According to Recode, Spotify is in advanced talks to acquire Gimlet Media. Spotify reportedly plans to pay more than $200 million to buy Gimlet Media.
If this deal happens, it will be the first time Spotify has bought a content company. It will also be one of the biggest acquisitions in the podcasting industry.
It is possible that Spotify is looking to compete with Apple Podcasts for podcast listeners. Recode noted that while Apple is the dominant podcast distributer, it doesn’t appear to spend much energy on podcasts. Spotify has already started promoting podcasts to its 200 million users.
Hot Pod pointed out that Spotify has already started emphasizing a content strategy where it brings “voices in-house, or at least exclusively licenses their content”.
One of those deals involved Amy Schumer. Her comedy podcast 3 Girls 1 Keith is exclusively on Spotify.
Spotify reported that The Joe Budden Podcast brought its series exclusively to Spotify on September 12, 2018. The Apple Podcast listing for The Joe Budden Podcast has some extremely short episodes that direct listeners to seek out the podcast on Spotify.
Jemele Hill’s Unbothered podcast will launch on Spotify in March of 2019. It will be hosted by Jemele Hill and her co-hosts, and will include a rotating cast of guests. It will provide an honest discussion of American life. It appears this podcast will be exclusive to Spotify.
Spotify announced that Sound Up Bootcamp Australia is seeking aspiring podcasters who identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander to apply for the SoundUp Bootcamp, a four-day residential podcasting workshop to be held in Sydney on November 26 – November 29, 2018.
Those who qualify and are interested in applying must submit an entry before midnight on October 29, 2018. To apply, fill out a form that is on the Sound Up Bootcamp website. The form requires people to answer questions. It also includes participation terms.
You don’t need to have any prior podcasting experience, just a voice (with something to say), a passion for the medium, and an eagerness to bring your idea to life. Ten people will be selected to attend, with expenses covered including travel and accommodation for those living outside Sydney.
The bootcamp will be facilitated by Aboriginal/Torres Strait Islander radio producer Emily Nicol with workshops presented by Brooke Boney, Allan Clarke, Rudi Bremer, and more.
Sound Up Bootcamp Australia is supported by Audiocraft, a leading Australian audio organization who host events, run workshops, and make podcasts through their agency.
Podcast listeners in the UK can now enjoy BBC podcasts on Spotify. It does not appear that the BBC podcasts on Spotify will be available for listeners who are not in the UK.
“The BBC is one of the largest content creators in the UK, and have worked with the biggest and best audio talent in the world,” explains James Cator, Spotify’s Head of Podcast Partnerships, EMEA. “To have a comprehensive audio catalogue in the UK, the BBC are essential, so adding the BBC to our rapidly-expanding catalogue of podcasts was a natural partnership.”
Today, the BBC podcast library boasts hundreds of programs across thousands of episodes and caters to millions of listeners across the UK and worldwide. Spotify has added podcasts from iPlayer Radio and BBC Sounds to the platform, making hundreds of BBC podcasts available to Spotify users in the UK.
The BBC podcasts that are now on Spotify include thousands of episodes across a number of diverse genres including Comedy, News & Politics, Educational, Sport & Recreation, Lifestyle & Health, Business & Technology, and Kids & Family,
A few of the BBC podcasts on Spotify include:
Short Cuts: Short documentaries and adventures in sound by Josie Lang.
Desert Island Discs: Eight tracks, a book and luxury: what would you take to a desert island? Kristy Young invites her guests to share the soundtrack of their lives.
The Infinite Monkey Cage: Witty, irreverent look at the world through scientists’ eyes. With Brian Cox and Robin Ince.
Spotify has a policy regarding Hate Content. In May of 2018, Spotify removed two music artists from the Spotify editorial or algorithmic playlists because Spotify felt that those artists had violated the Hate Conduct policy. Now, Spotify has removed some episodes of The Alex Jones Show podcast.
Variety reported that Spotify had deleted several episodes of the podcast hosted by Alex Jones. He is the founder of InfoWars (which Variety describes as a “conspiracy-theory site”.)
To be clear, Spotify did not remove all episodes of The Alex Jones Show podcast. Variety reported that Spotify “continues to offer dozens of episodes of Jones’ podcast on the service, dating back to at least June 2017.” This situation is similar to that of R. Kelly and XXXTentacion whose music was removed from Spotify owned and operated playlists.
Later, Pitchfork reported that Spotify clarified its Hate Content and Hateful Conduct Policy. According to Pitchfork, at least one of XXXTentacion’s songs had reappeared Spotify’s RapCaviar playlist.
Spotify’s policy update (which was posted by Spotify on June 1, 2018) includes the following: “Spotify does not permit content whose principal purpose is to incite hatred or violence against people because of their race, religion, disability, gender identity, or sexual orientation. As we’ve done before, we will remove content that violates that standard. We’re not talking about offensive, explicit, or vulgar content – we’re talking about hate speech.”
Rolling Stone reported that Spotify said that Alex Jones was in violation of its policy that bans hate speech. Spotify was quoted as saying: “We take reports of hate content seriously and review any podcast episode or song that is flagged by our community. Spotify can confirm it has removed specific episodes of The Alex Jones Show podcast for violating our hate content policy.”
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.