Spotify hosted its first-ever Sound Up Bootcamp. It was a weeklong June intensive for aspiring female podcasters of color. The goal of the program was to bring more diverse voices into the podcast world – specifically voices belonging to women of color. Spotify has announced the winners who were awarded funding for their podcasts.
Sound Up Bootcamp featured daily sessions for 10 women of color who had been selected from over 18,000 applicants. Rekha Murthy, a podcast and radio veteran with over 20 years of experience co-taught the workshop with Graham Griffith. They led conversations on topics ranging from identifying an audience to honing a breakthrough message.
The attendees also learned from experts in the field about the art of podcast creation, from initial ideation to editing, producing, and marketing.
The women in attendance included: Titi Shodiya, Kristina Ogilive, Janina Jeff, Shonté Daniels, Amanda B, Tiara Darnell, Ivy Le, Doreen Wang, Gabriela Quintana, and Sun H.
At the end of the Sound Up Bootcamp, three women were awarded up to $10,000 each to fund their proposed podcasts. The winners are:
Titi Shodiya – Co-host of Dope Labs. (The other co-host is Zakiya Whatley). Dope Labs looks at the intersection between science and pop culture.
Kristina Ogilvie – Host of Your Job Seems Easy, an interview show which explores the working lives of women of color.
Janina Jeff – Co-host of In Those Genes. (The other co-host is Ashley Huderson). In Those Genes focuses on genetics and the black community.
Reuters reported earlier this month that Wixen Music Publishing Inc. has sued Spotify. Wixen alleges that Spotify used thousands of songs (owned by Wixen) without a license and without compensation to the music publisher.
Wixen is an exclusive licensee of songs including “Free Fallin” by Tom Petty, “Light My Fire” by the Doors, “(Girl We Got a) Good Thing” by Wheezer, and works of Stevie Nicks, Neil Young, Steely Dan, and Rage Against the Machine (to name just a few). Wixen is seeking damages worth at least $1.6 billion. They also want injunctive relief.
Reuters also reported: Wixen also alleged that Spotify outsourced its work to a third party, licensing and royalty services provider the Harry Fox Agency, which was “ill-equipped to obtain all the necessary mechanical licenses.”
Scribd.com has a copy of the Complaint filed by the attorneys for Wixen Music Publishing, Inc. In the Complaint, Wixen alleges:
…Spotify has repeatedly failed to obtain necessary statutory, or “mechanical,” licenses to reproduce and/or distribute musical compositions on its service. Consequently, while Spotify has become a multibillion dollar company, songwriters and their publisher, such as Wixen, have not been able to fairly and rightfully share in Spotify’s success, as Spotify has in many cases used their music without a license and without compensation…
Wixen filed the lawsuit in December 29, 2017, at California Central District Court. The case is called Wixen Music Publishing, Inc. v. Spotify USA Inc. Judge George H. Wu is presiding over this case. Justia has more information and may update their information when new things occur.
Spotify previously confirmed that it had parted ways with Tom Calderone. He was Spotify’s Head of Video and Podcasting Operations. Since that confirmation, Spotify has hired Courtney Holt to oversee its video and podcasting division.
Daniel Elk is the CEO and Founder of Spotify. Courtney Holt is the former head of Maker Studios. He replaces Tom Calderone as VP and head of Spotify Studios. Hollywood Reporter states that “A Spotify spokeswoman says Holt will lead development of Spotify’s efforts in video, podcasts, and other audio content. Courtney Holt will be based out of Los Angeles, and will report to chief content officer of Spotify, Stefan Blom.”
Bloomberg reported that Spotify is “about to announce a new slate of original podcasts”. Bloomberg also stated that Holt “will try to bring order to Spotify’s efforts beyond music, an ongoing struggle for the popular on-demand music streaming service.”
Tom Calderone was Spotify’s Head of Video and Podcasting Operations. Bloomberg reported that Spotify confirmed Tom Calderone’s departure in an email. It appears the reason is because Spotify’s initial round of programs failed to catch on with audiences.
Bloomberg also reported that Spotify will focus its video efforts on Rap Cavier, which is Spotify’s most popular playlist, Rock This, and other features.
With the move, Spotify is narrowing its video ambitions. Calderone, the former head of cable network VH1, commissioned a dozen series from producers including Tim Robbins and Russell Simmons. He also oversaw podcasts, an area of growing importance at the world’s largest paid music service. Now the company is making clearer that it wants videos on the service to stay closer to the music industry.
According to Bloomberg, Spotify’s investment in podcasting continues to grow. Spotify has ads in Reply All and The Bill Simmons Podcast. Bloomberg previously reported that Spotify plans to announce a new slate of original podcasts soon.
If you want to look at this in a positive light, it appears that Spotify is not abandoning podcasts entirely. It sounds to me like we can expect upcoming Spotify podcasts to have some connection with the music industry.
Spotify made a splash back in 2015 when it announced that it would be bringing podcasts to its popular media-streaming platform. During that announcement, Spotify indicated it would be working with a select group of partners to bring the first round of podcasts into its system. It was unclear at the time if Spotify would ever host an open podcast directory similar to iTunes or TuneIn, or if it would instead be a tiny walled garden, accessible to only a few podcast producers.
Despite pleas from the podcasting community, Spotify remained conspicuously silent on whether or not the company would ever take open submissions from podcasters. In the two years following that initial announcement, Spotify continued to experiment with how to handle podcasts within its suite of cross-platform apps. But the Sweden-based streaming service never made much in the way of official announcements about podcasting.
And while it seems Spotify’s general take on podcasting hasn’t changed all that much, the company has done one thing, albeit quietly, that podcasters have been asking for. Spotify has created an online submission form podcasters can use to request their shows be included within the platform’s podcast offering.
Those who elect to submit a podcast to Spotify should proceed with realistic expectations. The form warns that, “All submissions will be reviewed, and you’ll be notified once approved. Please note submission does not guarantee automatic approval.” And while all podcast-syndication platforms have their own internal requirements for approval, Spotify hasn’t publicized exactly what its criteria is for an acceptable podcast. One bit of advice that has floated around for some time is that, shows with little or no music tend to get Spotify’s approval more often than shows that use a lot of music.
Overall, it seems like Spotify still has a long way to go in order to truly embrace podcasting. But its willingness to consider open submissions is a step in the right direction.
UPDATE: Podcast services provider Blubrry is now also offering Spotify submission to its media hosting customers.
It seemed strangely appropriate when rumors started circulating earlier this year that media-streaming service Spotify was contemplating a buyout of music/podcast-hosting company SoundCloud. In podcasting terms, the two companies have shared similar profiles as being on the edges of the podcasting space, without ever completely taking the full plunge into the industry. The potential acquisition felt right somehow, if only because it might bring the newly formed SpotiCloud (Soundify? That surely must already be taken.) more into the center of the podcasting space.
But that chance has been dashed, as Spotify has reportedly walked away from the deal with SoundCloud:
The companies were in advanced talks on a deal in September, the FT reported, as Spotify looks to compete with Silicon Valley titans such as Apple and Amazon in the competitive streaming market.
However, the deal has fallen through because Spotify did not want to slow its path towards a flotation with the costs and licensing agreements needed to buy SoundCloud, according to someone familiar with the matter.
The fates of both Spotify and SoundCloud have seemed uncertain for awhile. Both companies have struggled to turn a profit. Spotify is headed for an initial public offering, and it’s possible that taking the company public may save it long enough for the company to build some true staying power. SoundCloud, on the other hand, has taken on a lot of debt thru multiple rounds of venture capital funding. After being passed over on two high profile buyouts (first Twitter and now Spotify), SoundCloud’s next move is anyones guess.
I’m not sure what happens when two high-profile companies with seemingly obtuse profiles in the same industry collide in one headline. But that’s exactly what’s going on, as news began to leak earlier this week that music/podcast streaming service Spotify is in “advanced talks” to buy music/podcast distribution service SoundCloud.
Of course, this blog is focused on news about podcasting. And while both SoundCloud and Spotify have their own places in the current podcast market, it’s been a bit off an odd trip for both companies:
- SoundCloud began as a collaboration tool for musicians but later morphed into a music sharing and distribution hub, eventually adding support for podcasts. SoundCloud’s podcasting program was in beta for years before it officially launched. The company has been hemorrhaging money, burning thru multiple rounds of venture capital in an attempt to stay ahead of mounting financial pressure from the major record labels. SoundCloud launched its own premium music-streaming service and began running ads against content for non-paying account holders. Curiously, the company has mostly kept the music and podcasting sides separate. But apparently, embedded SoundCloud players featuring podcast episodes will automatically begin to play SoundCloud-hosted music files if the player isn’t paused after the podcast is finished. This can happen without warning, much to the chagrin of podcasters who thought they were embedding single-episode players onto their websites.
- Spotify is the Swedish-born music-streaming platform that perfected the idea of the Celestial Jukebox; Any song from any artist whenever you want it at the touch of a button. The company grew slowly as it moved into more markets around the world, finally pushing into North America five years ago. When Spotify announced in 2015 that it would be adding support for podcasts, it felt like this could be some seriously new ground for podcasting to break. But Spotify has chosen to work with a small group of content partners and the company has been very slow to add new shows to its podcast directory. And while Spotify has done better in the revenue department than SoundCloud, Spotify was still taking on new debt from investors earlier this year.
Just what any of this means for podcasting is anyones guess. Spotify could try to absorb SoundCloud into its existing platform, or it could let SoundCloud continue to operate independently. Tho, I’m not sure I like the name SpotiCloud. However, Soundify does have a nice ring to it.
SoundCloud and Spotify are two big audio platforms that have made their fair share of podcasting news over the last year. Here’s a brief roundup of what the two services have been up to lately.
Earlier this month, SoundCloud launched its new SoundCloud Go service. SoundCloud Go is aimed squarely at music fans. It’s unclear what this new service may mean for podcasters. SoundCloud Go boasts these features:
- More tracks: 125 million+
- Listen offline
- Unlock previews as full tracks
SoundCloud Go is currently offering a one-month free trial with a price of $9.99/month after that. U.S. based SoundCloud users with Pro Unlimited accounts will be able to subscribe to the service for a discount at $4.99/month.
Swedish streaming service Spotify announced it’d be adding podcasts to its platform almost one year ago. Since then, the company has kept its podcasting support in a fairly limited beta stage while it manually adds new shows to its directory. Last month, it was announced that Spotify received another $1billion worth of funding:
The money is technically “convertible debt,” which means the investors will have a chance to buy in at a discounted rate should Spotify decide to go public. Some experts say that’s going to happen in 2017—Spotify already had $600 million in the bank at the time of this new round, so even though they’re losing money (Spotify lost $180 million in 2014), this new investment will likely keep the company afloat until their IPO.
The launch of SoundCloud Go puts the two services in more direct competition. SoundCloud’s financial status has been somewhat grim for awhile. SoundCloud Go may be a good way for the company to bring in desperately needed revenue. Meanwhile, Spotify’s growth has been slow but steady. However, the company faces increasing costs due to the complex and costly nature of music licensing. If the two services don’t reach financial stability soon, it may the beginning of the end for them both.
Dear Mr. Ek,
You made a pretty big splash in the podcasting world when, earlier this year, you announced that you’d be bringing podcasts to Spotify. Many of us in the podcasting community looked forward to having a new distribution channel for our shows. We learned during the announcement that Spotify would be partnering with a select group of content providers at launch. This seemed logical as a way for you to “test the waters” as far as adding a new type of media to your platform. But we assumed that you’d eventually open up Spotify’s podcasting platform to everyone. And that hasn’t happened.
I’ve been a user of the Spotify application since it launched in the U.S. It quickly became my preferred music player. I spent hours discovering new songs and rediscovering old favorites thanks to your platform’s ease of use and wide ranging catalog. That appreciation for Spotify as a music service created some real excitement at the possibility of others finding podcasts thru your platform. But due to the closed nature of Spotify’s current podcast directory, that’s simply not possible.
Surely, Mr. Ek, you can see that, in the way music listeners want more than just a slice of all of the music being made today, they’d also want more than a small fraction of all of the podcasts being produced? During last month’s announcement, the impression you gave is that you want Spotify to become a true world class media consumption platform. But how can that happen if users are clicking away from Spotify to listen to the podcasts that aren’t available on your application?
If making that simple appeal isn’t enough, consider this: Historically, the two largest podcasting consumption platforms have been Apple’s iTunes and the Stitcher app. iTunes has always been a huge competitor to Spotify and Stitcher was acquired last year by Deezer, another one of your competitors. Both iTunes and Stitcher have massive podcast catalogs because they’re open. Anyone can submit a show to these services and usually get listed within a few business days. And it is these services that listeners (i.e. your customers) will go to when they can’t find their desired podcasts inside of Spotify.
I hope I’ve made it clear, Mr. Ek, that the current state of podcasting within Spotify has negative repercussions. Not only for podcasters but also for the Spotify platform. It’s not often in life you can make a true win-win decision. But opening up Spotify to all podcasters would be one of those rare instances. Why not take advantage of the opportunity now and let us in? We’d love to share our shows with you!
Podcast Producer and Contributing Editor