An ode To Spotify: a good product with great product thinking

Viba Mohan

If you ask my classmates, they’ll tell you that I’m obsessed with Spotify. I’ve based several of my projects on it. I reference it as a great product while citing examples during class discussions. And you’ll constantly find me advocating for it as the best music streaming service available.

This isn’t quite simply because I think Daniel Ek(the founder) is a genius, it’s also because I think the product is a beauty all by itself.

So as I look at this IDEO Pop Quiz question “What product do you find the most relevant & interesting?” — to me it‘s a no brainer. It has to be Spotify.

Why, you ask?

Well for one, think about what our lives looked like before Spotify. Here in India, you’d find people from all walks of life pirating music and then liberally sharing it with their friends. Even a child will be able to tell you that it’s difficult for an artist to make a living in a society like that.

Sure, there was the occasional audiophile who’d collect music CDs and care for them like it was worth a fortune — because it was.

Photo by Artificial Photography on Unsplash

But Spotify was built in an era when trust, in the music industry, was running at an all time low. Record companies would sue individuals and organisations alike for pirating music. And musicians were railing against their fans for the same.

They uprooted the existing boundaries of music and redefined them in ways that I still don’t fully understand.

They balanced out the needs of artists and their fans.

Fans were tired of the tediousness of downloading illegal music and the fiscal costs of actually purchasing music. They were struggling with issues of loyalties to their favourite artists and they weren’t able to discover new music that felt personal yet trendy.

Artists on the other hand needed to make a living and needed to truly connect with their audience.

So, in the age of commercialisation, they built a product with a vision to simultaneously uplift artists, personalise music for listeners and provide smaller artists with the kind of audience they could only hope to tap into.

As a designer, I recognise this to be excellent product thinking. They recognised key opportunities and exploited them in a healthy manner. They listened to their users and adapted as and when needed.

To build on personalisation, they integrated a couple of niche features — like Spotify Unwrapped, Spotify Singles, playlists from your favourite artists and Daily Mixes.

Spotify Unwrapped not only serves the purpose of being a subtle, high level campaign that markets the product, but also helps users feel more connected to the app and the music that they listen to.

In a quaint, unimposing manner it takes you through a memory lane filled with nostalgia and triggers the pride of belonging to an artists fandom. For example, someone listened to 3000 hours of ODESZA on Spotify and now the entire ODESZA community revers him as this sort of legendary #1 fan.

They built a community in a way that most apps could only dream of. And they did so by directly adding value to their users lives.

Which might be what drew me to Spotify in the first place. While other streaming services cater to the simple tasks of listening to and sharing music, Spotify drew out complex yet subtle interactions that help users connect to artists in ways that they never quite did before.

Plus, in this day and age, I think that they are especially relevant because they give artists a voice and a platform to reach an audience they may have otherwise never acquired.

The cynic will tell you that streaming services like Spotify are killing artists. But I have a different take on this.

The typical artist believes that if they keep playing shows, they’ll one day get discovered and then catapult their way into fame and fortune.

But that’s not how the world works.

This might be the reality of a privileged few — those who were maybe born into wealth and influence might be able to ease their way into a scenario like this, but for the average Joe, it’s their job to build their career.

I’m aware that Spotify pays artists mere pennies for each stream. But the opportunity cost of a service like Spotify is more free ranging than providing an artist with a steady source of income.

Spotify won’t build an artists career. It never claimed it would. But it will provide them with the data to locate and analyse their followers, connect them concerts and merchandise and boost the rate at which they are being discovered.

It will help an artist find people who connect with their music and it is the job of the artist to transform passive listeners to active fans.

People want a fantasy, but Spotify was built for the present day reality. A career in music is a privilege. Not everyone can hope to do this. But Spotify helps make it possible.

And in my books this is both interesting and relevant because it mirrors the paradigm shift that is on going in a new society that provides you with unconventional opportunities that when met with creativity can prove to be extremely rewarding.

So maybe what I’m trying to say is that I love Spotify because Spotify is a great product with ingenious product thinking.

Author: Viba Mohan

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