio, Display, Overlay, Homepage Takeovers, Branded Playlists, and Advertiser Pages. These advertisements vary in size, type and user engagement.
Branded Moments allow brands to "tell their story over a series of sequential displays with 100% share-of-voice during the 30-minute session" by using "an immersive vertical video" and can unlock 30 minutes of uninterrupted music.
Sponsored Playlist is an "exclusive one week sponsorship of Spotify’s top owned & operated playlists".
Sponsored Sessions allow brands to "offer their audience uninterrupted listening in exchange for a video view". They are only available on mobile and tablet devices and are limited to select markets.
Video Takeover is a "video spot with a companion display unit", are "served during commercial ad breaks between songs in a music session", and are only available on the computer apps.
Audio Ads are "served during commercial ad breaks between songs in a music session" with a maximum duration of 30 seconds and play every 15 minutes.
Display Ads are "clickable images displayed for 30 seconds". Display ads are shown at the bottom of the Spotify client.
Overlay is "Spotify's 'welcome back' ad. It greets returning users on mobile and desktop with a can't-be-missed, large display ad to maximize brand impact and performance".
Homepage Takeovers are "a combination of background skin and optional interactive area that takes over the Spotify homepage".
Branded Playlists are "Spotify playlists that contain a branded cover art image and text". They can only have one song per artist, and must have a minimum of 20 tracks in the playlist.
Advertiser Pages are a "microsite seamlessly integrated into the Spotify player", that can "contain practically any content you'd find on a webpage, including videos, clickable images, blogs, news, links, and comments."
Starting in March 2009, Spotify offered music downloads in the United Kingdom, France, and Spain. Users could purchase tracks from Spotify, which partnered with 7digital to incorporate the feature. However, the ability to purchase and download music tracks via the app was removed on 4 January 2013.
Spotify for Artists
In November 2015, Spotify introduced a "Fan Insights" panel in limited beta form, letting artists and managers access data on monthly listeners, geographical data, demographic information, music preferences and more. In April 2017, the panel was upgraded to leave beta status, renamed as "Spotify for Artists", and opened to all artists and managers. Additional features include the ability to get "verified" status with a blue checkmark on an artist's profile, receiving artist support from Spotify, customising the profile page with photos and promoting a certain song as their "pick".
In September 2018, Spotify announced "Upload Beta", allowing artists to upload directly to the platform instead of going through a distributor or record label. The feature was rolled out to a small number of US-based artists by invitation only. Uploading was free and artists received 100% of the revenue from songs they uploaded; artists were able to control when their release went public. On July 1, 2019 Spotify deprecated the program and announced plans to stop accepting direct uploads by the end of that month, and eventually remove all content uploaded in this manner.
In June 2017, Variety reported that Spotify would announce "Secret Genius", a new initiative aimed at highlighting songwriters and producers, and the effect those people have to the music industry and the artists' careers. The project, which will feature awards, "Songshops" songwriting workshops, curated playlists, and podcasts, is an effort to "shine a light on these people behind the scenes who play such a big role in some of the most important moments of our lives. When the general public hears a song they automatically associate it with the artist who sings it, not the people behind the scenes who make it happen, so we thought the title Secret Genius was appropriate", Spotify's Global Head of Creator Services Troy Carter told Variety the first awards ceremony would take place in late 2017,[needs update] and was intended to honour "the top songwriters, producers and publishers in the industry as well as up-and-coming talent". Additionally, as part of "The Ambassador Program", 13 songwriters will each host a Songshop workshop, in which their peers will collaboratively attempt to create a hit song, with the first workshop to take place in Los Angeles in June 2017.
In October 2017, Spotify launched "Rise", a program aimed at promoting emerging artists.
Stations by Spotify
On 31 January 2018, Spotify started testing a new Pandora-styled standalone app called Stations by Spotify for Australian Android users. It features 62 music channels, each devoted to a particular genre. Spotify itself has two channels named after its playlists that link directly to the users' profile: "Release Radar" and "Discover Weekly". The aim is to help users to listen to the music they want without information overload or spending time building their own playlists. At launch, the skipping feature was not featured to "reinforce the feel of radio", but it was quietly added later, and with no limits. Songs can be "loved" but can't be "hated". If a song is "loved", a custom radio channel will be created based on it, and when there are at least 15 of these songs, a "My Favourites" channel is unlocked. Users who do not subscribe to Spotify Premium hear location-targeted adverts.
"Clearest Blue" by CHVRCHES being played in the Spotify for iOS app.
Spotify has client software available for Windows, macOS, and Linux PCs, along with Android, and iOS smartphones and tablets. It also has a proprietary protocol known as "Spotify Connect", which lets users listen to music through a wide range of entertainment systems, including speakers, receivers, TVs, cars, and smartwatches. Spotify also features a web player, for those who are unable to – or do not want to – download any app. Contrary to the apps, the web player does not have the ability to download music for offline listening. In June 2017, Spotify became available as an app through Windows Store.
Spotify Desktop Client running on Mac OS X Mojave
In Spotify's apps, music can be browsed or searched for via various parameters, such as artist, album, genre, playlist, or record label. Users can create, and share playlists, share tracks on social media, and make playlists with other users. Spotify provides access to over 50 million songs.
In November 2011, Spotify introduced a Spotify Apps service that made it possible for third-party developers to design applications that could be hosted within the Spotify computer software. The applications provided features such as synchronised lyrics, music reviews, and song recommendations. In June 2012, Soundrop became the first Spotify app to attract major funding, receiving $3 million from Spotify investor Northzone. However, after the June 2014 announcement of a Web API that allowed third-party developers to integrate Spotify content in their own web applications, the company discontinued its Spotify Apps platform in October, stating that its new development tools for the Spotify web player fulfilled many of the advantages of the former Spotify Apps service, but "would ensure the Spotify platform remained relevant and easy to develop on, as well as enabling you to build innovative and engaging music experiences".
In April 2012, Spotify introduced a "Spotify Play Button", an embeddable music player that can be added to blogs, websites, or social media profiles, that lets visitors listen to a specific song, playlist or album without leaving the page. The following November, the company began rolling out a web player, with a similar design to its computer programs, but without the requirement of any installation.
In December 2012, Spotify introduced a "Follow" tab and a "Discover" tab, along with a "Collection" section. "Follow" lets users follow artists and friends to see what they are listening to, while "Discover" gives users new releases from their favourite artists, as well as music, review, and concert recommendations based on listening history. Users can add tracks to a "Collection" section of the app, rather than adding to a specific playlist. The features were announced by CEO Daniel Ek at a press conference, with Ek stating that a common user complaint about the service was that "Spotify is great when you know what music you want to listen to, but not when you don't", adding that 20,000 new songs got added to the service on a daily basis. "You're fighting with 20 million songs on Spotify", Ek stated.
In May 2015, Spotify announced a new Home start page that would serve up recommended music, with recommendations improving over time. The company also introduced "Spotify Running", a feature aimed at improving music while running with music matched to running tempo (this feature was removed in March 2018 from the mobile client), and announced that podcasts and videos ("entertainment, news and clips") would be coming to Spotify, along with "Spotify Originals" content.
In January 2016, Spotify and music annotation service Genius formed a partnership, bringing annotation information from Genius into infocards presented while songs are playing in Spotify. The functionality is limited to selected playlists and was only available on Spotify's iOS app at launch, being expanded to the Android app in April 2017.
In May 2017, Spotify introduced Spotify Codes for its mobile apps, a way for users to share specific artists, tracks, playlists or albums with other people. Users find the relevant content to share and press a "soundwave-like barcode" on the display. A camera icon in the apps' search fields lets other users point their device's camera at the code, which takes them to the same content.
In January 2019, Spotify introduced Car View for Android, allowing devices running Android to have a compact Now Playing screen when the device is connected to a car 's Bluetooth. Also in January 2019, Spotify beta-tested its Canvas feature, where artists and/or labels can upload looping 3 to 8-second moving visuals to their tracks, replacing album covers in the "Now Playing" view; users have the option to turn off this feature. Canvas is only available for Spotify's iOS and Android mobile apps.
Playlists and discovery
In July 2015, Spotify launched Discover Weekly, a weekly generated playlist, updated on Mondays, that brings users two hours of custom-made music recommendations, mixing a user's personal taste with songs enjoyed by similar listeners. In December 2015, Quartz reported that songs in Discover Weekly playlists had been streamed 1.7 billion times, and Spotify wrote in May 2016 that Discover Weekly had reached "nearly" 5 billion tracks streamed since the July 2015 launch.
In March 2016, building on Discover Weekly's success, Spotify launched six new generated playlists branded as Fresh Finds including the main playlist and Fire Emoji, Basement, Hiptronix, Six Strings and Cyclone (hip-hop, electronic, pop, guitar-driven and experimental music respectively). The playlists spotlight lesser-known musicians and their songs which are listened to by 100,000 randomly chosen users and are talked about on 10 to 20,000 music blogs. They are updated every Wednesday, and can contain a maximum of up to 50 songs.
In August 2016, Spotify launched Release Radar, a personalised playlist that allows users to stay up-to-date on new music released by artists they listen to the most. It also helps users discover new music, by mixing in other artists' music. The playlist is updated every Friday, and can be a maximum of up to two hours in length.
In September 2016, Spotify introduced Daily Mix, a series of (up to six) playlists that have "near endless playback" and mixes the user's favourite tracks with new, recommended songs. New users can access Daily Mix after approximately two weeks of listening to music through Spotify. Daily Mixes were only available on the Android and iOS mobile apps at launch, but the feature was later expanded to Spotify's computer app in December 2016.
In July 2018, Spotify introduced a new beta feature that gives artists, labels and teams an easy way to submit unreleased music directly to Spotify's orial team for playlist consideration.
In June 2019, Spotify launched a custom playlist titled "Your Daily Drive" that closely replicates the drive time format of many traditional radio stations. It combines short-form podcast news updates from The Wall Street Journal, NPR, and PRI with a mix of a user's favorite songs and artists interspersed with tracks the listener has yet to discover. "Your Daily Drive", which is found in a user's library under the "Made For You" section, updates throughout the day to keep both the music and news fresh. The feature is so far available only to US based listeners.
Spotify has experimented with different limitations to users' listening on the Free service tier.
In April 2011, Spotify announced via a blog post that they would drastically cut the amount of music that free members could access, effective 1 May 2011. The post stated that all free members would be limited to ten hours of music streaming per month, and in addition, individual tracks were limited to five plays. New users were exempt from these changes for six months. In March 2013, the five-play individual track limit was removed for users in the United Kingdom, and media reports stated that users in the United States, Australia and New Zealand never had the limit in the first place.
In December 2013, CEO Daniel Ek announced that Android and iOS smartphone users with the free service tier could listen to music in Shuffle mode, a feature in which users can stream music by specific artists and playlists without being able to pick which songs to hear. Mobile listening previously was not allowed in Spotify Free accounts. Ek stated that "We're giving people the best free music experience in the history of the smartphone."
In January 2014, Spotify removed all time limits for Free users on all platforms, including on computers, which previously had a 10-hour monthly listening limit after a 6-month grace period.
In April 2018, Spotify began to allow Free users to listen on-demand to whatever songs they want for an unlimited number of times, as long as the song is on one of the user's 15 personalized discovery playlists.
As of April 2019, all service users are limited to 10,000 songs in their library, after which they will receive an "Epic collection, friend" notification, and will not be able to save more music to their library. Adding playlists at this point also arbitrarily removes older playlists from the users' library.
Spotify allows users to add local audio files for music not in its catalogue into the user's library through Spotify's desktop application, and then allows users to synchronise those music files to Spotify's mobile apps or other computers over the same Wi-Fi network as the primary computer by creating a Spotify playlist, and adding those local audio files to the playlist. Audio files must either be in the .mp3, .mp4 (.mp4 files that have video streams are not supported), or .m4p media formats. This feature is available only for Premium subscribers.
Spotify has a median playback latency of 265 ms (including local cache).
In April 2014, Spotify moved away from the peer-to-peer (P2P) system they had used to distribute music to users. Previously, a desktop user would listen to music from one of three sources: a cached file on the computer, one of Spotify's servers, or from other subscribers through the P2P system. P2P, a well-established Internet distribution system, served as an alternative that reduced Spotify's server resources and costs. However, Spotify ended the P2P setup in 2014, with Spotify's Alison Bonny telling TorrentFreak: "We’re gradually phasing out the use of our desktop P2P technology which has helped our users enjoy their music both speedily and seamlessly. We’re now at a stage where we can power music delivery through our growing number of servers and ensure our users continue to receive a best-in-class service."
Map of the countries in which Spotify is available.
Spotify has attracted significant criticism since its 2008 launch. The primary point of criticism centres around what artists, music creators and the media have described as "unsustainable" compensation. Unlike physical sales or legal downloads, which pay artists a fixed price per song or album sold, Spotify pays royalties based on their "market share"—the number of streams for their songs as a proportion of total songs streamed on the service. Spotify distributes approximately 70% of its total revenue to rights-holders, who will then pay artists based on their individual agreements.
Spotify has been criticized by artists including Thom Yorke and Taylor Swift, who withdrew their music from the service. Their catalogues returned to the service in 2017. While the streaming music industry in general faces the same critique about inadequate payments, Spotify, being the leading service, faces particular scrutiny due to its free service tier, allowing users to listen to music for free, though with advertisements between tracks. The free service tier has led to a variety of major album releases being delayed or withdrawn from the service. In response to the allegations about unfair compensation, Spotify claims that it is benefitting the industry by migrating users away from piracy and less monetised platforms to its free service tier, and then encouraging them to upgrade to paid accounts. A study has shown that record labels keep a high amount of the money earned from Spotify, and the CEO of Merlin Network, a representative body for over 10,000 independent labels, has also observed significant yearly growth rates in earnings from Spotify, while clarifying that Spotify pays labels, not artists.
In May 2018, Spotify attracted criticism for its "Hate Content & Hateful Conduct policy" that removed the music of R. Kelly and XXXTentacion from its orial and algorithmic playlists because "When we look at promotion, we look at issues around hateful conduct, where you have an artist or another creator who has done something off-platform that is so particularly out of line with our values, egregious, in a way that it becomes something that we don't want to associate ourselves with". R. Kelly has faced accusations of sexual abuse, while XXXTentacion was on trial for domestic abuse in a case that did not reach a judgement before his death that June. This policy was revoked in June because the company deemed the original wording to be too "vague"; they stated that "Across all genres, our role is not to regulate artists. Therefore, we are moving away from implementing a policy around artist conduct". However, artists such as Gary Glitter and Lostprophets are still hidden from Spotify's radio stations and search results.
Maria Eriksson et al. (2019): Spotify Teardown: Inside the Black Box of Streaming Music, The MIT Press, ISBN978-0262038904.