A Case For and Against Spotify Stories
ICYMI: AC/DC top the charts, Ask.fm founders raise $3.9m for their new venture, and the purchasing power of k-pop fandom
Welcome to Issue #3 of Appetite for Distraction, a newsletter exploring how technology is bridging the gap between art and commerce. My goal is to make this a resource that cuts through the noise; helping creators and creative industry professionals make informed decisions.
Thanks so much for subscribing, and please tell a few friends if you’d like!
A Case For And Against Spotify Stories
Spotify recently tested a Stories feature on some of their popular playlists. However, this isn’t their first time — they let influencers post stories to introduce their own playlists in January. They tried out another permutation called Storyline in 2019. I see these short-lived betas as indicative of Spotify’s hesitation about the efficacy of stories on their platform. In this week’s essay I map out a case for and against Stories on Spotify.
A Case For Spotify Stories: (If Spotify is trying to be YouTube) — UGC
As pointed out by Li Jin, Stories might soon be a baseline feature for consumer tech apps — akin to the ‘Like’ button that was ubiquitously adopted by most tech platforms.
Stories are a great way for Spotify to increase time spent in-app. This potentially opens up commercial opportunities through Marquee or (in an ideal world) for artists/creators/influencers themselves. Think — playlist influencers / music curators and the commerce their presence could drive.
Spotify is having a hard time increasing its ARPU in emerging markets such as India and Brazil where their business is still ad-dominated. These markets typically have a higher affinity for video content. Stories may promote active usage instead of passive consumption by increasing the in-app time spent by Indians and Brazilians. This means potentially higher clickthrough rates for advertisers which may entail ARPU growth.
There definitely seems to be some engagement upticks with video content on Spotify. Recent stats revealed by the company say that listeners are 145% more likely to share a song and 20% more likely to add it to their playlist if a song has Canvas powered visuals. Though I admit these may be sugar-coated to promote their marketplace for Canvas designers.
A Case Against Spotify Stories: (If Spotify is trying to be Netflix) — PGC
Eugene Wei’s essay on Status as a Service (StaaS) lays down 2 fundamental principles:
We are status-seeking monkeys
We seek out the most efficient path to maximizing social capital
A crucial part of what makes stories compelling, is that they help us play status games. “Look at me living my best life!” (No, seriously. Look.)
A quick post-mortem of platforms like Quibi reveals that over-prioritizing professionally generated content fails because it doesn't let us play status games, or enable aspirational dynamics.
Additionally, the polished content is too out of reach. YouTuber Casey Neistat arguably pioneered the approach of intentional imperfection. In an age of unattainable professional content, Casey tried to make content that is relatable - something viewers could aspire to make one day. (Safe to say this approach worked)
Equality of Opportunity in Social Capital Markets — Video based virtue signalling is powerful. But stories won’t work as long as they remain restricted to an exclusive group of artists and influencers and not to Spotify’s entire cohort of users.
AC/DC Debuts at No. 1, Powered by CD Sales | Ben Sisario, NYT
The warmest piece of news I’ve read all week. AC/DC’s new album opened at No 1 on the Billboard Charts. Out of 111,000 units sold, 71,000 of them have been CDs, 23,000 have been digital downloads and 16,000 have been vinyl.
Tones and I set for Roblox Splash appearance and sound pack | Stuart Dredge, MusicAlly
Brisbane based startup Popgun is aware of how Roblox is inextricably linked to pop culture. Tones & I is collaborating with Popgun through their recently launched music creation app within Roblox called Splash. This includes the creation of a venue, as well as a soundpack for Splash’s 21 million users to create remixes and perform to.
YouTube tests whether you’ll ever get sick of Bad Guy with an endless Billie Eilish mashup | Kait Sanchez, The Verge
Billie Eilish’s campaigns serve as a great example for other labels trying to leverage their frontline fire power in the pandemic. Her recent collaboration with YouTube combined thousands of fan covers into one seamless mashup. Brilliant.
F3, a Stories-style Q&A app for Gen Z teens, raises $3.9M | Natasha Lomas, TechCrunch
Remember Ask.fm? The Latvian team responsible for the text based Q&A app have launched a similar product called F3. However this time the anonymous Q&A is facilitated through short-form video. Former musical.ly president Alex Hofmann took part in a recent $3.9 million funding round.
Price of K-pop love? An average of P68,000 | Zsarlene B. Chua, Business World
The commercial power of fandom in a nutshell. The K-pop world has mastered the fandom —> merch/verch funnel. To what extent can eastern consumer psychology be retrofitted to the west? The Power Distance Index (PDI) is a great metric to understand this. Can idol culture be applied to a society where individualism is sacrosanct?
What I’m Reading
Status as a Service (StaaS) | Eugene Wei, Remains of the Day
Eugene Wei’s essay combines Yuval Noah Harari's ideological detachment, Kahneman's psychological insight and Neil Postman's low-key cynicism into one, incredibly articulated essay. Highly recommended. (Here’s the audio version. Go take a walk!)
What I’m Listening To
I'd love to get some feedback on your experience reading the newsletter. It'll really help me focus on what you'd like to see more of, and what would be best left out.
If You’ve Made It This Far..
You can make it all the way.
What I’m Brewing — Colombian AA+ from Gigi Speciality Roasters
Want to be a weird coffee person but don’t know where to start? Chandler Graf does a great job explaining everything you’ve ever wanted to know about coffee. A 14 minute guide to life-long pretentiousness.
Thank you so much for reading! If you want to get in touch, you can respond directly to this email or reach out on Twitter or LinkedIn. Always excited to meet like-minded humans!
Until next week,