Spotify is marrying music and the spoken word in a potentially game-changing new format.
In what is being billed as “a new type of audio experience,” starting today the streaming service will allow artists and creators to produce shows that merge talk segments with complete, unedited music tracks “in one harmonious listening experience.” Listeners can interact with the featured music as they normally would, by liking, saving and getting more information about a track without leaving the show page or searching for the song manually.
The vehicle driving the new format is Anchor, the podcast creation and distribution company Spotify acquired in Feb. 2019 in what was an early indication of the company’s aggressive push into the podcasting space. Starting today, Anchor users in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland can create a show in the format, which Spotify is billing not as a podcast but rather “an evolution of mixed-media playlists like Your Daily Drive,” which combines music with news updates.
“This is a way to fully utilize licensed music,” Spotify vp/co-head of music Marian Dicus tells Billboard, noting rights holders will be compensated the same as they would on a traditional stream. “It’s a new format that sits at that intersection of music and podcasts.”
Despite Dicus’ insistence that the newly-introduced format is not a part of the company’s overall podcasting strategy, it will undoubtedly be catnip for podcasters who have long yearned to embed music tracks in their shows in a way that is legal, inexpensive and uncomplicated. Indeed, rights holders have become increasingly more zealous over the past couple of years about monitoring podcasts to catch unlicensed music — an environment that has made the use of music by podcast creators more fraught than ever.
Dicus says the new format was designed as yet another tool for artists to promote their latest releases and/or catalogs on Spotify while also allowing music lovers to create new content around their favorite songs. Noting that she’s unaware whether the new format was part of the negotiations around Spotify’s recent licensing renewals with the major labels, she says they’re nonetheless looking forward to partnering with those companies on future shows.
“It’s something that even their own artists have been asking us for: How do we best connect with our fans? How can we really tell our fans what inspired this album?” she says. “So many artists [tell] us, ‘When we’re creating music, we were listening to x, y, and z.’ So imagine that they blend their own commentary with the actual song, and it’s a whole new way for their fans to discover old music, new music [and] different types of genres.”
That very concept is behind the new series 10 Songs That Made Me, one of seven Spotify Original Shows launching today that will be the first to utilize the new format. Featuring T.I. on its inaugural episode, 10 Songs That Made Me will each week showcase an artist or celebrity as they provide personal insights into 10 featured songs that “mark meaningful moments in their lives.”
The rest of the new shows are:
— Halleloo Happy Hour with DJ Shangela, a weekly happy hour playlist hand-picked by RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant Shangela that will also include “games, guests, and tea.”
— Murder Ballads, a true-crime inspired series exploring “the history and folklore behind some of America’s most mysterious and violent songs.”
— 60 Songs That Explain the 90s, in which The Ringer music critic Rob Harvilla will curate and discuss 60 songs the defined the 1990s.
— Our Love Song, where each week a couple will discuss “the soundtrack that defines their love story.”
— Conspiracy Theories: Music Edition, a deep dive into “the most fascinating theories surrounding famous artists and the music industry as it affects the world.”
— Rock This with Allison Hagendorf, a weekly series celebrating rock and alternative culture with interviews and music.
All Spotify Original Shows can be found either in the “Shows With Music” hub in “Browse” or via a programmed shelf on the “Home” tab.
For more information on the brand-new format, visit Spotify’s For The Record blog here.