Spotify's 'Found Them First' Puts a New Spin on Discovery Bragging Rights

Hipster Music
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The new microsite identifies the first 15 percent of breakout artists' listeners.

Do you listen to bands before they're famous? Are you a tastemaker? Spotify now has an online tool for the earliest of adopters. Found Them First is a microsite that lets Spotify users see which -- if any -- musicians they heard on Spotify before they became a breakout artist. After showing these artists, Spotify lets users share a playlist of their breakout artists and offers a playlist with a new batch of up-and-coming artists.

Streaming services are routinely boast their discovery credentials and go to great lengths to be their listeners' source for finding new music. Spotify has popular playlists that feature new releases and up-and-coming artists. Pandora has Pandora Premieres, full-length albums streamed in their entirety before they're released in stores, and has long described itself as a source of music discovery. SiriusXM Radio has built a reputation as supporting many new artists before broadcast radio. Rdio emphasizes new releases and trending music. 

Companies figured out long ago the value in being a trusted source of new music. In the '00s MTV had a news feature called "You Hear It First" to introduce new artists to viewers. VH1's "You Oughta Know" program still highlights new artists on the upswing. Going further back in time, record stores highlighted new releases and staff picks on their CD and LP racks. As long as people want to say, "Yeah, but I heard them before they were big," there will be sources of new music.

But what makes Spotify's Found Them First different is the measurement. Users are considered "early listeners" if they are among the top 15 percent of a breakout artist's listeners. These fans can say with certainty they were part of an artist's success story. Since success on Spotify often leads to, or at least corresponds with, success elsewhere, Found Them First provides a sense of accomplishment unavailable from other discovery sources. 

However, there's bad news for niche artists that might be considered successful in certain circles. For these purposes, Spotify has defined a breakout artist as having accumulated at least 20 million streams and experienced growth of at least 2,000 percent from January 2013 to June 2015. Well, the line had to be drawn somewhere.