note: This is a speculative design proposal. I am in no way affiliated with Spotify, and the ideas and concepts expressed here are mine alone.
I love Spotify, it’s easily the best music platform on the web. And it’s not just the variety of music that can be found on it, it’s the way that it invites you to explore. I get lost in “Artist Bio” black holes the way some people do exploring Wikipedia or Youtube. I love learning about new (and old) artists. Where are they from? Who are they associated with? What are they all about?
In his brilliant 2014 Face The Music Keynote, legendary artist Steve Albini outlined why being a musician today is better than any other time in history, “The internet has facilitated the most direct and efficient, compact relationship ever between band and audience”. Anyone can compose, record, and distribute music with little or no assistance from traditional music industry resources. On top of that, it’s never been easier to connect with people all over the world.
Enter Spotify, the behemoth music sharing platform with over 100 million users. Using this magnificent tool is like browsing the largest record store ever, with an encyclopedia of information at your fingertips. We no longer fawn over every CD that costs us $14, or struggle to pirate records one at a time via Napster. We have access to almost anything, instantly. So where do we begin?
Spotify does not take the element of discovery lightly. Recently they have been leaning on data-driven discovery and curated playlists with catchy titles to push new content. Sure, that’s fine if I’m in a hurry and need music for a house party or study session. But what if I want to learn a bit more and make my own connections? There must be a better, richer way to explore artists and the music they’ve created. I believe that there is an untapped well of inspiration hiding in the humble record label, and it’s been overlooked while music has exploded across the internet. You can see it clearly browsing around Spotify, record labels don’t want to be invisible. They have profiles, but there is no special class of user like there is for Artists.
Many labels already operate profiles on Spotify, they have playlists with titles like “An Introduction to…” and “New Releases from…”. This seems like a missed opportunity on the part of Spotify. Labels want to be a source for curated content and a voice that supports their artists. So what would it look like if we built out this framework?
I want to be clear that the goal of this is not to disrupt the flow of browsing and enjoying music on Spotify. This content is not meant to clutter artist pages, nor disrupt the basic flow of the app. Primary methods of access should be via a link in the nav bar, a feed on the Browse page, and by clicking on the label tag at the bottom of an album. With that said, let’s take a look at what this might look like.
The label home page would be structured similar to existing Artist pages. The landing screen shows a short bio, as well as their top artists on Spotify. This information is easily sourced, as every label has a short bio that they can easily copy and paste. No new content creation necessary. Top artist info can easily be aggregated from Spotify’s rich mine of data.
The Feed tab shows all the activity from the label. This includes upcoming albums, singles, reissues, tour dates and announcements. Again, this content already exists on many record label websites. Little work is needed to fill this page with rich information. But it makes sense that it would be accessible here in Spotify, where much of the label’s musical content lives.
The Releases tab shows every album that the label has released in chronological order. Users can sample audio by clicking on the artwork or click through to read the label-generated description of the album, then on to the album page. As with the label bio, adding a simple description for each album provides some context and promotes better understanding of an artist. It’s like going to a museum exhibit, It really pays to have a little commentary to help you appreciate what you’re looking at.
The Lineup tab consists of all artists currently signed to the label. In an effort to facilitate discovery, users can click on different years and watch the history of the label evolve. Wouldn’t it be cool to look back at the first artist signed by a label, and develop a picture of how their stable of artists has evolved?
This tab serves as a home for playlists created by the label.
Artists are often represented by multiple labels. Spotify can use it’s existing data to link related labels based on this, or by aggregating data on which artists have toured together, for example.
Another method of accessing content is from the browse feature. A feed of new releases from labels that you follow appears here, with rich descriptions that are generated by labels themselves.
It’s important to distinguish between different classes of users and content, Spotify already does a great job at this. Following typical conventions, user (and in this case, artists) profile images are circular, while albums are square. Labels profile images will typically be graphic in nature, so there is little risk of confusing labels and artists. Furthermore, I’ve developed a badge that distinguishes artists from labels.
To summarize, I’m proposing a set of features that would allow for a deeper, richer music discovery experience that leverages content already in the hands of record labels and data that Spotify already maintains. Never before have we as consumers of music had so much to explore, and Spotify is already a great platform for this. There are many dimensions that we have to understand and appreciate music, and record labels are an important gateway. It’s time for Spotify to give them a voice.