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Spotify to Allow Artists and Labels to Prioritize Songs Inside Its Algorithm for Personalized Picks

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Spotify logo is displayed on the screen of a smart phone on Jan. 1, 2020.

Spotify will soon begin allowing artists, record labels and rights holders to promote specific songs within its autoplay and Radio personalized recommendation services, according to a blog post published by the company today (Nov. 2).

The tool will create a new signal within Spotify’s personalization algorithm that will allow rights holders to prioritize songs — whether a new release they are promoting, or something deeper in their catalog tied to a specific anniversary or viral moment or campaign push — that would come up in a user’s regular autoplay or Radio listening experience.

The new data point is one of thousands that the company says makes up the algorithm it uses for personalized listening recommendations, including listening history, songs added to playlists, time of day, weather, release dates and songs from users with similar tastes, among other elements. The signal will be weighted differently depending on the situation and the listener, but is not expected to have an outsized influence on what gets recommended.

In the blog post, Spotify touts that it "drives 16 billion artist discoveries every month, meaning 16 billion times a month, fans listen to an artist they have never heard before on Spotify" -- and that this new tool will give artists a bigger say in which of those songs a listener discovers.

"One thing that’s become a particular focus for us over the last couple years is building more tools for artists to grow their audience, build their career, and a lot of those tools that we’ve built so far are really focused on promoting new music, like playlist submission, Release Radar, Marquee," Spotify product marketing lead Charleton Lamb tells Billboard. "But our team talks to artists all the time, and what we’ve heard is they want more opportunities to connect with music beyond just release week, and especially with their catalog music. And we think that’s right."

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Spotify also made a point to note that this new tool will -- after a testing period with select labels and artists -- be available to any label and artist, without any requirement of a budget or payment. Instead, the rights holder will be paid out at a lower promotional royalty rate for any specific listens from that program, though the royalty rate for the songs will remain the same if a listen comes from any other place other than autoplay and Radio. There are also no guarantees of placements or plays for any artist or label; if a prioritized song is performing well with listeners, it will continue to show up; if it’s not, it will be pulled back; after the company runs tests in autoplay and radio, it will test the tool out in other personalization areas of Spotify.

"It’s really important to us that we make this kind of tool accessible for artists at any stage in their career and artists of any kind," Lamb says, adding that the result would be a positive return on investment for rights holders. (Spotify did not say how much lower the promotional royalty rate would be.) "We were looking for the model to be more accessible and democratic and fair.

"Music recommendation shouldn’t be about whatever our algorithm thinks you want to listen to," Lamb says. "We think artists can be a bigger part of those recommendations. So this test allows artists and labels to identify music that’s a priority for them."

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