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Spotify Set Their Sights on the 'Superfan' Market to Ease Artists' Revenue Concern

AlunaGeorge performing on the Spotify House stage at SXSW (via Houston Chronicle) 

Streaming is, seemingly, here to stay, but little has been achieved to allay artists' concerns about royalties and revenue. Before, it was simple - people bought your album, some of the money went to the record company, the rest went to you. Now, streaming services are everywhere, earning their money through subscription fees and ads.

Every service has had to endure some manner of financial trial by fire, whether it was intended to give artists a fairer deal from the ground up, like Tidal, or had to adapt in the wake of criticism from on high, like Apple Music, but it's an ongoing battle, and even Spotify isn't above it. Spotify turned 10 this year, but even that milestone didn't overshadow the controversy, as rapper Sage Francis posted an acutely sarcastic video to his social media accounts, posing next to a jar of pennies, as if it's the amount of money he's made from his music being on there for all that time.

Spotify aren't trying to take money away from artists, it's just a flaw in the system, one which they've tried various different tactics to overcome. Most recently, they've been putting more weight behind the service's ability to target 'superfan' users. As you might have guess, superfans are the most dedicated fans of a particular artist or genre, the ones far more likely to buy band branded merchandise, limited edition physical releases and just about anything else.

Obviously, Spotify deal in exactly none of these things, but they can identify the users who fit that category, and steer them in that direction with targeted advertising, something which no other streaming service can really boast. They had a kind of 'proof of concept' event to this end at South by Southwest, they singled out some of the biggest fans of electronic duo AlunaGeorge and gave them the chance to hang out with vocalist George Reid in a casual environment.

This isn't that new of a development, though, really. In 2014 they acquired a startup called The Echo Nest, and tasked them with collating all the user data from the service and finding ways to make it lucrative for artists. The superfan initiative was one of the first things to come out of it. They look at various different parameters, like how long someone will spend listening to a particular artist, how often, how many of their tracks they playlist, and so forth. The clearer the distinction, the more likely that the individual is to spend money on gigs, merch and such like.

Gigs are a big sticking point, especially since the streaming/download market has made more frequent gigging an almost invaluable practice among artists, especially the ones starting out. Spotify have already started sending out pre-sale ticket emails to superfans, and have reported an 18% click through rate, which for a small, 3 digit sample group is unprecedentedly high.

The more they can use this data to pinpoint how to appeal to fans, the more they can support the industry beyond their own ends, increasing artist trust and cultural value. They could even directly aid musicians with release and tour planning, based on the data they accrue. If a band from Glasgow find that their popularity is blooming in Ontario, it might be time to start looking into a Canadian tour leg. It could even extend to fan base growth, as Spotify could theoretically highlight groups of fans who are more likely to respond well to an artist's music, and the best way to make sure it reaches them.

It's a self-fulfilling prophecy - highlight socially active fans, promote further social activity, and it spreads to others. I tend to stay fairly plugged into music news, tour schedules and venue events, and it often surprises me how others show such little enthusiasm about live music, but often it's because they haven't figured out how to access the same information that I have, so imagine if, all of a sudden, it was not only on everyone's doorstep, but tailored specifically to fit their tastes and level of investment in music? It's an exciting prospect, and that's the first time I've ever said that about anything Spotify has done.

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @Songbird_Callum

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Spotify Set Their Sights on the 'Superfan' Market to Ease Artists' Revenue Concern Reviewed by Unknown on Tuesday, April 05, 2016 Rating: 5

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