Music Industry

Spotify: A Look Inside

Ways We Work is a site dedicated to sharing the experiences of companies, departments and individuals who are at the front of the curve. Those who are bringing something to the marketplace and the workplace and what they might be doing that’s new, or at least right, right now. This week’s focus is on Spotify and provides some insight into how the behemoth music streamer keeps their product both stable and fresh.


Photo Credit: Matt Quinn

Spotify’s office is located on the 3rd & 7th floors of a building in the Flatiron District of Manhattan. We were greeted at reception by Sally Chan who is a product designer on the C.R.E.A.M (yes, that’s a reference to the Wu-Tang song) tribe. Sally gave us a quick tour of the 3rd floor, which consisted of a main hall with a kitchen where the team eats lunch. On either side of the hall were breakout rooms and a dimly lit library where people could work in quiet. We had lunch with Sally, Brent, Doug, and Daniel who are all product designers under the C.R.E.A.M. tribe and they explained to us what exactly alliances, tribes, and squads are, and how they frame everything at Spotify. Spotify works in cross-disciplinary teams that focus on a specific feature, which means that squads are made up of varying combinations of engineers, designers, product owners, QAs, user researchers and data analysts. Squads sit together in the office, each one in a space with desks, a couch area, and a meeting room. A tribe is made up of several squads who are all working on related products within Spotify. An alliance is made up of tribes who are all working towards the same broader goal. The C.R.E.A.M. tribe works on projects that range from exploring new ad formats to automating ad delivery, and converting free users to paid ones. That tribe falls under the Revenue alliance, which is responsible for all products that maximize the revenue potential of Spotify. While Spotify’s organizational structure seems complex at first, it’s a huge factor in how individual squads can work autonomously while maintaining cohesiveness within the tribe and contributing to the large, overarching goals of the alliance.

The seemingly complex structures within Spotify’s teams works to provide an open environment where everyone is free to explore but all work together for cohesion at the end of the day.


Photo Credit: Matt Quinn

After lunch, we had the opportunity to sit in on what the team calls “Soundcheck”. Soundcheck is Spotify’s name for their user testing sessions and they have a room in the office dedicated to these, complete with a one-way mirror. Every two weeks they alternate hosting the sessions in their Stockholm, London, and New York offices, streaming them over Google Hangouts so everyone on the team can take part. These Soundcheck Sessions are run by the Product Insights team at Spotify, and after the session we had the chance to learn how this team fits into product design and the various squads, tribes, and alliances. Product Insights is a team of about 40 that is spread across both Stockholm and New York. Previously, it had been divided into two separate teams: user research and data analysis, but earlier this year the two were brought together to help give teams a more holistic view of what was going on within the product. Peter Gilks, a manager on the Product Insights team explained that both analysts and user researchers are embedded into a product squad or tribe whenever possible, but they also have some people who instead focus on Soundcheck and supporting teams without dedicated Product Insight resources.

The entire article is fascinating. Check it out here.

You can check out everything for Ways We Work here.

Larry Lootsteen

Music is life and I love to write about all things music. Independent music blogger. Writer in general. I am a big fan of alternative and indie music but there's no genre I haven't found something to like.

Larry Lootsteen has 630 posts and counting. See all posts by Larry Lootsteen

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