Christina Aguilera

For Spotify to revitalize the U.S. music-subscription market, it needs a lot of media awareness and word-of-mouth buzz from consumers. The company's plan for the U.S. service is to let the media do the heavy lifting, according to marketing materials posted online at MediaMemo, and the company already had significant buzz when it finally launched last week: Both mainstream media outlets and blogs had followed Spotify's every move for well over a year.

With the help of Google Trends and Twitter trend analysis site Trendistic, we can see Spotify's launch last Thursday did indeed generated a great deal of attention. Not only did the U.S. and foreign media show up in strong numbers, but Spotify used online partnerships to drive awareness, too. On launch day Chevrolet was offering 150,000 invites to Spotify Free on its Facebook page; Klout.com gave away 100,000 invites to its users; and there were other giveaways as well.

On the day of its launch, Spotify's U.S. search volume at Google rose far above levels achieved in the prior 30 days, according to Google Trends (see chart above). Until Thursday, Spotify's U.S. search volume had surpassed that of Limewire just once - on the July 6 announcement of its pending U.S. launch - in the last 30 days, and it was well below that of The Pirate Bay. News coverage spiked on July 6 and July 13 as well, which can be seen on the lower half of the Google Trend graph. Neither LimeWire nor The Pirate Bay had much news volume to mention either before or after Spotify's launch.

Even with all that media attention, digital music's pecking order is quite clear: Spotify did not even reach iTunes' search volume during Thursday's spike - although it came close. Of course, this is a bit like comparing apples to oranges. iTunes is far more than a music store, it is Apple's media management software and also includes Apple's App Store and movie and TV downloads and rentals. Nevertheless, the fact that Spotify was out-searched by iTunes on its biggest day shows just how formidable of a competitor Apple will be in the digital entertainment space.

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Using Twitter mentions as a proxy for online buzz, we can see Spotify definitely got people talking last week (see chart above). According to Trendistic, Spotify had about four times the Twitter mentions of iTunes on its Thursday launch day. However, its Twitter buzz fell below that of iTunes from Friday afternoon through Sunday. Spotify did outpace iTunes around midday (Eastern time) on both Friday and Monday, however (perhaps because lunch time on the East Coast and morning on the West Coast are busy times for tweeting).

Spotify's Twitter buzz is actually more impressive than it looks at first glace. Because Trendistic tracks global Twitter traffic, most of the Spotify Twitter traffic we see is coming from the U.S. On the other hand, iTunes' Twitter traffic is coming from all across the world. If we were able to remove iTunes' non-U.S. Twitter traffic from the Trendistic graph, we would see that Spotify had a much larger advantage over iTunes.

Did any of the attention given to Spotify help its competitors? One can reasonably guess Spotify's media coverage would help raise the profile of other services. After all, it seems one or more of them were mentioned in a typical article about Spotify's launch. In fact, the awareness Spotify is bringing to cloud-based and subscription services could greatly help the entire market by bringing it more awareness and educating customers about the variety of services available to them.

Using search traffic as a proxy for consumer interest, we see Spotify did indeed generate consumer interest for its peers (see chart below). Google Trends shows U.S searches for competitors Rdio and MOG increased Thursday. Napster also experienced a boom in U.S. searches last week, although it peaked three days before Spotify's launch (it appears Napster search traffic is influenced by other events). Market leader Rhapsody clearly got the most mentions in the media both on the day Spotify announced its pending U.S. launch and the day it actually launched, according to Google Trends. But perhaps because of its more common name or greater brand awareness, Rhapsody did not see an increase in U.S. search traffic related to Spotify's launch.

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Last week was a coming out party for subscription music. Google Trends and Trendistic data clearly show the U.S. media and consumers were paying attention to both Spotify and other services last week. Now the hard part begins. Spotify and its peers need to retain as much of this momentum as possible and turn curiosity into customers.