What’s the next big thing in music? Spotify Thinks It’s All About Your Playlist


(TIML FOOD4THOUGHT) Spotify has two billion playlists to tap on, and these could very well change the way businesses, artists, and fans define, consume, and enjoy music.

Will the future of music come in the form of a radical new sound or a groundbreaking artist? According to Spotify, it could actually be that humble playlist on your favourite music streaming site.

“As we talk about the new music economy, and what we’ve seen creators do and what music fans create with playlists as well, I’m really excited to see what gets born out of that,” said Sunita Kaur, Spotify’s managing director for Asia.

Kaur, who was one of the speakers at the inaugural Spotify Talks in Singapore held on July 5, told Channel NewsAsia that as the culture of creating playlists continues to evolve, it will have an effect on how people consume and relate to music and artists.

“Everyone is now a DJ, we’re making our own digital versions of mix tapes, and new music is spreading a lot faster than it used to,” she said.

To date, Spotify has two billion playlists. While some are generated in-house, majority of the playlists are created by users, who currently number 140 million worldwide.

And as these become the norm for music consumption, people are moving away from defining and enjoying music based on genre.

“For a long time, the way we look at music has been genre-based. But now, you have playlists for different occasions; for running, sleeping, Spanish-themed dinners… And these playlists allow users to discover new music even if they’re not into ‘jazz’ or ‘rock’,” said Tan Chee Meng, Spotify (APAC) director of artists and label services.

The introduction of analytics also means that music fans could have a greater say in driving and defining the music being created, said Kaur.

“Artists and labels now have information on how users react to tracks – does it get skipped after a few seconds, at which point does the track lose its audience; and this is beginning to influence how writers and producers create songs,” she said.

The direct impact of playlists can already be seen among some artists and brands.

Tan cited how the global success of Singaporean singer-songwriter Linying was due, in part, to her presence in playlists around the world after her first single Sticky Leaves was included in last year’s Spotify Spotlight program

This, in turn, opened up more opportunities for the artist. “It started getting added into all these playlists all over the world and from there, it opened a lot of doors geographically,” said Linying, who has since been signed to major record labels and performed at festivals such as Summer Sonic in Japan and South By Southwest in the US.

Apart from artists getting their music out, businesses are also slowly tapping into the idea of creating playlists to build up their respective brands.

Kaur cited how Spotify in Hong Kong worked with Wyeth Nutrition to create playlists for its Illuma baby milk powder, and how Gatorade teamed up with DJ Steve Aoki for its own high-intensity list of music. Last year, Uniqlo Malaysia also collaborated with Spotify to generate special playlists for users based on the former’s new collections.

The first Spotify Talks also touched on other topics, such as the democratisation of music thanks to technology, and the decline of influence by traditional “gatekeepers” such as radio.

These have made it easier for artists to make an impact in other parts of the world, said producer Kevin Foo, who also manages Linying.

But he also pointed out that there is still a need for more resources for local English-language musicians to compete against counterparts from bigger markets such as in the UK, US, and Australia.

Other panelists also welcomed positive news about the global music industry.

Calvin Wong, president of Warner Music in Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Korea, recalled how the industry “was going through a free fall since 1997”. With music streaming and technology becoming the norm, it is now easier for artists to be discovered and to target their audiences.

Streaming has also been instrumental in determining the future of the industry. Tan cited the recent International Federation of the Phonographic Industry report which mentioned how digital revenues now account for half of total revenues in the music industry.

“For the past 10 years, it was always doom and gloom. But the industry has turned a corner, and streaming is initiating and driving a lot of that growth,” he said.