Happy Monday! Greetings from San Francisco—I’m moderating a panel about music data at SF MusicTech tomorrow, which I guarantee will be more interesting than other data panels you’ve heard. I’ll be in the Bay all week, then heading to LA from October 22 to 30. Let me know if our paths cross in either city!
Lots of big updates since the last issue. Firstly, I’m now a Contributing Editor for Billboard.biz, which involves a mix of writing, editing and pitching daily news pieces on the music business. My main focus is on digital/tech trends, and I’ll still be writing for Forbes and other publications depending on the topic, but I’m thrilled to strengthen my editing muscles for the first time!
Secondly, I received the Reeperbahn Festival’s inaugural award
for Music Business Journalist of the Year
! Thanks so much to everyone who voted—I still have a lot to learn about casting the industry’s complexities in a refreshing, empowering light, and now I’m more motivated than ever. The best reward is more work!
Today’s subject line concerns how my loyalty to certain music discovery platforms is slowly but steadily shifting. Cutting right to the chase, I’m not the Spotify evangelist I used to be
. While I’m still paying $9.99 a month for the service, the majority of my consumption has whittled down to three playlists: Discover Weekly (majority of my listening every Monday), Release Radar (majority of listening every Friday), and my own “Good Songs Right Now
” playlist (my listening most other days of the week). I take the best of Spotify’s algorithmic recs and add them to Good Songs Right Now, which in turn informs the algorithmic playlists in the following weeks. It’s a closed feedback loop that honestly has started to feel a bit stale.
In contrast, I’m spending more time than ever digging for music on YouTube
that either doesn’t exist on Spotify or captures a certain personality and taste that streaming services can’t (yet). For instance, I watched the band Khruangbin
live in NYC a few weeks ago, and was trying to find a cover they performed—only to find that the cover wasn’t available on Spotify, but was released digitally only on Bandcamp
and later uploaded by a fan to YouTube
. In general, channels like 88rising
and Amoeba Records’ “What’s In My Bag?
” have become invaluable resources for discovering new artists beyond the Western- and Eurocentric industry bubble, as well as for understanding artists’ and curators’ diverse influences and inspirations on a deeper level (e.g. who knew Kamasi Washington was so into anime
As a result, my music discovery funnel today looks more like this: discover cool shit on YT -> subscribe to YT channel -> if available on Spotify, save to playlist -> if not, stay in YT environment.
There are a handful of reasons why I think Spotify has fallen by the wayside for me. Spotify is in the business of force-feeding content to its users; YouTube is not. YouTube offers some pretty kickass analytics to its independent curators; Spotify does not, because these same curators are its direct competitors.
YouTube’s fundamental design and superior analytics allow channel owners to cultivate and interact with their audiences much more easily, allowing for niche brands like 88rising and COLORS to thrive. In contrast, Spotify has virtually no mechanism for two-way artist-listener interactions, which means the experience is less personal and exposure is less democratized. Even BMG CEO Hartwig Masuch recently admitted that artists and catalogs with already-established audiences are more relevant and more powerful on curation-heavy streaming platforms like Spotify than ever before. As a result, many channels utilize Spotify as a secondary port of call; they engage with and monetize their loyal audience on YouTube first, then rely on Spotify for revenue and exposure from more passive audiences.
In this sense, Spotify serves a similar function as terrestrial radio
, which ironically means that YouTube might be a better space for diehard, discovery-driven music fans like myself. In fact, some music marketers agree
that YouTube is a more compelling playing field for music discovery than Spotify, even if it doesn’t pay as well on a per-stream basis.
What do you all think? Have your discovery habits followed a similar path? Am I just not looking in the right places on Spotify? Is there another underrated discovery platform I’m not thinking about? Would love to hear your thoughts—simply reply below, and let’s start a convo!