Late last night Stockholm-based Spotify updated its desktop client to integrate BandPage, allowing musicians to sell merch right within the Spotify player. It's clearly all part of steps to help monetize Spotify's 40 million active users for the company itself, as well as provide musicians for an additional revenue stream.
Since launching in 2008 Spotify has had plenty of chances to blow your mind when it comes to their user interface. They've figured out that hooking up a music library to the internet is something people want, but they've played the user interface side of things stupid conservative, sticking closer to 2001's Winamp than a service that wants to blow your mind because it's 2014 and we can do crazy things with technology and music. Spotify is comfortable, but don't you think over the years they could have done more for interaction among friends and strangers than the follower bar? For instance, when was the last time you dug through Spotify's UI to see what playlists your friends have made?
We all know that children like bright colours and music, even in the world of startups young companies are generally colourful and like to make lots of noise when attracting an audience. However sooner than any parent or founder would wish the teenage years arrive and for some the joy and colour vanish to be replaced by moody blacks and a lot of self loathing. Well Spotify have gone black, but they’re not miserable about it.
Should Spotify be a full-featured social platform or should it just be and API and library for others to develop off of?
To publish music on platforms like iTunes, Spotify, and Deezer, artists use one of a number of publishing platforms like CD baby or TuneChord to get their tracks in front of mass audiences. Currently these platforms have some sort of fee for artists to get music up on the web, but Helsinki-based Music Kickup announces today that they're launching the first-ever free music distribution service, meaning up-and coming artists don't have to pay any fee to get their tracks available to audiences on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play and Deezer. Today MusicKickup now launches their service publicly.
Swedish music streaming service Spotify has pulled in another $250 million (€185 million) at a whopping $4+ billion valuation, The Wall Street Journal reports. The round was said to be completely led by Silicon Valley-based Crossover Ventures, which has purchased convertible bonds from TV and movie streaming service, Netflix, and owns a stake in major tech companies like Facebook and Zwillo.
Spotify turned 5 years old last week, and with it they shared some stats about the music streaming platform in a birthday infographic. Most notably, over the last years the company has expanded to 32 countries, which seems impressive because just in 2011 we were covering stories like "Spotify expands to Denmark," and debating whether the music industry would go along with it. Today they've hit most of the west with still some room for growth left in the BRIC countries, where it would be interesting to see how they a streaming service would monetize.
Shootitlive is one of those startups that has been quietly doing its thing and getting very impressive traction. In case of Shootitlive, perhaps not so quietly, as they have over 75 newspapers from Europe as their customers and their solution displays images to over 300 million monthly unique visitors.
Since we last wrote about the company in the distant 2011, they were just getting started in the market but already had impressive clients such as The Times, who used the solution to cover the Royal Wedding.
In simplest terms, with Shootitlive, photographers can upload pictures directly to the news sites without the need to export them from the camera. Everything is done in-camera using a special wifi transmitter.
Today Oslo-based Soundrop announces it has picked up a 20 million NOK (€2.5 million) round led by Northzone and Investinor. The company has had a good run so far, it's service is available as an app for Spotify, on the web, on any Facebook page, and as apps for iOS and Android. Last year, Soundrop was the second most used app in Spotify's App Finder.
Their new investor, Investinor is Norwegian government backed investor with €525 million in management, and Northzone has also invested in Soundrop's first €2.2 million round last June, as well as into Spotify, suggesting there could be a tighter integration of Soundrop coming, much like what we saw with Tungio, a playlist app acquired by Spotify.
Despite how much I love the platform, I've come to terms with the fact that Spotify's social features really aren't that good on a basic level. I was interested to read headlines the other day that the Swedish music streaming service is adding chat to the platform, as it's a sign that they're still trying to do something with "social". But I've got plenty of ways to talk to friends, and with 20 million + tracks, the only way to make sense of the catalogue is to put together playlists, and share some of them with friends.
And there, what can you do? You can organize your tracks, give it a title, and put it on your public Spotify page, but I'm hungry for the low hanging fruit.
Spotify's browser client seems pretty cool, even though the last time I opened it was to write an article about its launch, which for better or worse I'm always around a computer with the Spotify app loaded. Today they just launched a "Discover" page, that is worth taking a look at if you need an excuse to check out the browser app again. To find it, just hop on over to https://play.spotify.com/discover.
Stockholm-based ShapeUp Club got a little bit of a shakeup yesterday after hiring as CEO Henrik Torstensen, ex-Spotify head of Premium Sales, and Marcus Gners, Vice President of Business Development at Stardoll. Their positions will be CEO and Deputy CEO, respectively. Both have a history of being advisors to the company.
The company's founders, Tove Westlund and Martin Wählby, will be heading up product development and sales. “I have been part of a couple of amazing growth journeys before and with the way ShapeUp Club is evolving, both from a product and company perspective, the potential is huge”, says new CEO Henrik Torstensson.
It's been a busy week, but some news just hitting our radar is Spotify's acquisition of Stockholm-based Tunigo. Covering news late really isn't news, but to comment on the deal I think it's more exciting than the rest of the tech press would have you believe given our interview with Tunigo CEO Nick Holmstén just last March. I'm biased, because I'm interested in the area Tunigo has hinted at, but hear me out.
Helsinki has a new music app that's becoming the talk of the town. Started by a group of students from Helsinki, Sydney, and St. Petersburg, Clerkd launched last week to help you find and play new music.
The app mixes together music discovery with a local angle, allowing you to follow your friends and tastemakers, like bands, blogs or whoever you want. On top of that the map view lets you see whats popular nearby by giving each genre its own color. After selecting a location, you can just press play to get a playlist what music has been played in that general location though Clerkd.
Today Spotify has expanded into seven new markets, hitting four countries under ArcticStartup's radar: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and everyone's favorite, Iceland. It's part of today's bigger push, where they've expanded into Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Mexico. This now brings them to 31 countries, by my count.
There's not much more to say about this news, but for our readers in the Baltics or Iceland, it's worth the download. For better or worse it's become one of those services I don't want to live without - I like having 20 million songs on my computer or phone, and Spotify's UI is clean and constantly improving.
Accel Partners yesterday closed a €367 Million fund to focus on Europe and Israel. With Accel London IV, the firm will invest in early-stage and growth stage companies in the consumer Internet, big data, cloud, SaaS and mobile.
The Nordics are a big focus of Accel's new fund, as they seek to focus on their success with Rovio, Supercell, Spotify, and QlikTech, whose listing on NASDAQ resulted in a return of over $400 million to the Accel fund - one of the largest venture returns in Europe.
I've been curious what's happening behind Tunigo since adding it by chance to my Spotify Apps. The app is basically only a playlist directory, and I've been puzzled what's been generating revenue or why someone built it. It's not a hacked-together project - their Spotify and iPhone/Android app looks quite polished, and they offer a large number of professionally curated and user submitted playlists.
Luckily I saw Tunigo has a Swedish flag in the corner, and it's my day job to ask these questions, so I reached out to the company to see what makes them tick.
Spotify has released is web player as a public Beta in the UK, now allowing you to pull up Spotify on your lame office computer or at your friend's house - wherever you've got the internet but the client isn't installed. This added functionality puts them in more direct competition with all the web playing giants, like Denmark's Rdio, Rhapsody, and Grooveshark.
The app is nice to look at, but some notable features are missing - such as apps, playlist grouping, and social features. Much of the navigation and UI is hidden in pop-up boxes, which feel different from Google or Facebook's smoother navigation, but is easy enough to use.
Spotify has just overhauled its iPhone app interface, making it more similar to their Android version. Gone now is the bottom bar that was responsible for much of the navigation. Instead now everything has moved over to the side bar accessable by a button on the top left.
The app feels fast and responsive, making this update an nice addition, even though it takes some getting used to. Despite these updates, the app is still missing some features like Related Artists, and the search results still force you to dig down into tracks, albums, and artists, which is tricky when you only know half of a song's name, but you do know the artist.
There is no doubt about it, the war for online music streaming space is on and its about to get nasty. Prior to today, the competing companies, Spotify, Rdio, WiMP were only getting ready for battle. Counting troops, building war machines and marking territory.
Today, Rdio announced that they have launched free web music streaming in 15 countries, including pretty much every country in the ArcticStartup region with the exception of Latvia, Lithuania and Iceland. Now this is not a big news per say, as we have already covered the fact that they have silently launched first in Denmark and then in other Nordic countries.
I love me some tunes, and I love innovative web stuff (even if they're a little rough around the edges), so I was pleased to see that some of the projects built during Spotify's Music Hack Day last weekend were thrown up on Hacker League to poke around. The event took place last weekend at Spotify's new office in Stockholm, and was Spotify's first external Music Hack Day. I just took a few things that looked interesting to put up here, but browse the full list of submitted (and in progress) projects.
Super Mutroid - As shown in the top image, it's a music/rythym platform game with a Super Metroid theme. Reminds me of Bit Trip Runner. Download is here (if you have Mac OS 10.8). Haven't tried it yet, but will when I get a spare few minutes.
Spotify has gotten rid of purchased download links, but it doesn't seem to matter one way or another. Spotify's revenue is doing just fine from paid subscriptions and ads to its free service. At a press event in early December, Spotify has released some statistics on its streaming service. Spotify counts over 20 million users as "regular users" and has over 5 million paying customers.
Evolver.fm "did the math" and estimates that Spotify would be churning in an annual revenue of $621 million if it grew no further this year. With Spotify's exponential growth (as shown by doubling its user base last year) they predict that Spotify will hit above the $1 Billion revenue mark for 2013.
Since I upgraded to Spotify Premium I haven't been reminded every five minutes that Spotify needs money with a "Hi, this is Johnathan from Spotify..." advertisement. But the financial numbers also paint a clear picture.
We're always interested in numbers on Spotify, and PrivCo, a company that sells data on non-pubicly traded companies, has released a financial overview of Spotify. The 2010 and 2011 numbers paint a picture of what we already know - Spotify faces high costs and is operating at a pretty substantial loss. Record companies demand a pretty significant share of the revenues to allow streaming rights, and meanwhile Spotify's personnel costs have jumped up as they scale to new countries.
Spotify may have a leg up in the Nordics, but they must realize that users will happily leave if a competitor comes along with a service that brings their favorite movies, TV shows, and music under one roof. It appears Rdio and Vdio might be joining forces, but Spotify is also churning up rumors that it is partnering with HBO Nordics.
Even though Rdio was founded by the Swedish and Danish Skype co-founders Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis in 2010, by focusing on the U.S. market they still haven't made the same cultural dent in the Nordics like Spotify has. Still, they offer solid competition through a browser-based music streaming service (much like what Spotify is rumored to be working on).
Spotify is rumored to soon launch a browser-based version of their streaming service, "multiple sources" tell TechCrunch. Currently the Spotify service can only be accessed through their desktop client or through their mobile apps. The downloadable clients work well enough for most people, but a browser-version will likely help Spotify expand by reducing friction - it's hard to show off Spotify when you're on your friend's computer.
This move puts Spotify in more obvious competition with Rdio, the browser-based music streaming service created by Skype founders Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis.
You know how a song or playlist just fit's a certain spot? You might listen to a completely different playlist when you're walking along the water, when you're at the gym, or at the office. Tunaspot is a location-based music discovery platform that provides a map that lets you zoom into anywhere in the world and find out what playlists people are listening to and have shared there. Yesterday they launched an app on Spotify in their native Sweden, as well as Denmark and Norway.
Tunaspot CTO Christian Nilsson tells us they're doing a rolling launch to be sure they can scale and respond correctly, but the service can also be reached outside the launch countries by going to this link.
As soon as it was announced that Spotify was opening up their API to users, Playmysong CTO Timo Kari did not sleep until he had a working prototype that would integrate their service into Spotify's collection. This was apparently jumping the gun, Spotify wants developers to first submit their ideas to confirm that the Swedish music delivery service finds the idea interesting before letting developers know to proceed, but Kari was a man inspired. Today, after much more polish, Playmysong has been accepted into Spotify's small, but growing list of apps.
We've covered Playmysong plenty in the past, but if you're unfamiliar with it, essentially it's a modern update to the jukebox. At supported bars, restaurants, hotels, and other locations, Playmysong lets users pull up their smartphones and pick the next songs to play off of the location's music library.
The most basic use-case is for the new Spotify app is for house parties. Spotify seems to be the main method of music delivery but for the house parties I've been to in recent years, but it's not perfect. A playlist usually keeps a party going, but when a partier wants that one song played, they usually search for and start the song off the playlist and you're left hearing that artist's b-sides on random for too long. Or sometimes a few people will just huddle around a computer to have their song played next, so all night you end up hearing just hearing half of every song.
Perhaps it shouldn't be a surprise since they're working in the music industry, but Spotify is having a tougher time than expected monetizing its users. The number of paid users has been smaller than predicted, but currently Spotify is focused on growth and on making their program indispensable in users' lives. Spotify claims they are making money on each new user they get, whether they're free or paying, making all growth positive for them. In total, the company is shooting for around €690 million in turnover this year.
Still, country by country growth is expensive for them due to the licensing fees individual to each country. The Wall Street Journal reports that the company has paid around €200 million to labels and publishers since the service was launched in 2008.
Forget linking to some low fidelity Youtube video next time you want to share a music track on your blog. Spotify has now launched a Spotify Play Button widget generator that can get visitors to your blog or website jamming to your tunes of choice with just one click of a button. Currently the widget offers a pretty simple integration -- no live following of a user's playlists or anything, but it should be enough to spice up music blogs with it's easy playback and nice big cover images.
We were talking today at the office about all the different applications we use on a day to day basis only soon to realise the most of the applications I use on a daily basis are from the Nordics and Baltics. In this post I've done a short analysis on each of the applications and services I use, but they really make up the most important applications outside of my e-mail client (Sparrow) and browser (Safari). One could assume that since I'm working on a Mac there wouldn't so much options out there, which of course couldn't be more wrong. I find the most beautiful apps to be on Mac and to my surprise many of them are made here in Northern Europe.
My work involves writing content, recording audio, e-mailing and sales work - just to name a few different tasks. I also invite you to add your own applications in the comments below - would be great to see how people in different functions use different applications. Oh, and if you're wondering why these products get to be on the list? They create amazing products. I've paid for all the programs below, meaning I haven't received any free licenses for any of them.