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Spotify testing paid-for album recommendations

By | Published on Friday 25 October 2019


Spotify is expanding its range of advertising products for music companies by allowing labels to pay to push full-screen recommendations plugging new albums into user’s faces. Or, at least, their phones. The paid-for plugs will pop up for both free and premium users of the streaming service, although the latter can choose to turn them off.

Full-screen alerts about new albums already appear on Spotify, but to date these alerts have been entirely editorial, popping up in any one user’s app based on their past listening. But with so many new albums to recommend – even when constrained by any one user’s listening habits – Spotify is going to let labels buy their way into this service.

Announcing it is now piloting a new ‘sponsored recommendations’ scheme in a blog post yesterday, Spotify was keen to assure users “that these recommendations will continue to be powered by your music taste, so you will only hear from artists that you frequently listen to or follow”. And also, for those premium users pretty certain that they are paying monthly fees to avoid any commercial messaging, they can turn the sponsored recommendations off.

Spotify obviously already has an advertising business as well as a subscriptions business, seeking to off-set the costs of offering a free streaming level through ads and brand partnerships. And music companies are already customers of that advertising business, although many labels get some free ad spots as part of their licensing arrangements with the digital firm.

But this new service arguably moves the streaming company into a new territory. The big high street retailers traditionally charged labels to get the most prominent positions in their stores, and it’s long been expected that the digital platforms might at some point seek to commercialise the data and marketing tools that are currently available to artists and labels for free.

Spotify says that this new sponsored recommendations service is very much a pilot restricted to the US. Presumably the aim of that pilot will be to assess how Spotify users, and especially premium users, respond to commercialised recommendations. And how labels react to the idea that they might pay to get their new music recommended.