Business News Digital

Spotify confirms launch in 85 new markets, plus new tools galore and high quality audio, in big announcements splurge

By | Published on Tuesday 23 February 2021


Later today Spotify’s Chief Legal Officer Horacio Gutierrez will face questions from MPs as the UK Parliament’s inquiry into the economics of streaming ploughs on. But yesterday top man Daniel Ek got in early with a big old defence of his company and its role in the modern music industry, kickstarting a session in which a splurge of announcements were made about new and upcoming Spotify products and projects.

After some waffle about how much he bloody well loves music – and a sneaky employment of the “piracy was killing the music industry, we saved it” cliché – Ek pulled out plenty of stats from his big old stats bag during a speech that opened an event Spotify called Stream On.

“Back in 2002, just over 30,000 albums were released in the US, and only 8000 sold more than 1000 copies, representing 98% of sales of new releases”, he mused. “By comparison, in 2020, 1.8 million albums were released on Spotify in the US, and six times as many albums represented 98% of the streams for these releases”.

“When Spotify launched in Sweden in 2008, the combined market of physical and digital music sales amounted to about $17 billion”, he then added. “Streaming represented $300 million of that – or only 2% of the sales – globally. And at the industry’s low point in 2014, the combined total dropped another $3 billion to $14 billion”.

“But with streaming, we’ve helped the global music industry go from contraction to growth”, he bragged. “In 2019, the total revenue of the recording industry was just over $20 billion – and more than half of that revenue – $11.4 billion – came from streaming”.

That’s all industry stats though. What about Spotify stats? “Since 2008, Spotify has expanded from one market to 93, and from thousands of listeners to more than 345 million, and from paying out approximately half a million to creators in 2008 to paying out more than $5 billion in 2020”. That’s more like it!

“Spotify is available on more than 2000 different devices: everything from smartphones to smart speakers and from car audio systems to gaming consoles”, he added, for all the gadget fans. But what about the music-makers, hey?

“Three years ago, Spotify had three million creators on our platform. Every year since, that number has increased – from four million, to five million, to eight million at the end of 2020. I believe that by 2025, we could have as many as 50 million creators on our platform, whose art is enjoyed by a billion users around the world”.

Although definitely talking up the record industry’s revival and Spotify’s role in it, Ek actually spent more of his presentation focused on that latter point: ie that digital and streaming has removed barriers to entry, meaning so many more music-makers – or audio-makers really, let’s not forget the podcasters – can now get their music – or content – to an audience, and make some money from their music-making. Ah, no, sorry, their audio-making.

“We’re in the midst of an explosion of audio creation: the early innings of what we see as a truly global ‘creative economy'”, Ek declared. “In the coming years, as more and more people become audio creators, Spotify will enable the best of them – the ones that are highly driven, highly talented, and resonate with a group of fans – to grow their audience and build their careers on our platform”.

Of course, some have pointed out in their submissions to the aforementioned Parliamentary inquiry into the economics of streaming – not least former Spotify economist Will Page – that the removal of all these barriers for aspiring music-makers is both the most magnificent and the most problematic thing about the music industry’s digital revolution.

Many more music-makers now have the opportunity to get their music to an audience. But many more music-makers are taking a share of recorded music revenues as a result. And while those revenues overall are growing, their not growing that much.

A harsh truth of the economics of streaming is that, in the future, it’s likely that more people will make money from music but fewer people will make a living from music. And it’s still not clear how the music community and the music industry will deal with that fact.

But look at me interrupting Ek’s big speech with a reality check moment. Next I’ll be pointing out that the one thing Spotify could really do to better support aspiring music-makers is to more proactively help them grow their fanbases and direct-to-fan businesses beyond the Spotify ecosystem.

You know, by better integrating with rival social and D2F platforms which complement more than compete with the market-leading streaming service. But fuck that, Ek clearly has a big announcement he wants to make and I’m just getting in the way.

“Spotify is currently available across nearly half of the world. But there are still millions of creators and billions of listeners who don’t yet have access to Spotify”, he concluded. “So I’d like to share some news. Over the next few days, we’ll be expanding Spotify’s global footprint significantly. This move will make Spotify available to more than a billion people in new markets around the world, with nearly half of them already using the internet”.

However, and this is the really important bit, this is “just the beginning”, Ek insisted. Because “years from now, I believe, we’ll see this moment for what it really was: an overture… the first, brilliant moments of a new golden age of audio. For creators, for listeners, for Spotify, for audio… the best is yet to come”. Yeah, whatever you say Dan.

What about that splurge of announcements I mentioned, though?

Well, first some figures relating to the expansion Ek mentioned there. Spotify is launching in 85 new markets and turning on 36 new languages.

For the music industry, there’ll be new and expanded promo tools within the Spotify platform and a rollout of that slightly controversial ‘inform our algorithm in return for a royalty discount’ service.

For podcasters, there’s an integration with WordPress, the addition of video and interactive nonsense, and some new monetisation tools.

And for good old Spotify users, more personalisation, more exclusive podcasts and – at long long last – higher quality audio. For all the nineteen people who want that.

So all hail the “golden age of audio”. Because the best is yet to come. Or the worst. It could be the worst. What if it’s the worst? Or maybe nothing’s going to change. Ah, whatever. Like they say, stream on.