Spotify's latest partnership helps musicians sell 'experiences' to fans

Spotify has added a new way for musicians to make money from its streaming music service, through a partnership with US company BandPage.

The pair have teamed up to enable artists to sell “VIP experiences” to fans from their Spotify profile pages, including access to exclusive concerts, meet’n’greets, Skype conversationsand limited-edition merchandise.

Country artist Miranda Lambert, pop singer Ariana Grande and dance star Porter Robinson are among the first musicians to take advantage of the new feature, which will sit alongside existing ticket and merchandise sales on their profile pages.

The experiences are similar to those offered by musicians as part of crowdfunding campaigns on sites like Kickstarter, although in this case, they’re being sold rather than offered as rewards for pledges.

Spotify is not the first streaming music service to work with BandPage in this way. In September 2013, it announced a similar partnership with US service Rhapsody. More than 500,000 musicians have profiles on BandPage already.

For the Spotify launch, fans can pre-order Grande’s new album for $9.98 and get access to an online stream of her concert debuting its songs; pay $39.99 to meet Robinson during his upcoming tour and get a mask prop from a recent video; or buy Lambert’s $25 t-shirt and beer-cooler bundle.

Other examples include US band Tea Leaf Green charging fans $200 to collaborate on one of their own songs with its drummer and producer, and The Stone Foxes charging $30 for fans to watch soundchecks and meet them on their next tour.

“Offering direct-to-fan experiences represents a massive opportunity for musicians,” BandPage chief executive J Sider told The Guardian, citing a report from research firm Nielsen suggesting that this area could be worth up to $2.6bn a year to artists.

“At BandPage, we’ve seen bands increase their net revenue by as much as 25% by adding experiences like VIP backstage passes, online concerts, custom recordings and more. And fans absolutely love the opportunity to connect with their favourite artists in this way.”

Spotify’s director of artist services Mark Williamson told The Guardian that the new experiences feature will be live in nine countries today – the US, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Iceland – with more to follow.

The BandPage partnership helps Spotify out of a hole: its previous partner for selling merchandise through artist profiles, Topspin, was bought by rival streaming service Beats Music earlier this year – with Beats subsequently bought by Apple.

Spotify also hopes the new feature, together with the existing ticketing section on artist profiles, will help to win over artists who have criticised the company – and streaming music in general – for the amount musicians make from plays of their songs.

In some cases, this is a big challenge. Radiohead’s Thom Yorke – with his infamous “last desperate fart of a dying corpse” interview – and David Byrne have been Spotify’s most prominent critics.

This week alone, Sean Kinney from rock band Alice in Chains described streaming payouts as “a fucking ripoff” while Swedish indie label Blue Music Group removed its catalogue from Spotify citing “pitiful rates”.

“Whilst our core focus will always be on generating royalty income when fans enjoy your music, the opportunity that 40 million users represents for other aspects of an artist’s bottom line is huge,” Williamson told The Guardian.

“Being able to directly help artists to fill seats at shows, get shirts onto fans’ backs and connect with their audiences sets Spotify apart in terms of what we can offer artists.”

For now, fans will only see the BandPage experiences if they visit musicians’ Spotify profiles: they will not be automatically shown when listening to that artist, or when using the service’s “Discover” section that recommends music to listen to.

Is that a missed opportunity? “Artist Pages on Spotify are highly trafficked and the perfect area for merchandise as the fan has already shown an interest in the artist. It’s a chance to explore more than just their music,” said Williamson.

“Having said that, we’re keen to explore other areas of Spotify where the discovery and display of merchandise might fit but we want to balance that with ensuring that our users can get to music first and foremost.”

Spotify now has tickets, merchandise and fan experiences, but there’s one more obvious thing missing: crowdfunding.

For now, there is no way for artists to promote their fundraising campaigns on sites like Kickstarter, PledgeMusic, Patreon and Indiegogo to people discovering their music on Spotify – or, indeed, any streaming music service.

YouTube is preparing to introduce crowdfunding features for creators using its platform soon. Should Spotify be looking to follow suit, or at least strike BandPage-style partnerships with the crowdfunding firms listed above?

“Crowdfunding is a really interesting development in the music industry,” said Williamson. “However, for the time being we want to focus on the commercial areas that are easily available to the majority of artists and that are most attractive to fans.”

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Powered by article was written by Stuart Dredge, for on Wednesday 13th August 2014 14.00 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010