Spotify are digging their own grave by not going social

There’s a phrase I picked up from somewhere a while ago and now use it quite a lot. It’s;

No involvement, no commitment.

The basic premise is that if you don’t feel involved in something then you’re less likely to be committed to it. Take work, for example. If you don’t feel as if you’re an integral part of the place you’re less likely to give two hoots about getting in on time, meeting deadlines etc.

This basic idea seems to be behind so many things, including social media.

For me, Facebook works because it makes it so easy for friends to involve each other in what they’re doing. Earlier this year, Neilsen released some stats showing the amount of time people spend on top sites. Facebook, the 4th most popular site and most popular social network, pushed passed the 7 hour mark. That’s over 7 hours a month that the average user spends on the site.

Spotify. I love it. I have a premium subscription allowing me to listen at a higher bit rate than most users and, with the app on my 32GB Nokia N97 I have an incredible MP3 player at my fingertips.

But Spotify is in trouble. It’s not reaching enough subscribers in the UK – it’s biggest market – putting the whole business model in doubt.

I’ve been saying for ages that Spotify needs to get social. It needs to add that element of involvement that keeps people so glued to Facebook. I ‘scrobble‘ what I’m listening too so that my habits are recorded by Last.fm, but I never use the service because it involves the effort of opening up another service, but if those features were built into Spotify… wow. Then I could interact with my friends, just like I do on Facebook, but focused around our shared music tastes.

Nothing provides that in one place. It takes two apps and some manual copy/paste to share stuff.

So as exciting as mflow looks, it’s a bit too much like Last.fm but on the desktop. Sure it’s great that I can share songs I’m listening to and like, but I have to switch from Spotify to mflow and search for the track that’s already right in front of me in Spotify. Again, ball-ache and I can’t see myself using mflow long term because of the extra effort involved.

What Spotify needs to do is add mflow-like features. Let me “favourite/like/love” a track/album/artist. Show this on my friend’s start pages, as part of a timeline of activity including what I’m listening too. Show me a chart of my compatibility with my friends.

Give me a profile which shows what I’m listening to, charts of what I listen to most. Let me share tracks, albums and playlists with friends easily from within the application.

Let me involve my friends in my Spotify experience and let them do likewise. We’ll all be more committed to using Spotify – and with the added benefits, far more likely to pay that £10 per month for the privilege.

Update: What I’m proposing is nothing new, it’s human nature. Check out Dan Slee’s post on mix tapes as the pre-internet social media.

Update #2: Spotify made a u-turn; they’re going social! This article on Music Ally describes the Facebook integration features which will allow easy sharing of playlists and tracks between friends. Not only that but they’re sorting out my second bug-bear: existing music libraries. No longer will I have to suffer the embarrassment of using Windows Media Player as Spotify will now incorporate music already stored on your PC. Fantastic! Well done, Spotify.

11 thoughts on “Spotify are digging their own grave by not going social”

  1. I love that tag, Philip. You are dead right. No involvement, no commitment. That’s spot on in life in general and especially so in the web.

    I think you’ve spoted something very powerful and compelling with Spotify. People love sharing music and ptting their name to it.

    It’ll be fascinating to see how mflow works out…

  2. Having lots of cool social features in Spotify would be great. It would definitely make me consider shelling out £10 per month (although I still want all the bands who are on labels that they don’t have deals with adding first!).

    You could argue that not having social features hasn’t done iTunes any harm, but then iTunes and Spotify are quite different.

    I don’t think mflow has much of a future, the restriction of only being able to listen to a song in full once really puts me off. It’s not very often I buy a song after only one listen these days, not unless it’s a band I really love – and in that case I’d buy it anyway as I love the band, regardless of how many times I’d heard it.

    I’ve found when I am recommended great tracks/bands on mflow, I fire Spotify up so I can listen to them properly – as many times as I want.

    But I think you’ve hit the nail on the head with a Spotify/Last.fm/Mflow mashup…that would be hard to beat with ‘all you can eat’ music for £10 a month.

  3. Dan – Thanks for the link, and yes, it is as simple as people loving to share with each other.

    James – I might be wrong, but isn’t iTunes a bit of a loss leader for Apple? Good point about what mflow seems to be designed for – trying before you buy – but then, Spotify does it better and then allows you to save money by not actually buying! So yeah, mflow may be too late. That mashup would be immense. I wonder whether £10/mth would be sustainable though…

  4. I don’t think spotify is ever going to get enough subsrcibers whether it goes social or not for a couple of reasons.

    Firstly I don’t necessarily care what my mates are listening to but if one of them stumbles across a proper gem of a tune they’ll post about it on facebook. If they don’t then they’re probably not music lovers so wouldn’t be on spotify anyway.

    Secondly and most importantly why would I want to pay someone £10 a month to gain access to music? I have access to all the music I could possibly want and lots I don’t for no money at all.

  5. Haha, not for long if the #deact gets it’s way… ;o)

    Adding social features though includes the ability to post stuff to other services like Facebook. It’s easier to click a “post to Facebook” button within Spotify than copy the Spotify link, open up Facebook, paste the Spotify link and then click Share.

    The general principle is that the easier you make it for people, the more likely they are to use it.

  6. I’ve just had an idea and it’s one example where opening up and getting social could help Spotify to get a more engaged user base…

    There’s an app that, every week, looks through the people you’ve been talking with on Twitter and creates a list of those key people. (See my conversation list.)

    Imagine that, but every week the app runs through what you’ve scrobbled on last.fm and creates a Spotify playlist of tracks you might like. Of course, that’s only possible if Spotify either does that itself or allows 3rd party apps in to view/add/edit playlists and tracks.

    Of course, this app might actually have to be last.fm itself seeing as that’s where the recommendation stuff is but we’ll just glance over that while I make my point ;o)

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