Spotify has the right pieces in the wrong places
Have you ever tried to find a concert on Spotify? Give it shot. On both the mobile and desktop app you navigate to “Search” and then scroll down to select “Concerts.” It isn’t an intuitive location. Several of my friends who have used Spotify for years were surprised to learn of the concerts page when I showed it to them. It’s so unintuitive that someone went through the hassle of posting on the Spotify forum to recommend Spotify to create a concerts page, not knowing one already existed.
Once you get to the concerts page, you see a list of concerts based on your listening history. Spotify does a great job selecting artists you might be interested in, but the chronological order isn’t ideal. I’m rarely looking for concerts this week and usually those tickets are sold out, so it doesn’t make sense for me to see those first. A list of upcoming concerts sorted by “relevance to me” would be more helpful for most listeners. Also, you don’t see information like pricing and ticket availability, which is important information for my purchasing decision.
Spotify is fully capable of building the best concerts discovery and purchasing tool out there. They know our music tastes better than anyone else (including ourselves) and for paid subscribers, they already have credit card information to make purchasing seamless. They have all the right pieces, but they haven’t put them together to satisfy an unmet consumer need.
There aren’t any good concert tools out there
If you’re like me, you often rely on your friends to learn about concerts, whether directly through word-of-mouth or indirectly by seeing that they’re going to a concert on Facebook.
This method has a few downsides. For one, I’m counting on my friends’ abilities to learn about concerts, which results in a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem. Where did they hear about the concert from? Second, if I’m hearing about the concert secondhand, I may be hearing about it too late to buy tickets during the initial sale — and I rarely want to go through the risk, hassle and expense of the secondary market. Lastly, I’m counting on my friends’ tastes to be similar to mine. I may be missing out on some concerts that I would appreciate, but not my friends.
I tried 7 concert apps and here’s what I realized
There are several apps in this space trying to solve this problem and I tried 7 of them — Songkick, Bandsintown, AXS, StubHub, Vivid Seats, Loudie and Live Nation — and found them all to be lacking.
For one, few users will install, let alone regularly check, an app whose sole purpose is concerts discovery. We already have so many apps taking up space on our phone and time in our lives. There’s too much friction involved with installing and using a standalone app — concerts discovery needs to be integrated into an app I already use.
Taking this idea a step further, concerts discovery needs to be integrated in a way I can passively use it. The concerts apps out there today are functional, but none of them allow users to passively engage with them. As a result, only the most active concert-goers have a reason to regularly check these apps. So the rest of us resort to our Facebook news feed to passively discover concerts, but there must be a better option.
Two products stuck out to me during my research — Bandsintown and Music-Map. Bandsintown is one of those concerts apps I tested out. Its default view is quite similar to the other apps I tried out.
Nothing remarkable here.
If you tapped the “Artists” button on the top-left, you got to somewhere more interesting. This “artists view” was so compact that I didn’t need to scroll. I could easily see all the artists playing near me on one page, and then click on them for further details. It rightfully put the emphasis on the artist.
Sadly, Bandsintown’s recommended artists weren’t actually very relevant for me, nor was it made in a way that was engaging. I looked at it for a few minutes, found some interesting concerts, but never felt the need to look at it again. It just wasn’t fun.
The second product that stuck out to me was Music-Map. Music-Map is a fun visualization that shows similar artists on a graph. Try it out for yourself here. An example for Drake is below.
It’s really fun to play with. If it were integrated into Spotify, it would be cool way to discover new artists and listen to them. I actually found myself looking at this visualization for a while, trying to find new artists I didn’t know of.
Both Bandsintown and Music-Map are showing artists. The former is helping you discover concerts of artists you like and the latter is helping you discover artists similar to artists you like. I thought the two features could be combined to create a concerts discovery tool that users would actually want to regularly check.
The proposal — A concerts map
Let’s get started with the redesign. First, instead of tucking away the concerts feature in some hard-to-find location, we’ll create a separate icon for it in the toolbar.
As a start, let’s use something similar to the artists view in Bandsintown.
Right now, the problem is that this view isn’t very fun, just like Bandsintown. You may check it out once in a while, but odds are you would usually gloss right over it. So here’s an idea, how about we about we cluster similar artists near each other, similar to how Music-Map does. We won’t fit as many artists on the screen with this view, but you can pull down to refresh, just like your Instagram feed.
It’s a little less practical, but what is lost in practicality is gained in user engagement. Knowing that the exact artists you’ll see will be slightly different each time makes it more likely you’ll play with the concerts tab, just because each time it’ll be a little bit of a surprise.
Artists exploration — pushing the idea further
In a way, discovering a concert is a special case of discovering an artist. You’re re-discovering artists you likely already know in a new context, whether they have upcoming concerts near you.
Expanding our concerts discovery feature to become about discovering artists more broadly ends up being quite natural.
First, let’s change the toolbar to a “Explore” icon instead of “Concerts.”
Then, let’s change our “concerts map” to include both artists with upcoming concerts (in green) and artists without upcoming concerts (in grey).
This change comes with a few trade-offs. There are now two purposes — discovering concerts and new artists — making the purpose unclear for the user. The interface is a bit cluttered, and there are definitely many details that still need to be ironed out. Finally, it’s another discovery tool on top of Spotify’s multitude of music discovery features, which can create confusion among users.
I see a few key benefits of a combined artists/concerts discovery feature that in my opinion outweigh the cons:
It’s more engaging — people love learning about themselves, that’s why Spotify’s Year in Review is such a success; similarly, artists discovery allows you to see your own music tastes in a new format
It allows for more passive discovery — earlier, I shared how concerts discovery apps don’t work because many users aren’t actively looking for concerts; now, it’s about users actively exploring artists and passively stumbling upon concerts
It appeals to more users — not everyone is a concert-goer or lives in an area where there are a multitude of concert options to wade through, but almost all music-listeners are interested in exploring new artists
For these reasons, the concerts feature I propose isn’t even about concerts — it’s about exploring artists, and stumbling upon the ones who happen to be in town.
So what’s next for Spotify?
I think concerts are an important space for Spotify to invest in. Global live music revenue is ~$25B today (larger than digital streaming!) and fast-growing. Podcasts, which Spotify has been investing significantly in, is a mere ~$350–400M.
By becoming a key player in concerts discovery, Spotify could easily earn affiliate revenue from Ticketmaster, AXS and the like. Spotify can also offer concert analytics to artists or record companies, sharing valuable insights such as what songs the concertgoers listen to the most vs. general listeners.
From a product perspective, Spotify shouldn’t immediately get their engineering and design teams to work on the redesign I’ve laid out. The proposal here is just one possible one, and it might be the wrong choice. It might be that users actually do want something more straightforward, like a list of concerts which you can sort by relevance, date, or price (just like when you shop for something online).
I’m certain Spotify’s current concerts feature could be improved, but the path there isn’t for Spotify to immediately jump to this design or any other, but thoughtfully roll-out new designs and A/B test to understand what sticks.
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To create these prototypes, I used Balsamiq, a wireframing software that makes prototyping easy. I’m not a graphic designer but Balsamiq made it possible for me to create “good-enough” mock-ups to share these ideas. Quick shoutout to Peldi Guilizzoni and the rest of the Balsamiq team for making such an awesome product.
Thanks to the numerous friends who shared their Spotify and concert-related experiences and provided input on this piece. Special shout-out to my friend Vai for helping me throughout the whole process. I thought of this idea over a cup of coffee with him last year and now I’m incorporating his final feedback.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are purely my own. In no way is this article related to, informed by or endorsed by my employer.