Spotify Founder and CEO Danel Ek at the New York press conference where he announced the opening up of the music streaming service's API to outside developers.
Spotify CEO Daniel Ek announced the launch of a new API (Application Programming Interface) for the Stockholm-based music streaming company during a global press conference today (Nov. 30) in New York.
Spotify already had a non-commercial API, but by bolstering its digital toolbox and set of controls that allows other companies to build services and features atop Spotify's 15-million song music database, the hit service becomes more of a platform. The API is open to any company, but Spotify will approve the apps - which will be free.
The 2.5 million subscriber-platform will now stream curated music from Billboard, Rolling Stone and Pitchfork and other partners (see below), much like defunct San Francisco company imeem once attempted. Ek showed off song lyrics from Tunewiki, and a concert-finding integration from Songkick. Presumably, music which Spotify does not have rights to - like Metallica and others - would not be available for use by such apps.
Spotify's newly announced platform partners.
Ek said the new direction is a response to enormous demand from Spotify users for more features. Potentially thousands of apps could follow. These will make the music service more feature-rich, and ubiquitous. But the apps will reportedly only work on desktop and laptop computers, not mobile devices.
With the Billboard app, fans can hear the top 10 of five charts - Hot 100, Billboard 200, R&B/Hip-Hop, Country and Rock - and then click over to Billboard.com, where they can create a playlist from any of the full charts. This feature, currently in Beta, is scheduled to launch next week.
"There's really only that much that Spotify can do," Ek said. "We really look forward to being surprised by our developers. They're going to deliver new apps on the Spotify platform and they're going to be things here than we can't even imagine today. ... The possibilities are truly endless.
Rolling Stone founder Jann Wenner took the stage Wednesday to extol the virtues of the service, saying the only problem with it was its depth.
"It's almost been too much of good thing," he said. The service's 15 million song database is like, "the history of recorded music staring at your face."
The move will differentiate the service from competing streaming services Rdio, MOG, and Rhapsody - though Rdio also has an API. It also bolsters the companies' offerings in comparison to owned-music streaming services from Apple's iCloud, Amazon's Cloud Player and now Google Music.
In September, Spotify allied with Facebook, requiring a Facebook login for the service and sending Spotify user activity to the user's Facebook ticker. It has gained 500,000 new subscribers since then.
This week, Virgin Media in the UK debuted a TiVo-integrated Spotify solution. Speaker maker Sonos also announced tighter Spotify integration on its Sonos controller for iOS and Android smartphones and tablets.
Whether true or not, fears of CD sales cannibalization, as well as the perception that streaming services' payouts to artists are meager have become a headwind for the surging company. Spotify faces something of a minor rebellion among the rights holders behind its catalog. UK-based indie distributor ST Holdings representing about 200 labels pulled its catalog in November, citing streaming's alleged cannibalization of higher-margin physical media sales. Catalog gaps are troubling for users who were sold on the depth of Spotify's content.
Ek said Wednesday that Spotify has paid out more than $150 million to artists and labels, and is the number two digital revenue source behind iTunes in Europe.
Launched in October 2008, Spotify spent 18 months getting their first 500,000 subscribers. Available in 12 countries and now in the U.S., Spotify added one million subscribers between March of this year and November.
After the announcement, Spotify held a brief a Q&A with David Goodman, President of CBS Interactive Music Group, Larry Goldberg, CEO of Tunewiki, Ian Hogarth, Founder and CEO of Songkick, and Bill Crandal, Head of Digital Content at Rolling Stone.
By pairing music listens with show dates, Hogarth said Spotify is in a position to help the music industry's live show sector, as well.
"We want to move people from going to no concerts to going to loads of concerts," he said.