Every time that Spotify’s Troy Carter meets with a label marketer, he hears the same thing: “How can I get No. 1 on Today’s Top Hits?” He has to explain, calmly, how songs are placed on the service’s most popular playlist, which has 11 million followers and is meticulously curated by senior content editor Mike Biggane based on a combination of songs’ popularity on other playlists and his own instincts. In other words, the old rules don’t really apply.
“When you look at radio, when you look at retail, we’ve pretty much been working records the same way for decades,” says Carter, the former Lady Gaga and Meghan Trainor manager who was hired as the streaming giant’s head of creator services in June. “A lot of partners were trying to treat Spotify like a traditional retail account. It’s not. It’s its own thing.”
Carter -- like Apple Music’s Jimmy Iovine and Larry Jackson, the Roc Nation team that largely runs Tidal and, as of the last week of September, YouTube’s new global music head Lyor Cohen -- is well situated to translate streaming services to people who speak only music industry. During the past few years, the music business has turned into a battleground between rival streaming giants and record labels, with skirmishes breaking out over exclusives (like when Frank Ocean used Apple Music to break his label deal with Def Jam/Universal in August) and copyright infringement (YouTube has been fighting with artists and labels over how stringently it polices unauthorized songs).