Spotify Upgrades Fan Insights Feature to 'Spotify for Artists': Exclusive

Courtesy of Spotify
Spotify for Artists

When Spotify first introduced its Fan Insights initiative in beta in November 2015, it was, says vp of product Charlie Hellman, a dashboard of data intended as "a self-serve way [for] artists and their teams to really understand what was going on with their audiences on Spotify." Now, a year and a half later, the streaming service is upgrading Fan Insights and rebranding the initiative as Spotify for Artists, complete with new features and controls that allow all artists to not only peek under the hood at their data through the service, but also manage their artist presence within Spotify itself.

As with Fan Insights, artists will have access to listeners' demographic information -- age, gender, location -- as well as real-time song information, playlist performance and data and the different ways listeners are accessing or discovering their music. With Spotify for Artists, verified musicians will be able to now manage the way their artist page looks, with photos; pinned songs, albums or playlists that they want to promote atop their profile; and the ability to add and control which playlists appear on their artist page, whether created by themselves or by fans or other artists.

"What we're seeing is that artists of all sizes need the help," says Troy Carter, global head of creator services at Spotify. "Someone who is one of the top 50 artists in the world, they're still trying to figure out a lot of things about their fans as it relates to specific demographics, how to reach them, how to sell more tickets, how to appeal to audiences that you may not necessarily appeal to on typical radio. But what we're seeing as you go down the stream, artists who more typically self-serve, they also need more tools. We feel like Spotify for Artists is providing them."

Spotify for Artists, more than a complete overhaul of the current iteration of Fan Insights, is the result of the past year-plus of feedback and updates to the existing system as artists and managers take the raw data and apply it to their careers. In announcing the new initiative today, Spotify pointed to British singer-songwriter Lucy Rose, whose demographic listener data led her to route a tour throughout Latin America; Canadian singer Joshua Hyslop, who used that same data to tour the Netherlands; New York City-based singer Max, who took location and listening data and used it to pitch his song "Lights Down Low" to national radio; and electronic musician Zhu, who rode the spikes of streams from a collaboration with Skrillex to 100 million listens while he averaged 4 million streams per month.

Hellman points to another use case: branding, which has grown into a significant income stream for artists of all sizes. "A lot of what artists and managers use Spotify Fan Insights for is pitching themselves to other career opportunities, whether that's a brand, whether that's trying to get a better deal on the promotion side for the tour," Hellman explains. "For them to be able to pull all-time stats to show how many people have been listening to this single, or how many people within this city, that just helps them create that sheet to walk into that meeting and pitch themselves with more force."

The Spotify for Artists dashboard also mirrors other data-driven tools, like Kobalt-owned AWAL's new app that pulls in data from both Spotify and Apple Music, and Pandora's Artist Marketing Platform, which gibves artists the ability to reach out to and connect with fans using the platform.

For Carter, who previously managed artists such as Lady Gaga and Meghan Trainor and thus has seen both sides of this coin, the access to data -- particularly in real time -- is a game changer of sorts for managers. "I think what we're seeing now is how big the music ecosystem is," he says. "When you look at, whether it's record labels or radio stations, you only can handle a certain amount of releases and deal with a certain amount of artists, so the majority of artists around the world are kind of left behind from the mainstream system. I think these tools help them navigate that a little bit better."

Both Hellman and Carter see Spotify for Artists as one piece of a larger puzzle that includes their efforts to help artists -- whether through algorithmic and/or human-curated playlists, marketing initiatives led by Carter's team, Fan First campaigns or other projects, and say that they'll be rolling out more features throughout the spring and summer. But for all Spotify can do -- particularly for an indie artist -- Carter stresses one particular point.

"There's a lot of speculation that we're going into the label business, and I think we couldn't be further from it," he says. "Our thing is, how do we support our partners on every end and allow them to use Spotify as a distribution platform, a place where they can reach more fans, and just be the most value-added partner that they're gonna find."