How badly do U.S. record labels want Spotify to succeed?
Universal Music Group Distribution (UMGD) has created a fan-facing music playlist service that's entirely powered by Spotify's free usage tier. Billboard.biz has learned that the playlist service, called Digster, is scheduled to go live later today.
Digster was developed by Universal Music Sweden and is already available in Sweden and Norway. The service basically taps music editors to create various playlists the way pretty much any Spotify user can, but adding its own layer of editorial and discovery features.
The playlist curators are exclusively UMG personnel (and some artists), but the music chosen for the playlists is from all record labels. UMGD senior VP of marketing and product development Mitch Rotter is one, with such playlists as "Best Prince Covers," "Roadtrip Singalong Songs," and "Summer Love Slow Jamz." Another is UMG facilities an operations coordinator Adrian Ayala, with "Raver's Delight," "Top Summer Jams" and "I'm So Not Guilty Pleasures."
All can be streamed in full via Spotify (either premium or free versions), and Spotify users can just click a "+Subscribe" button to add that playlist to the playlists they follow on Spotify. All Digster's playlists are also posted on Spotify itself.
For iTunes users, it also lists a "buy" button for each track, as it doesn't sell playlists.
Users coming to Digster directly can set their music preferences to receive recommended matching playlists, and all playlists marked with a genre (pop, rock, etc.), and a mood or situation it's best suited for (party, workout, etc.).
The playlists themselves take several forms. "Live" playlists are like curated radio stations, regularly updated by the editors. "Digster By" playlists are branded by specific artists and are not updated as often. And "Standard" playlists are one-time lists that can't be changed or altered after being published.
According to UMG's Rotter, record companies have plenty of employees passionate about music, and tapping them to share their interests is one way of engaging directly with other music fans.
"We really wanted to harness the energy we have here as music fans so our playlists include all genres of music and artists regardless of record label," he says. "Fans don't listen by label and this service is built for fans to discover new music and old favorites."
But it's also a clear endorsement of Spotify, with links to Spotify throughout the site. There have been no similar efforts by the labels to date linking to Rhapsody or other streaming music services. The difference here being 1) Spotify's free tier, that allows any user to stream full songs on demand without requiring a credit card number, and 2) Spotify's emphasis on creating and sharing playlists.
After literally years of sometimes acrimonious negotiations, one might expect some lingering bad blood to exist between the labels and Spotify. That seems not to be the case with such a strong endorsement like this.