Spotify’s Algorithmic Battle Against Artists Like Taylor Swift and Kanye

So many artists hate Spotify and the idea of freemium streaming. The company, however, plans to fight back against boycotts with a very powerful weapon: Big Data. The Ringer reports.

You do not want to get on Taylor Swift’s bad side. Your tour may be canceled, or your romantic failures could be blasted on the radio, or you might have to work on a Sunday. So when the pop superstar decided to pull her entire catalog from Spotify in 2014, citing issues with how the company compensates artists, it looked like a massive blow for the world’s largest paid music streaming service.

More than a year later, Swift’s music is still nowhere to be seen on Spotify. But the streaming service experienced its biggest growth year ever in 2015, adding 29 million active users. There’s no specific star or revolutionary business plan behind this success: In large part, its growth is thanks to the Echo Nest, a music data start-up that Spotify acquired just months before Swift’s exodus. Echo Nest alums have conceived and shepherded virtually every major product update Spotify has rolled out over the last year, from Discover Weekly to its Running mixes. These features, centered on personalization, are part of Spotify’s big bet that crafting killer, user-friendly playlists will keep its followers loyal.

But in the age of streaming album exclusives, loyalty can be tough to come by. As more streaming services have entered the market — most notably, Apple Music and Tidal — major artists have started brokering deals to keep their work on certain platforms and off others. In one case, a frustrated fan resorted to filing a lawsuit against an artist. And Spotify users have it particularly rough, with many of the year’s best-selling albums showing up on the service late, or not at all.

Spotify’s answer to these glaring omissions? Algorithms. Thanks to the Echo Nest, Spotify is now better than any other streaming service at helping users discover new songs they might love. But now the question is whether that perk will be enough to satisfy users missing out on music and album launches from superstars such as Swift, Beyoncé, and Drake. Can an algorithm — even a really, really good algorithm — replace them?

Keep reading.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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