Spotify has rolled out a new artist marketing program, called Spotlight, that the company will use to support artists over an extended period of time. The first two Spotlight artists are American trio Haim, whose debut album was released Tuesday, and New Zealand singer Lorde, whose song “Royals” is currently #3 on the Billboard Hot 100.
“Spotlight is the banner under which we put these artists we partner with,” explains Steve Savoca, head of content at Spotify. The closest parallel in the retail world is endcap placement, usually for a month, aided by print advertising and a sale price. Unlike the endcap, however, the Spotlight seal of approval isn’t purchased, has many elements and extends for a longer period of time.
Spotify is using Spotlight to kill two birds with one stone. One is discovery. Savoca says the company wants to be seen as a place for discovering new music. All music services strive to aide in discovery, but the Spotlight approach contrasts sharply with social, editorial and the algorithms typically used to introduce artists to listeners. And there’s the industry relations aspect, too. Savoca says Spotify has “wanted to make a clear proposition on value for quite a while.” Throwing its weight behind a small number of artists may show artists and labels the company’s ability to influence careers.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of Spotlight is that it officially announces Spotify’s arrival as influential gatekeeper. The world’s biggest subscription music service already had a megaphone that helps raise awareness for new releases and recently added catalog. But with its program aimed at helping break artists, Spotify will hold considerable power over a young, online and music-hungry demographic. What artist wouldn’t want that direct path to Spotify’s 6 million subscribers and an additional 18 million monthly users?
Spotify users will see Spotlight artists in many places. The Spotlight brand will be seen when browsing on the platform. Users will receive notifications through email and social media. Third-party partners like Soundrop, an app that creates social listening experiences, will take part. Landmark, an original content series launched last week with an episode on Nirvana’s “In Utero,” will be part of Spotlight. Spotify Sessions, the series of performances recorded live at Spotify offices, will also be utilized.
Being chosen for a Spotlight campaign would be like winning the lottery — or at least a really great raffle — for a few lucky artists. So who will get the slots? Savoca explains that three categories of music resonate with Spotify listeners: pop alternative such as Foster the People and fun., both bands Spotify has previously put its weight behind; EDM such as Calvin Harris, Skrillex and Avicci; and alternative hip-hop like Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Kendrick Lamar.
The limited number of slots made available to Spotlight adds to Spotify’s role at gatekeeper. Savoca tells Billboard there will be one or two global Spotlight artists per quarter. The 14-employee Spotify team that works with labels and artists for Spotlight will also develop five to ten artists per quarter, on a smaller level.
EDM duo Cazette offers an idea of the impact Spotlight could have on an artist. Before the Spotlight program existed, Spotify partnered with the group to test its ability to impact a career. Cazette released its music exclusively through Spotify and was given the full weight of the service’s marketing muscle. “We want to be a powerful partner to artists so they can leverage our platform to build strong one-to-one relationships with their fans,” Savoca said at the time.
It was a fruitful experiment. Driven by streaming activity at Spotify, Cazette peaked at #14 on Billboard’s Dance/Electronic Songs chart in January. The group also spent two weeks on the On-Demand Songs chart in March and hit a peak of 599,000 streams in a week, according to Nielsen.
Then in April, Universal announced it had signed Cazette to both its resurrected dance imprint, 4th and B’way, and PRMD, a newly created dance label in the group’s home country of Sweden.