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Spotify Sees a Way Forward — By Becoming More Than a Music Service

In a converted warehouse washed in soft orange neon near Manhattan's western edge, Spotify unveiled how it planned to stay relevant amidst increased competition from YouTube, Snapchat, and the…

In a converted warehouse washed in soft orange neon near Manhattan’s western edge, Spotify explained to assembled tech execs, press members and laconic record biz officials how it planned to stay relevant amidst increased competition from YouTube, Snapchat, and the imminent entry of Apple to the streaming market.

After a soft-spoken robot a la Minority Report told attendees to take their seats, CEO and co-founder Daniel Ek took the stage in a blue t-shirt with a guitar graphic on it, signature white sneakers and bald pate, plus his lightly diminished Swedish accent, to explain how.

Turns out, by becoming more than just Spotify.

But first, through an Apple-like look back, Ek explained some stats: “25 billion hours of music since launch — three million years of tunes. A huge amount of that growth is through the curation and social tools that we’ve innovated. Spotify now represents half the global market in streaming dollars, and we’re growing our market share. After years of decline, music is ready to grow again.” Ek also cited the platform’s two billion discoveries per month of artists listeners haven’t heard before (at least according to their metrics). “It’s only going to multiply.”?

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Moving ahead, Ek introduced the new features on the platform, starting with Spotify Now — a “new Spotify experience” wherein parts of listeners’ days are offered up as drop-down choices accompanied by various genre and mood selections — “wake up happy,” “sunrise run,” “songs to sing in the shower” were offered as examples of its early-morning offerings. “The more you use it, Spotify is going to remember what you did and and reflect it back to you,” explained vp of design Rochelle King. The offering will go a long way to bolstering discovery, a perceived weak spot for many users greeted by a 32 million tracks and a couple playlists.

Daniel Ek, CEO of Spotify, speaks to reporters at a news conference on May 20, 2015 in New York
Daniel Ek, CEO of Spotify, speaks to reporters at a news conference on May 20, 2015 in New York. Streaming leader Spotify on Wednesday announced an entry into video and original content, hoping to expand its reach beyond music. Spotify, by far the largest company in the booming streaming industry, said it was updating its platform to support videos and would offer news and other non-music content provided by major media companies. DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images

Most importantly for the day: Spotify’s much-anticipated video offerings, which seem most parallel to new features recently introduced by Snapchat. A long list of content partners will be providing short-form video — comedy clips, news, interviews, music videos — for the platform to offer users, much like Snapchat’s Discovery feature, though Spotify has signed up many more content partners and has a wider worldwide reach. (Not to mention an older audience, or at least a wider demographic base.) As well, the company secured radio integrations from Public Radio International, Radiolab, American Public Media and others, as well as podcasts.

(Other content partners include Viacom, VICE media, NBC, BBC, Slate, WNYC, Harper Collins and TeamCoco, among others.)

The video content appears in the same, slidable format as the company’s new playlists, which being streaming automatically and can be shuttled off just as easily.

Appearing in a pre-recorded clip, Nerdist co-founder Chris Hardwick explained that viewers on the Spotify platform would see Nerdist videos “three hours before anywhere else.” Shortly after, the stars of Comedy Central’s Broad City came out to explain — to a crowd of tepid reactions, which seemed to put them off a little — their love of “plattys” (“I think that term has legs”) and how excited they are to be involved in one.

Augmenting the partnerships will be original, Spotify-only content. “We’re going to introduce original video and audio content in the coming months,” Ek explained, including some they’re building just for us, around music.” Dance for the Day from Amy Poehler was offered as one example, as well as work from Tyler, the Creator.

In aggregate, Spotify’s video, radio and podcast offerings will make the company far more than what it is presently; something akin to the newest version of the early web’s “portals,” previous exemplified by Yahoo. But instead of the grassroots media of Yahoo’s early iterations, Spotify is offering a top-down, highly curated media buffet.

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Rounding out the new announcements was a technology specific to runners, called Spotify Running — which is not only a series of playlists, but a tempo detector that uses a smartphone’s sensors to detect a runner’s pace and to play a song at that particular bpm. Also of note, Spotify introduced a new track format that allows creators to compose elastically, giving music made specifically for the purpose to adjust as a runner’s pace does. The technology is very similar to a format introduced this past Monday (May 18) by former Facebook engineer and Google Maps inventor Lars Rasmussen and Elomida Visviki.

Spotify said the new Now experience and Spotify Running will start rolling out to U.S.-based iPhone users starting today.