What the Spotify Updates Mean for Musicians


If you’ve got a Spotify for Artists account, you probably got that email last week…

The one where they announced a gazillion feature updates that are actually kind of important.

I don’t know about you, but I usually treat Spotify emails the same way I treat physical mail from my bank – I look at it, I think “eh they’re probably just trying to sell me a credit card,” then I trash it and never think about it again.

(If I’m being honest, I treat almost all emails this way. Except yours.)

Well, I followed my normal routine and trashed that Spotify message with barely a thought. But shortly after that, I started seeing a bunch of people posting excitedly about Spotify’s “HUGE NEW UPDATE!”, and I wondered if I’d missed something.

So, just as I do most weeks when I accidentally throw out important tax documents, I dug through my trash… and I found it.

Turns out, it’s legitimately worth reading. And, in my opinion, legitimately a little concerning. This is probably the biggest update to Spotify since podcasts – or maybe it’s even bigger than that.

Here’s my quick breakdown of what they’re doing, complete with my totally subjective rating of each move and a few thoughts on what the new features means for you.

1. Oh no, they’re TikTok now.

Ugh. I know I just said last week that I’d stop hating on TikTok for awhile – but shoot, in a world where every media platform is becoming TikTok, it’s really hard.

Here’s the gist: Spotify is introducing what they’re calling “Clips.”

Clips are 3-to-30-second, vertical videos that can be attached to a song, an album, or your artist profile. The idea is that, by offering more space for video on Spotify, the app will offer more room for connection with fans.

Spotify’s puts it this way: “Clips brings video storytelling to more parts of Spotify, so that you can tell richer stories and drive more streams.”

Jon’s subjective rating: 0 / 10

I’m just kidding. I’ll give this a 5.

On the one hand, I appreciate the stuff Spotify is saying about Clips. Read their post on the feature, for example, and you can tell they’re trying really hard to position this as a move toward deeper connection rather than as the creation of another spinning content wheel:

“Clips don’t go away in 24 hours,” they say reassuringly. “You don’t have to constantly be creating new content to keep up and chase the latest trend.”

Whew. It’s a relief to know that obligation is lifted. I’ve got two concerns, though.

First, I just don’t think short-form video (and the accompanying swipe experience) works well as a format for profound connection; by design, it creates drive-by experiences rather than depth.

It remains to be seen if the fact that Clips will be “attached” to a song or an artist makes any difference, but overall I think it’s hard to see this as anything other than a continuation of content compression – the same process that’s taken us from four-hour operas to full-length albums to 2-minute singles.

But, as always, I’m grumpy. I get that short-form video is the thing these days, so it’s understandable that Spotify’s looking for more ways to bring it on-platform.

Second (and this is probably a more valid concern), I’m worried that Spotify’s expansion into more media formats will distract them – and their users – from the music.

I had a marketing professor in college who drilled this saying into my head: “Lose your focus, lose your shirt.” The idea is that if you try to do a lot of things, you’ll struggle to do anything well. But if you pick an area and perfect it, you’ll succeed.

It’s certainly not a foolproof law, and there’s a blurred line between innovation and distraction, but examples abound of businesses that have declined thanks to a dogged pursuit of diversification. Semi-hot take: I think Facebook might be on this path.

I guess my question is: What does Spotify want to be?

Why will users want to open the app? What desire does it meet? What problem does it solve?

In simple terms, I want Spotify to be the place people go to listen to music. That’s why I got a premium account a decade ago.

But it seems like Spotify wants to be everything: podcasts, audiobooks, music, now videos. Clearly, they want to change user behavior to capture more active-scrolling attention – which, as The Verge worries, can make the act of actually listening to music harder.

If the app becomes another muddled feed, will the music matter as much?

I guess we’ll find out.

2. Pre-saves have become a real thing!

I’m totally into this one.

Here’s the gist: Spotify is introducing a space on your profile where fans can pre-save your upcoming release.

The concept is called “Countdown Pages,” and it’s about time this happened.

Jon’s subjective rating: 10 / 10

Artists have been running pre-save campaigns for years, but until now, they weren’t a real thing that was recognized by Spotify. You’d pay some off-platform app to track sign-ups, and then on the day of release, the app would go in and save your release for every fan that had signed up.

Functionally, this meant you were getting a bunch of immediate saves rather than registering saves in advance. And I’ve heard Spotify people say that this data didn’t matter unless those immediate saves were accompanied by real streams really quickly – which wasn’t always the case.

Pre-saves, to me, make sense as part of the fan experience. It’s like buying a ticket to a show in three months, or pre-ordering the new book from your favorite author. Humans live in time; we like anticipation.

It’s still in beta, but I’m glad Spotify’s going with it, and I’m excited to try it out.

3. Your new DJ is a robot (and other automated modes of music discovery).

One thing that I think Spotify has always done well with is new music discovery. I’d say that 90% of artists I’ve discovered in the past five years, I’ve found on Spotify.

Traditionally, that’s happened on playlists (Discover Weekly is an all-time classic idea IMO) and now the platform is taking things even further.

Here’s the gist: They made an AI DJ and it’s creepily good.

Yeah, it’s a robot with a real-sounding voice that tailors song selections to your personal history and preferences. Watch this video to get the idea:

Part of me thinks this is kind of sweet. Part of me wants to attack my phone with a hammer and go live under a rock in the desert. I guess for now I’ll say…

Jon’s subjective rating: 7 / 10

AI is all the rage right now, so why not put it front-and-center for listeners? In terms of the song selection, you basically get the same effect with automated personalized playlists, but I think the move just makes sense from a PR perspective.

Oh, and speaking of playlists, Spotify is also introducing something called “Smart Shuffle,” where they’ll add new, “perfectly tailored” suggestions into user-generated playlists; you hit a button, you get new music suggestions.

They kind of already had this with their old “Enhancement” button, but hey, the name is better now. For artists, it’s just another avenue toward being discovered.

The overall takeaway on these updates

Eh. I like that Spotify is trying to offer more ways to connect with fans. But I’m worried the new features represent a loss of focus and could turn Spotify from “the music app” into just another feed. It’s a mixed bag.

But my bottom-line belief is this:

At its core, music marketing will always be simple.

  1. If you can put your music in front of people who will probably like it at times when they will want to listen to it, you’ll find new fans.
  2. If you can create experiences that people value, you’ll build deep connections.
  3. If you can do both of those things consistently over a period of time, you’ll inevitably build a community around your art.

Spotify’s new tools give you new ways to capture attention, but they’re just shiny means toward the same old end. If you don’t want to use them, you don’t have to.

Don’t get overwhelmed. Keep making music.

Hope this overview was helpful, and as always, here’s wishing you good luck.


Exactly How My Song Got 207,401 Streams

Want to grow your Spotify numbers?

This case study is a detailed breakdown of the four steps my brother and I followed to get over 200k streams on our track.


Leave a Comment

More Stories

A Spotify Playlist with Good Music.

Watcha looking for?

Exactly How My Song Got 207,401 Streams

Want to grow your Spotify numbers? The path to 200k+ streams isn’t complex, but it does take some work.

This case study is a detailed breakdown of the four steps my brother and I followed to get over 200k streams on our track.