✘ Will we see Spotify adopt a paid subscription with ads model?
And: Rival Consoles on Nine Inch Nails and songwriting; Stable Diffusion and brain imaging; A measured take on Creator Royalties in Web3; Crypto is a religion; YouTuber recreates Rosalía show
Back in 2009, I signed up for a free Spotify account. I listened to music and listened to the ads. I didn’t even think it was that annoying until there was one for Nando’s, a restaurant chain in the UK. It started with “pssst, I don’t want to disturb you,” and it was the most annoying ad I’ve ever come across. It led me to take a paid subscription. Over the next years, most of the global West went into subscription-mode. We all got a Netflix account next to our Spotify, or other DSP, account. And while video went completely behind the paywall, music kept have a freemium model where listeners could dig into the music while suffering some ads. Now, video is going back to ads and I wonder if music could follow suit.
Music’s TV moment, or Spotify’s TikTok moment
Two years ago, I wrote about music’s TV opportunity. As our viewing habits shifted from on-demand back to linear TV with ads through connected TVs, I argued that:
“The music video format is also suited for advertising breaks with the added bonus for advertisers of utilising their brand partnership to combine their ad-buy with a deeper connection and product placement.”
But that’s about music videos. It makes sense to have them on a screen, to point out the obvious. But audio doesn’t have to be on a screen. And yet, we’re seeing that the popularity of video and increasing consumption of video has moved Spotify to adopt a new homepage - focusing on video.
It makes sense, right? Spotify sees people scrolling endlessly on TikTok and Instagram. They also see how many podcasters actually record videos of their shows. And part of the move to podcasts was about creating a vertical that allows Spotify to have unique content people are willing to pay a subscription for. However, it’s also a move to make music streaming more like radio - with talking. And radio’s core business model is advertising.
Are paid subscriptions with ads coming to music streaming?
The big move in 2022 for video streaming services like Disney+ and Netflix was to launch an ad-supported tier. Now, this is not the freemium model we know from music streaming. Instead, it’s a paid tier that still had ads. Basically, the message is: pay more to skip those ads, but pay a minimum to get the content with ads. And the previously mentioned connected TVs and free ad-supported streaming services, such as Pluto TV, have primed people for ads. This works better in countries where people are more used to ads anyway - like the USA. The point is, there’s people who don’t mind ads too much, and there’s a massive market when it comes to monetizing those eyes and ears.
Since there’s a lot of ways that music streaming is trying to become like video streaming, paid subscriptions with ads could be one thing to look out for. If only as a way to make people feel that premium plan is more worthwhile. There’s a couple of ways this could play out:
paid subscription for music, but ads on podcasts
paid subscription for podcasts, but ads on music
paid subscription for audio, but ads on the video feed
and, simply ads everywhere even though you’re paying a subscription
Now, it might not work:
there’s the deals with the rightsholders and how ad revenues get shared
there’s the risk of general consumer backlash
and, there’s the risk that music streaming services simply aren’t good enough at monetizing ads. There is, for example, different ‘air time’ to fill than when it comes to long-form video.
Towards the future
I singled out Spotify here, but Apple is also working hard on their ad strategy. And since all these services work hard to be ever more the same, there’s a good chance that if one of them takes the plunge, the rest will follow. What’s certain is that all the DSPs continue to experiment with ways to grow their user base, to increase their revenues, to try and not lose money, and to keep users inside their ecosystem. It might not seem logical to bring paid subscriptions with ads to music streaming, but I can definitely see it happen, even this year.
🐚 The Downward Spiral: an Exploration of Violent Expressionism (Ryan Lee West)
“There is a lot of emphasis on anger, violence, pain and sex across the album. I think as a teenager, I really connected to the outsiderness of the record’s lyrics, and the frustration they illustrated. I always thought of the disturbing lyrics as a kind of character-based perspective — which was very inspiring, as I hadn’t really experienced that approach to writing before. This record was also the first I’d heard that explored ideas of fetishization in music, made more concrete by the video for “Closer” and what Trent would wear on stage and in press shots. I think that was important to me; I liked the freedom it expressed.”
✘ Last week, I mentioned how I love it when artists write about their process. Here, Rival Consoles talks about how one of my own favourite bands influenced his songwriting. It’s simply fantastic to read.
🧠 High-resolution image reconstruction with latent diffusion models from human brain activity (Yu Takagi, Shinji Nishimoto)
“Reconstructing visual experiences from human brain activity offers a unique way to understand how the brain represents the world, and to interpret the connection between computer vision models and our visual system. While deep generative models have recently been employed for this task, reconstructing realistic images with high semantic fidelity is still a challenging problem. Here, we propose a new method based on a diffusion model (DM) to reconstruct images from human brain activity obtained via functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). More specifically, we rely on a latent diffusion model (LDM) termed Stable Diffusion.”
✘ This isn’t about music, but it shows the power of Stable Diffusion and reading this blew my mind.
💥 The Artist’s Right: rethinking resale, the importance of branding, and the future of Web3 (bobbyhundreds)
“I really hope that one day, the marketplaces honor Creators and Creator Royalties again. But I also think it’s unrealistic – and not the decentralized Web3 way – for artists to depend on profit-seeking corporations to sustain their careers.
I also believe that for NFTs to last, artists can’t be controlled by resellers and reselling. The flipper’s mindset is about harping on the past, but the artist’s job is to create the future. They should work in concert, with the trader’s purpose to curate and resell what exists, leveraged by the goodwill of the artist’s repertoire and legacy. This is where the value of the artist’s brand comes in. But, to develop a brand, artists must be allowed to consistently introduce new work into the market and tell a thoughtful, cohesive story over time. Only then, can a healthy secondary market take hold.”
✘ Get yourself off the hype train and take some time to read this. When it comes to creator royalties there’s pros and cons, but what we should be talking about is the essence of what the entire market should sustain - artists’ stories expressed through their art.
🛐 Crypto is a Religion—Are You a Believer? (Finn Lobsien)
“As we’ll see, crypto is something like a religion. Now that we’ve established that crypto requires a narrative, let’s deconstruct crypto’s religion and see the components that make its believers so fervent.”
✘ I really enjoyed this take on crypto and how it has the potential to manifest itself in the analogue world.
🤯 YouTuber recreates Rosalía show after singer’s tour skips Peru – and sells out (Dan Collyns)
““The idea was never to make money, the idea was to do the tribute as best as possible,” said Patsias, 34, who recouped through ticket sales only part of the more than $100,000 that he spent staging the show.”
✘ It’s a proper feel-good story, but also one that shows the impact of the digital age we live in. Moreover, it brings into sharp contrast some questions around fandom and the potential trembles of parasocial relationships.
I’ve been on a bit of a Suzanne Ciani binge this week. She works magic through her synthesizers and her collaborations with Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith especially, are pure bliss to my ears. Steep yourself in these sounds.