Now we know why Apple’s getting into the playlist club

Apple may grab a slice of the music industry’s emerging payola for a playlist system

A UK music industry conference puts much more context around Apple’s plans to hire broadcast radio and music industry talent to help build its future music streaming service. This goes much further than the evolution of the mix tape....


Spotify's director of label relations, Will Hope, spoke at the conference about the relationship between track inclusion within Spotify playlists and music listeners subsequently choosing to add those tracks to their libraries. Persuading music lovers to adopt music this way is essential to build artists, albums and songs, Music Ally reports -- and it works.

Good news for independents?


Record of the Day revealed in March that 94 percent of Radio 1’s most-played songs in 2014 came from major labels. But 51 percent on 11 Spotify-curated playlists that were checked came from indie labels.

“As more players prepare to enter the streaming space, so they will be looking to target a more mainstream audience that is currently generally engaged with streaming services,” RoTD said.


It will be interesting to watch how Apple’s move to present audiences with finely crafted music playlists plays out. Will these focus on major label content, or will its paid army of music professionals help the company develop a more music-as-an-art-form approach to music curation?

What is clear from what Hope was telling people at the UK music industry conference, The Great Escape, is that Spotify also thinks music curation is essential. Hope thinks inclusion in playlists from respected individuals can help build new acts and extend the lifecycle of their songs.

“The stuff we can really claim is the first listens: How we drove discovery of Hozier on the service,” said Hope. “We had a strategic relationship with him, management and the label…. Spotify strategic artist marketing can break artists and lengthen campaign periods.”

This puts Apple and Spotify in direct competition. Apple’s recent investments make it pretty clear that part of the battle will be decided by who manages to build the best, most relevant and popular music playlists. But music is for the people, and that demands a social angle to the service.


Recent claims suggest Apple will bind some elements from its failed Ping social network into iTunes in an attempt to foster social conversation about the music it streams and sells. This won’t be a Facebook killer, but could work as a one-stop shop for fans that want to engage with the artists they most enjoy, a panellist said. You should get tickets, gig info, artist contact and more all in one place. 

All the same, the importance of Apple’s music curation plans is becoming much easier to understand. The music industry is struggling to monetize streaming and digital music relationships, and playlists seem to offer a direct line into people’s music choices. Third-party firms such as Playlister, Deezer and others are already building different business models based on curated playlists (and a popular international club brand called Playlist Club once predicted the importance of these things in a digital age).

The hope must be that by developing intelligently curated playlists across a wide range of tastes, genres and beyond, Apple will be able to stimulate interest in new music while also helping build music revenues, and (of course) maintaining its all-important 30 percent slice of what it hopes will be a growing -- and no longer shrinking -- cake.

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Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.

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