Spotify’s new apps could be a big boost for labels

Sub Pop, Ninja Tune, Matador: Record labels used to be known as curators of a certain sound, and collectors would sometimes buy every new release on their favorite labels. The weight of an iconic label has largely disappeared in the age of digital music, but Spotify is now offering record companies another chance to prove their chops as curators. The music subscription service is launching a second batch of apps for its desktop application this week, and some of the new partners include Def Jam, Domino, Pias, Warner Music and Matador Records.
Spotify is also launching a number of other apps that make it easier to discover entire bodies of music, including one that offers an easy way to explore curated playlists from artists like Miles Davis and Bob Dylan, and one that lets listeners explore classical music by composer, era or instrument. However, the launch of label apps could be the most significant development, in part because labels seem like a natural fit for these kinds of apps.
Apps on Spotify have proven to be pretty popular. Some of the launch partners of the service’s app platform shared some first numbers with us in January, pointing to impressive engagement levels. Spotify followed up with an official tally, which showed some 15 million song plays for app partner Soundrop in February alone, and also included encouraging data from other apps.
One question not answered by these numbers was: What are third-party developers getting out of building these kinds of apps for Spotify? “Right now, there is really no monetization within the Spotify platform,” explained the company’s CEO Daniel Ek when Spotify launched the apps in November. That hasn’t changed since, and it’s unclear why startups should develop their app within Spotify’s walls, as opposed to on the open web.
Labels on the other hand can only gain from increased visibility on Spotify. Not only can they direct listeners towards the music of their artists, they can also use these apps to promote and monetize other things their artists have to offer – including limited downloads, tours and merchandise. The biggest benefit may actually go to those smaller labels that have a relationship with their artists that goes beyond music sales – which are exactly the labels that used to be known as curators of a certain sound. You know, like Sub Pop, Ninja Tune or Matador.