In an effort to boost ad sales and generate more revenue, Spotify is reportedly exploring a handful of ways to charge artists and labels for access to listeners—including by asking them to pay up to promote their music. RIP to your organic music recommendation playlists.
Spotify uses a tool called Marquee to charge musicians or labels a minimum of $5,000 to promote their new releases to fans, Bloomberg reported Monday, citing Lil Wayne and Justin Bieber as artists who have used the service. Beck Kloss, Spotify’s vice president of product and strategy for creators told the outlet that Spotify is “seeing repeat purchases from early customers, and on average, more than a quarter of users who see a Marquee listen to the promoted music, making it one of the most effective digital marketing tools available.”
Paying to push out notifications to relevant users reportedly isn’t the only way that Spotify is wielding its promotion power. According to Bloomberg, Spotify also places sponsored songs in curated playlists, and the company has explored potentially charging for information related to listener behavior on the platform.
A Spotify spokesperson did not answer specific questions about Marquee but instead pointed Gizmodo to a blog post from October announcing the tool (though “Marquee” is mentioned nowhere in the post). In that post, Spotify informed users it would “let artist teams pay to sponsor [the app’s] recommendations, giving them the power to tell their listeners on Spotify.”
“One thing that won’t change is that these recommendations will continue to be powered by your music taste, so you will only hear from artists that you frequently listen to or follow. We hope you enjoy these recommendations—but if you’re not into them, Premium subscribers can turn them off,” the company said at the time. It did not, however, mention that it would plant sponsored songs in user playlists on the platform.
Here’s the thing: Spotify is just like any other service that’s offered for free or for a piddly monthly cost to users for unlimited content consumption. In most cases, it’s users who ultimately wind up being the product for companies—or, in this case, artists and labels—hoping to reach them with marketing. And if Spotify’s own conversation figures are correct, those promotions are paying off handsomely.
Spotify’s very good curation system might not be canceled just yet, but don’t be surprised if it starts muddying your recommendations in the future.