Spotify has quietly launched its own iMessage application that let you text songs to friends with just a few taps. The new app hasn’t been officially announced, but appears to be similar in functionality to Spotify’s Messenger app, which went live earlier this spring as one of Messenger’s new chat extensions.
As with the Messenger bot, the new iMessage app also lets you quickly search across Spotify’s full catalog for a track you want to share, then tap a button to paste a preview of that song into your chat session. This preview includes an album image, song title, and artist information.
But in the iMessage app’s case, the image is much larger than on Messenger, and there’s no “play” button. Instead, a small Spotify logo at the top left is what indicates that what you’ve sent is a song.
The recipient then taps the image which launches a new window, overlaid on top of the chat session. From here they can play the provided 30-second clip, or tap the “Play on Spotify” button below to hear the full track, if you’re a subscriber. (We also noticed that once it knows you’re a paying Spotify user, the option to stream a clip goes away and you’re just directed to the Spotify app to stream.)
Spotify users have noticed a new opt-out setting appearing both on desktop and in-app: Sponsored Songs. Sponsored content in general is not new for Spotify — last year they allowed their most popular playlists to be sponsored by brands — but allowing labels to promote individual songs certainly is. A representative from Spotify confirms to The Verge that Sponsored Songs is a test program that will only appear to users on the free tier.
Sponsored Songs don’t appear as banners like the platform’s existing ads, but are integrated into playlists you follow. In the example below from Liam Maloney, the sponsored song — “Call Me” by NEIKED — is featured above the playlist. As first reported by TechCrunch, the songs are chosen to match a user’s existing music tastes, are instantly playable, and are savable without a prerequisite ad click.
Very happy I’ve found where to turn off “sponsored songs” on @Spotify I don’t pay for a platform AND expect adverts. pic.twitter.com/1AWBr3cm1T
— Liam Maloney (@liamtmaloney) June 19, 2017
“Show sponsored songs” is an auto-enabled setting which Spotify seems to only be testing with some users. If the toggle is available on your account, you’ll have to turn off under Settings > Display Options on desktop and Settings > Sponsored Content on mobile if you don’t want the songs to appear. The toggle will show for both premium and free users, but the actual sponsored song test is only functioning on the free tier.
Is this new? An auto-enabled setting in @spotify to “show sponsored songs” under Display Options? pic.twitter.com/wiwzcQFVe5
Judging by the headlines Friday morning, Taylor Swift’s music has finally returned to streaming services. But that’s not exactly the case.
Taylor Nation, an official arm of the Swift machine, posted mid-evening on Thursday that, in celebration of her 2014 album 1989 selling 10 million albums globally and a 100-million song “certification” from the Recording Industry Association of America, Swift and her management would make her entire back catalog available on streaming services. As of this morning, a Spotify playlist of her greatest hits had drawn nearly 30,000 subscribers.
In truth, her back catalog was available in piecemeal or in full on various services well before early this morning. Subscription-only services all had her previous pre-2014 albums, and Apple Music, in a very public coup for the company following a very public act of contrition, also had 1989. And because of the legal structure of song licensing in the states, listeners on Pandora’s radio service also could hear tracks from her catalog. The one conspicuous place you couldn’t hear Swift’s work was Spotify.
That was because of Spotify’s industry-polarizing dedication to its “free tier,” which lets listeners hear music without a subscription in exchange for regular interruptions from ads. “It’s my opinion that music should not be free,” Swift wrote in an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal in 2014. Adding to the acrimony, Spotify had also maintained a no-exceptions policy on “windowing,” wherein certain albums would be available to paid subscribers for a certain period of time. (“Windowing” should not to be confused with “exclusives,” where an artist makes their work available only on a specific service, a strategy Apple Music has prolifically chased.) Both policies were taken as affronts by Swift and her team — on the latter point, as robbing artists and their labels of control. That’s in large part why Swift pulled her entire catalog from Spotify in 2014.
So the question this morning is, why are Taylor Swift’s albums now on Spotify? A request for clarification on that question by Swift’s management and record label was not immediately returned. But it’s worth noting that Spotify recently softened its stance on windowing — in return for paying lowered fees to labels — according to a report from the Financial Times in March. Streaming has also become the dominant revenue driver for the recording industry since the release of 1989. Spotify’s anodyne statement on the news simply confirms “that Taylor Swift’s entire back catalogue is now available on Spotify for her millions of fans to enjoy.”
Spotify is said to be exploring the launch of branded wearable, according to rumors floated by a “trusted source” at Zatz Not Funny. There’s little information out there at this early stage, though a job listing posted by the company does lend some validity to the project.
Based at the streaming service’s global headquarters in Stockholm, the position involves, among other things, “leading an initiative to deliver hardware directly from Spotify to existing and new customers; a category defining product akin to Pebble Watch, Amazon Echo, and Snap Spectacles.”
The products listed offer some insight into what a device might entail – that last bit especially. Spectacles hit all the right notes for a hardware debut by a software brand, providing a template for what a product looks like when the stars align.
The product went beyond just hardware branding, filling in an interesting niche for the photo app by taking it beyond the confines of a smartphone. Hipster cachet and planned scarcity helped a bit, too.
Similarly, the Echo – and even the now-departed Pebble – point to some pretty grand ambitions for the device. Both served as proof of demand for new product categories. Which seems to imply that Spotify isn’t planning to simply slap its name on a fitness band and call it a day. Remember when Samsung branded MP3 players with the Napster logo? What’s that? You don’t?
Also worth noting from team Pebble is the Core. That product failed to surface due to the company’s own financial issues, as it was killed alongside the company’s new watches in the midst of FitBit’s acquisition of the startup. But the product at least pointed toward a category that has been neglected since hardware makers shifted focus away from MP3 players to smartphones.
Targeted specifically at runners, the device promised music playback and other functionality on a keychain, so people could leave their smartphone at home. We’ll never know how the product ultimately would have done, but it offered some interesting insight into how old product categories become new again as technology evolves.
Of course, the Core didn’t come anywhere near the promise of “affect[ing] the way the world experiences music & talk content,” but then, how often has a job listing really lived up to its promise? My first job out of college as an “editorial assistant” was 95-percent shipping boxes. But hey, I’m not bitter.
We’ve reached out to Spotify for comment on the listing/rumor, but I don’t really anticipate hearing much more than what’s already out there. This could well just be the early exploratory phase into the company’s “world affecting” hardware, and even without it, the job description points at integration with “fully-connected hardware devices,” and certainly the streaming company has been working hard to bring custom experiences to third-party products.
That alone would likely keep a new recruit busy for a while.
Hot on the heels of Pandora’s public launch of its on-demand streaming service, Pandora Premium, rival Spotify is looking to make its service more appealing to younger users by rolling out discounted student pricing to more countries around the world. The company announced today that its roughly half-priced version of its Premium service is now available to students who qualify in 33 new countries, in addition to the U.S., U.K., and Germany where student pricing is already offered.
The new countries where student pricing is now available includes: Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Lithuania, Latvia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Portugal, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, and Turkey.
In the war for subscribers, offering a lower price point can encourage sign-ups – and this is especially true among the younger demographic, a target market for these new streaming services and the users most likely to struggle to afford access.
On Spotify Premium’s student plan, users have the same benefits as a regular paid subscriber, including ad-free listening, access to Spotify’s catalog of over 30 million songs, offline listening, and more.
Students will have to verify their active enrollment in a university in order to take advantage of the lower price. Spotify is working with authentication and verification software provider SheerID to assist with this aspect of its student program. (Apple Music, by comparison, does something similar – but works with third-party UNiDAYS for verification.)
Like Apple Music’s discount, which drops the $9.99/month service down to $4.99/month, Spotify’s student discount is also a half-priced offering. In the U.S., it costs the same as Apple Music, and that same discount rate will apply in the new countries, as well.
With the additional markets, Spotify’s student discount is available in a total of 36 countries worldwide, which the company notes makes it the biggest music streaming student offer in the world by geographical reach. Apple Music, however, isn’t that far behind – its student offer expanded to more countries in November, including major markets like Canada, Japan, France and China, which brought its total supported markets to 32 at the time.
The two companies are fierce competitors, with Spotify having recently hit 50 million paying customers, and Apple Music having grown to 20 million subscribers as of December. And with Pandora Premium entering the market, the competition looks to be heating up even further.