business opinions PR

Spotify’s latest ‘Marquee’ feature is unfair and that’s just how they like it.

Paying for reach is just what all social media platforms trade on.

News has been trickling out around Spotify’s new ‘Marquee’ feature. An excellent blog by Digital Music News goes into much more informed detail than I am aware of but here’s the short version. You pay to put your music online (admittedly a small fee via something like DistroKid). You work to get your music out to perhaps a few thousand followers on Spotify. They now have you in their feeds for future releases right? Wrong. With ‘Marquee’, Spotify now expects you to pay to reach the followers you’ve already accumulated for their own platform already.

As stated by Digital Music News and discussed on beta testers elsewhere, you will be charged $0.50 per ad click to have your music listened to. With Spotify already doing the dirty for musicians on their streaming revenue, it would take around 150 streams of music to make that money back up again. You are going to want to only get superfans who’ll repeatedly stream your music to claim that money back over your lifetime. There’s no bidding, it is a flat fee. It’s paying for Spotify as a user and as a creator whilst never actually being the real product or commodity yourself. It builds Spotify as a brand, not you. Anytime you’ll want to add value and become your own voice, you’ll now need to pay.

I could see this coming and its because its the same strategy almost every other social media platform has committed to when they get a decent market share.

photo of a Spotify Marquee ad
Spotify Marquee

See Facebook and their targeted ad’s campaign. Want natural growth and reach of your posts? It’s very tricky to get as Facebook actively stalls your non-paid content. Twitter is setting off down this path with its promoted ads and targeted feeds. YouTube does something similar specifically around breaking news. Bizarrely LinkedIn is one of the few that still allows for natural sharing to be quite powerful and uncapped on their algorithm but even that’s changing. What’s the upshot of this? If you are creating content that will only be found on a specific social media platform or algorithmic-based app – you are promoting their brand – not yours. You are not in control of your content, how it is displayed and who out of your audience will ever get to see it. Oh, and budgets start at $250, so that means if you are a micro-label, indie start-up band or a fledgling artist trying to get heard, you’ve already been placed into algorithm poverty.

My first advice to anyone when I speak to them about PR, marketing or anything about your brand is ‘where do you call home?’ I hope that artists reply with ‘I want a website’ as for me, this is still the correct answer. It’s the only place where you get to make the rules of engagement and everyone can see your content, how you want it displayed – no questions asked. It’s your brand, you build it, you reap the rewards. Absolutely use social media platforms to have great conversations, share moments and tell your story but bring them back home. Every. Single. Time. That work you’ve just done to amass 10,000 followers on Spotify? Well now it is going to cost you to talk to them and Spotify does not care.

This is, of course, an oversimplification. There are many layers of issues at play here. We need a platform that cares about its artists and the music ecosystem it creates. Spotify isn’t incentivised to do this though. Give them peanuts, they’ll need to create more music. Your streams are declining, we’ll reduce your reach automatically – that’ll make you pop out a new single/EP. It’s speeding up the treadmill, releases become less momentous, the listeners are less excited over it being an event and so the whole thing loses its appeal and no one wins in the long term. Except for one company.

Take back ownership of your engagement. Start it from home – your own website.

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