Et tu, Spotify?
The moment Thanksgiving was over, Spotify updated its annual Christmas Hits playlist. But as spotted by Engadget, the big addition this year wasn’t Christmas Without You by Ava Max, a test run of an Instagram Stories-like feature. In both the iOS and Android apps, right under the cover photo of a beaming 1990s Mariah Carey, is a familiar, ringed circle with a bubble right above it reading, “Tap to see the story.” The worst part is it wasn’t limited to this one, seasonal playlist. Spotify also did it for its emo Tear Drop playlist. These were the two I found and if there’s more, please let me live in ignorance and don’t tell me.
Are you serious, Spotify? Did you not see the debacle that was Twitter’s Fleets less than two weeks ago? You’re really doing this?
Granted, it’s not as if Spotify hadn’t hinted this was coming. Last year it tested out a “Storyline” feature, which involved popup cards where artists could share the inspiration or “story” behind a particular piece of music. If you haven’t heard of this particular feature, you’d be forgiven because it didn’t get much fanfare and was only featured for a handful of songs. But with this most recent rollout, it appears Spotify is ready to test at a larger scale.
Still, I’m pretty sure no one asked for this. Most artists have their own Instagrams or other social media where they can drop these little asinine factoids. They don’t need to live in Spotify, a music app with few social aspects beyond the year-end list of stats, “what character are you?” playlist quizzes, and the ability to share or collaborate on playlists with friends. If I really like an artist, I might seek out an interview on YouTube or in Pitchfork, but maybe the last thing I want is yet another app where I’m being encouraged to tap through brief videos that aren’t even the reason why I came to that platform in the first place.
That’s the real problem here. Tacking on Stories to your platform willy nilly doesn’t help to differentiate your app from the billion other ones vying for my limited attention span. In the case of Spotify, there are other platforms where I’d prefer to get my hit of artist interaction. The one thing I suppose Spotify’s iteration of Stories has going for it is it doesn’t appear to be something regular people can join in on. Can you imagine subscribing to a friend’s playlist and then having to watch them aimlessly ramble about why they added this song or that? No thank you.
Religiously watching Instagram Stories has already become a weird social obligation for dating and long-term relationships. I don’t need it to pollute my music, too. I would rather go back to manually creating mix CDs so long as I never have to be subjected to stupid videos of my idiot friends jamming to a dumb song no one really gives two shits about. (There’s TikTok for that.)
Also, there’s a chance that this won’t go any further. Spotify has a history of piloting different features—some of which make it onto primetime while others die quietly, never to be heard from again. Perhaps, if we all make a big enough stink, Spotify will take the hint, forget this ever happened, and focus on something else that’s actually good.
When Instagram first cribbed the format from Snapchat, that made sense. It was clearly a ripoff, but Snapchat was a platform that catered to the teens. Instagram had a broader appeal. Plus, Instagram is a platform where everything is filtered to be perfect. Disappearing content fits in with Instagram’s superficial vibe, lest something you post there clash with your hypercurated feed.
Even YouTube has it: channels with over 10,000 subscribers can post temporary videos that last seven days. Viewers can then interact with these videos, and content creators have the option to respond. This is yet another thing I don’t fully comprehend. The reason you go watch YouTubers is to get lengthy, deep-dives into whatever topic they specialize in. While YouTube comments sections are notoriously toxic, they’re an established form of responding to videos. There are also plenty of other ways to interact with vloggers—and vloggers will usually express which is their preferred method at the end of a video. If I wanted to see an influencer do a short video, I’d go to TikTok—which incidentally, is what most of them do anyway. You get the TL;DR content on Instagram or TikTok, and then if you really like their content, you head on over to YouTube for a 20- or 30-minute deep-dive into, I don’t know, the difference between retinol and bakuchiol in your skincare routine.
Don’t get me started on Fleets, which as my astute colleagues have pointed out, is Twitter on Coward Mode, if you will. Twitter is already a cesspool of 280-word, fleeting thoughts. The whole point of Twitter is bite-sized zingers and a way to refer followers to other platforms. Hence, why a publisher is more likely to publish links to stories on their Twitter, but quote-cards on Instagram. Twitter never needed Fleets because, by its nature, it was already an ephemeral platform. Or it should be, even though that isn’t always the case, as folks who’ve had their embarrassing old tweets aired out will tell you.
But you know what the true death knell for Stories was? When LinkedIn—fucking LinkedIn—debuted them. This is perhaps the adoption that has the most Boomer energy and makes the least sense. Job-hunting is one of the most soul-sucking things a person can do. Why, for the love of everything holy, would you want to make a short disappearing video about... your resume? Your job experience? Ten Reasons Why Recruiters Should Reach Out to You? LinkedIn is where boomers and CEOs might go to post content, but literally, no one who would ever use Stories would ever go to LinkedIn to see what their favorite small-time CEO thinks are the 10 takeaways from Q1 earnings.
It’s not that Stories is inherently bad. I personally appreciate that I can post 8,000 videos of my pets in my Instagram Stories and not have it clutter up my actual feed. It’s just that on most apps, it’s not something that makes the experience better. It’s there because some investors with peas for brains thought it’d be an easy way to boost the platform’s popularity and therefore, make more money. It’s not about what users of a given platform might actually want. It’s transparently lazy. The end result is now you have a dozen apps trying to be something they’re not, while annoyed users wonder why they just can’t use the apps the way they were intended.