Time to look towards the future… I got half of my Spotify Predictions for 2009 correct, so I thought I’d have another crack this year. Here are my Spotify Predictions for 2010, listing where I think they’re headed and what features they might be providing this year.
Spotify for USA
I predicted Spotify would launch in the States during 2009 but the best laid plans… I now expect a launch will happen sometime in the first half of this year. Rumours that it will be “a slightly different experience” may mean that there’s no ad-supported version like in Europe (American record labels are reportedly more wary of converting their song sales to revenue-per-user). Instead, I expect some kind of subsidised premium version at launch: perhaps something like $5/month for all-you-can-eat music streams, where some of the costs are subsidised by the carriers (or maybe even subsidised by Google, if you believe some of the tech sites). There may be a freemium model, but I think this will be either a time-locked trial (use Spotify premium for 30 days for free!) or track-locked (listen to 50 songs a month for free!). There are already several services in the States that offer something more like Spotify’s regular premium model ($15/month for unlimited music) so Spotify will surely need to offer something a little different.
Spotify for Germany and China
While a US launch seems to be the primary focus, I expect Spotify to officially launch in Germany sometime in 2010. Germany is the fourth largest market for music (after the USA, Japan and the UK) so it’s the obvious missing link in Spotify Europa.
Back in August 2009, news broke that Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-Shing’s company Tom Group planned to bring Spotify to China. It’s been quiet since then but I expect a Far East rollout to happen soon. Ka-Shing is a Spotify investor and also chairman of mobile network 3 (Hutchison Whampoa). 3 recently started offering Spotify bundled with their Android phones here in the UK, so Ka-Shing certainly has the power to make things happen for Spotify.
MP3 Music Player
Early in January 2010, Spotify supremo Daniel Ek tweeted “in order for you to leave your existing music player and let us manage/play your music, what do we need to do?” This is the strongest hint yet that the Spotify client will become a complete music player, able to play and manage local mp3 files as well as stream from Spotify’s vast catalogue.
Snapshots of Spotify playing local mp3 files have popped up over the months, but these were probably fakes or at best internal mock-ups. Spotify employee Göran said back in January 2009 that “we have considered adding playback of local media to Spotify’s feature list, right now it’s however not a top priority.” Since then the Purchase feature has been added to Spotify: this lets you buy mp3s from 7digital and manage and play those mp3s from within Spotify. So, Spotify is already an MP3 Music Player (albeit in a limited way) and it would seem likely that this function would be extended to manage all your local music files.
Syncing with Mobile
Related to the above prediction, better integration and syncing between desktop and mobile versions of Spotify would seem likely. Offline syncing could provide the framework for this. As well as syncing playlists of Spotify music and mp3s, this could also sync any new social aspects, such as a list of friends, contacts, or interest groups.
Social Features (Playlist Sharing)
Much has already been said about Spotify’s lack of social features. I predicted improvements here last year but all we got were the lacklustre Share To > Facebook and Share To > Twitter right-click options. A Playlist Sharing feature has been mentioned already and this would seem like a good hub for social features. Of course this feature could instantly negate the need for any of the many playlist sharing websites so Spotify may be looking at ways to retain the favour of all those supportive community site webmasters. There might also be issues with copying features from Last.fm, the obvious partner for Spotify here. Last.fm excels at the social aspect of music with its Friends and Neighbours, Groups, Journals and Top Listeners. All of these would enhance the Spotify experience and I’d welcome any enhancement in this area this year.
Better Playlist Management
Now with over six million tracks, the need for a better way to manage playlists has become more critical than ever for frequent users of Spotify. I’ve tried various methods myself over the months: playlist dividers ( ——— like this ——– ), the 3rd-party webapp Spotify Collection, and my preferred method of using my web browser’s bookmark manager. But all of these are fiddly workarounds for something that’s blatantly missing from Spotify. All it seems to need in the user-interface are nested folders: a seemingly simple update that doesn’t need to mess too much with the existing user interface. This would be a first step towards a library of favourites and a way to distinguish a personal collection from the flood of available music.
Premium Subscription Trials
Flagged as Under Consideration in the support forums, Spotify wizard and fixer Andres recently said “we’re thinking that we may do some limited free trials at some point soon.” Giving the freeloaders a taste of what they’re missing would surely entice more to sign up. It’s easy enough to say “those ads don’t bother me too much” but once you’ve had a few hours of uninterrupted ad-free listening on premium it’s hard to go back.
Integrated Recommendation Service
The “Artists you may like” section on Spotify’s Home screen is spectacularly broken. A couple of excellent 3rd-party apps have come along to provide this service (Spotibot Playlist Generator, Spotiseek), but an in-client version like the Echo Nest’s Extend Playlist demo would keep listeners within Spotify (and hence able to see banner ads).
Another feature that’s been mentioned by Spotify is more artist-related content. This could include concert tickets and merchandise such as T-shirts, mobile phone apps and fan exclusives. Now that Ticketmaster and Live Nation have merged it may be harder for Spotify to add concert tickets, unless of course they partner with this megacorp or someone like Seatwave.
There are loads of features flagged by Spotify as “under consideration” but my 10th prediction is something that’s been mooted for ages now: mood-based ads. This would play a certain advert depending on the mood of the listener, as determined by the style of music that s/he’s been listening to that day. Currently Spotify can target ads based on postcode, gender, or time of day. iPhone app moodagent is a good example of profiling music based on “emotion, mood, genre, sub genre, style, tempo, beat, vocals, instruments and production features.” I expect Spotify will use a similar technology to offer advertisers targeted spots, initially based on genre (advertise your new heavy metal album only to listeners of the heavy metal genre) and then on the mood of the listener.
Some Things We Won’t See
Here are a few features I don’t think we’ll see in Spotify this year:
- Spotify for Video – “video is not a priority at all for us” said Daniel Ek, January 2010.
- Windows Mobile client – “We currently don’t have any plans for Windows Mobile” said Carl-Axel, Spotify customer services manager (October 2009).
- Uploading your own mp3s – A guess here, but this bypasses the record labels (who are investors in Spotify) and would have to compete with several established sites such as GarageBand, Muziboo, SoundCloud et al.