Latin Grammys 2018

Spotify Launches 'Enhanced' Hot Country Playlist With Keith Urban Video, Kenny Chesney on Deck

Kevin Winter/WireImage
 Keith Urban performs onstage during "Stayin' Alive: A Grammy Salute To The Music Of The Bee Gees" on Feb. 14, 2017 in Los Angeles. 

Spotify is giving the 4.6 million followers of its flagship country playlist more to look at with the addition of original video content. The music streaming leader announced on Friday that its Hot Country playlist has joined the ranks of RapCaviar (9.4 million) and Viva Latino! (7.9 million) in the "enhanced playlist" family, meaning fans will begin seeing original videos sprinkled amongst the highly trafficked collection of hits.

Each Friday, Spotify will add a new cover story-style interview featuring a top artist. Kicking things off is Keith Urban, who gives fans a behind-the-scenes look at his music-making process to accompany the release of his latest album, Graffiti U. "Spotify has been an amazing partner, helping me to connect my music with people all over the planet," he said.

The inaugural enhanced version of Hot Country also boasts live videos featuring Keith, Kacey Musgraves and Chris Stapleton with Justin Timberlake, along with a music video for 'Yodeling Kid' Mason Ramsey's pop-country song "Famous." Next week's original video will touch on the making of Kenny Chesney latest tour.

According to Brittany Schaffer, Spotify's head of artist and label marketing in Nashville, the launch of the enhanced playlist is "only the first step" in showing its commitment to making a bigger impact in country music, which traditionally has been slower to embrace streaming. "This opportunity is opening new doors for current and potential listeners of country music, in Nashville and around the world," she said. "Our commitment doesn’t start and end with the launch of Hot Country."

The enhanced Hot Country is being launched across several markets, including the U.S., U.K., Sweden, Canada, Spain, New Zealand and Urban's home country, Australia. The playlist is also live across Latin American markets. "There are multiple awakenings happening right now," said John Marks, programming head of country music at Spotify. "Streaming is opening a global market. There’s been a hybridizing of other international music into the country playlists, which is opening people’s eyes and minds to country music in other countries."

[That push to reach country fans worldwide has also reached Amazon Music, which today launched Country Heat, its first global country playlist.]

Top executives at the big three labels have chimed in as well with praise for the enhanced playlists.

"The most important job I do is to tell our artists’ stories and vision for what they have to say through their music so the fans can connect," said Cindy Mabe, president, Universal Music Group, Nashville. "Spotify has truly put their money where their mouth is with their investment in Nashville while leaning into our artists’ stories in order to grow the audience."

Warner Music Nashville chairman and CEO John Esposito called the relaunched playlist " another clear sign of [Spotify's] deepening commitment to Country Music" and Sony Music Nashville chairman and CEO Randy Goodman added, "more new ways we can showcase our artists and grow country music streaming in general is a great and welcome thing!"