For years, Spotify has been the solid choice for a music streaming service. In the last financial report, they recorded 489 million active user, 205 million of those used a paid service. So why the doomsday headline? Because in trying to remain relevant, Spotify has forgotten what made it the market leader.
Make no mistake, Spotify is the leading music streaming service. Both Apple and Amazon upgraded their sound quality to compete with Tidal and place Spotify in the shade. It didn’t create a mass exodus to either of those platforms. This writer resisted Spotify for years, switching between Deezer, Apple and Amazon on a whim. The sound quality (and a subscription to Prime which leads to a discount) meant an Amazon residency became the default setting.
It was through a free trial, via Xbox Game Pass, the switch to Spotify took place. Initially, the sound difference was noticeable. But not enough to dismiss the service without giving it a try. What became apparent was Spotify’s algorithm was a more intelligent beast than Apple Music and Amazon’s. When asking a service to autoplay after the album you’re listening to, or the one-off song you’ve requested, finishes, it will enter a radio mode. Here, the app has to make a playlist on the fly.
In the early days, Deezer did this pretty well, but eventually it would become a fixed playlist. Apple Music appeared the most limited. Even with a wide array of artists and genre in the library and history, it had its go-to faves. If I never hear Metallica’s “Fuel” again, it’ll mean I’ve never resubscribed to Apple Music.
Amazon was good at curating playlist and stations, but could also become a little repetitive in free play mode. It never seemed to open the doors to artists you’d never think of playing. This is where Spotify blew them all away. A day letting it play whatever it fancied led to fresh sounds every time. It quickly learnt how to place all those differing and eclectic genres and create ever-changing playlists. All of these were on the landing page, along with other suggestions.
Rather than being just a streaming service, it was a discovery app. They even threw in exclusive podcasts on top. It’d be remiss not to give a special mention to Rob Brydon here.
Then one day, the app gets opened, and all those clever, personalised mixes have been removed. Single images that take up the screen have replaced the ample suggestions, formally in thumbnails. They blare sound at you before you even know what it is. You just want to see the list of daily mixes.
You just want your Spotify back.
But Spotify has lost its confidence. After holding its own when giants like Apple and Amazon moved onto its turf, for some reason, it’s petrified that TikTok is going to steal their users. The new interface is Spotify’s attempt to mimic TikTok. Just as every music streamer has flattered them through imitation – and lost – it seems Spotify is going to replicate their mistakes.
For a user like this writer, the new interface is unusable. Without that connection to their intelligent suggestions, it’s harder to find music than it would be using an iPod shuffle with your hands tied.
Nothing will match peak Spotify’s user experience, so it becomes a tradeoff between sound quality, price, or extra features. Many will stay with Spotify rather than make a compromise but that will be partly be influenced by the notion Spotify knows you best. That may be true: but it is no longer using that data to provide a fulfilling experience.
All they want to create now is a vacuous app for those with a short attention span. Music apps should be as deep and engaging as the sounds you need it to provide.
The search now begins for Spotify’s replacement.