From the moment Spotify first muscled its way into the audio market, it has played a pivotal yet contentious role in the way we consume, purchase and produce music.
A musician myself when the company first announced itself, I felt a little resentful at seeing the little we were able to generate through album sales slashed almost overnight to a minuscule fraction of a penny within Spotify’s first year.
These days I’m much more invested in podcasting, so when I heard that Spotify was looking to disrupt this space, I absorbed the news with a degree of trepidation.
I am not resistant to change. I appreciate all good things do not last forever. But nonetheless, I feel I can allow myself a little mourning period. R.I.P. The Podcast Wild West.
One of the joys of my seven years in podcasting has been in marvelling at the pure volume and variety that you get when you provide people with an entirely open source platform to play with.
Sure, the lack of quality control leaves you occasionally stumbling across content that can feel like an aggressive assault on the ears. Yes it’s true that we’ve now provided a platform for all of those people who think their banter in the pub is hilarious and deserves a wider audience.
But that same lack of restriction is the very reason why podcasts were able to capture the imagination of a generation of digital content consumers.
The reason why Gimlet Media commanded a price of $230m when Spotify bought it in February 2019 was because a global audience had been allowed to organically develop, checking in at their leisure on whichever platform took their fancy to stream high quality content with universal appeal.
By veering towards a model of exclusivity Spotify risk turning off those same fans in their droves. I personally have stopped religiously listening to the Joe Rogan Experience after the Swedish company paid a reported $100m to host it exclusively, only now dipping in occasionally for a specific guest that piques my interest.
Although I am a Spotify subscriber – simply because I cannot stand adverts – I’m simply not a fan of the platform’s usability when it comes to podcasts. For one thing, I have become used to all of my titles being in one place, and Spotify’s submission and sign off approach rules this out. This is largely to do with licencing issues and is understandable from Spotify’s point of view, however it is a bi-product of their methods of disruption.
Meanwhile the uprooting of the traditional RSS feed system for uploading titles has left the podcasting landscape something of a fractured mess. Separate libraries are needed for podcasts in the traditional sense, and what I’m calling ‘Spotcasts’.
But perhaps on some level I am merely suffering from Spotify Resentment Syndrome – the latest in a series of technological resistance afflictions (see also Apple Resentment Syndrome, Microsoft Resentment Syndrome, Moving Pictures Resentment Syndrome etc).
I see plenty of people, listeners and creators alike, already from suffering SRS. And just like it would have been futile feeding our SRS and refusing to engage with Spotify as musicians, the same is be true of podcasting.
So on this one, I’ll continue to float somewhere in the middle between embracing change and fighting it, while freely accepting that it is happening. Spotify view a 24% increase in subscribers in 2020 as vindication for its $800m spending spree, and with names like Michelle Obama and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex signed up, Spotify podcasts are not going anywhere soon.
But their model is the beginning of the end for the natural habitat of podcasts being a free-for-all one stop shop. And I’m not convinced that it’s just the delusions brought upon by SRS that is making me question whether this is for the better.
GLProUK is a digital marketing agency based in London and Surrey, helping market-leading brands fulfill their content requirements. We bring a passion for innovation to our podcasts, graphic design, professional video and photography, tailoring our expertise and enthusiasm to the unique aspects of your project. We believe in making the client experience as easy as possible, whether we’re developing a full marketing strategy, fulfilling your production brief, supplying a production crew or offering post-production services.