Welcome To The U.S.! What Spotify Can Expect When It Arrives

Guest author Patrick Reynolds is currently an Executive Vice President at Triton Digital and a former ad guy.

I just read that Spotify is coming to the U.S! Oh, wait. That was an article from 2009. I hope they really mean it this time. I love the product. To grease the skids for them a bit, I’ve put together a little travel guide for what they can expect in advertising and media circles when they do arrive.

Lots of love in digital circles.

Being Swedish I’m guessing they’re fantastic dressers and that their accents will make even the Brits envious. American agencies all have European envy, and Spotify is certifiably a big deal abroad. Agency status meetings will be preceded by Absolut and herring in honor of Spotify’s arrival.

The bottom line: where others bat their eyes to catch agency attention, Spotify already has them lined up and swooning. That’s a big advantage.

To be a wishbone.

Traditional radio buyers will claim Spotify is the next-generation in radio. Digital buyers will argue that if it’s consumed via computer or mobile phone, it’s digital. They’ll butt heads like those rams you see on the Discovery Channel or in pickup commercials. My guess is digital departments or shops will usually win if Pandora is any guide. The real cage match will occur over budgets as the victor, now fully kicking sand at the vanquished, will ask for some of the rival’s budget to spend with Spotify. Otherwise well-adjusted people will resort to tactics that would make Lisbeth Salander blanch.

The bottom line: Spotify will further test agency models of who does what, and at what compensation level.

Stiffer competition than imagined.

It’s very interesting how competitors like to categorize one another. Pandora is “not radio” to a lot of radio folks. It’s playlist-based and therefore . . . different. Whatever you call it, to my mind it’s competing for ears and attention. That’s why I maintain that the biggest competitor to “radio” by any definition is the iPod and its ilk. Everyone is competing to be the preferred provider of music and other audio-based content. I honestly don’t think listeners delineate between devices or playlists vs. live content. All that said, Pandora’s been spotted a significant lead.

Slacker is absolutely massive in mobile. Rhapsody scratches a similar itch. And oh yeah, there are also thousands of local terrestrial stations looking to take the piss out of Spotify from the moment they hang their shingle. The difference between European markets and the U.S. cannot be understated.  In the UK , for instance, there are dozens of sizable stations. In Buffalo alone there are dozens. In New York there are hundreds. In the US there are thousands. Spotify will be that moose that stumbled upon thousands of bears just waking from hibernation. Those bears may have hated each other yesterday, but today they all agree that they want to take that moose down, perhaps collaboratively.

The bottom line: the importance of being “local” versus “personal” will be further tested.

To get better.

For all the reasons above, Spotify will evolve and improve if it is to survive over here. This is an elbows-out kind of country. Out of necessity, Swedish civility will eventually give way to good ol’ Yankee bare-knuckled aggression. They’ll advance the conversation about royalties and hopefully bring some clarity to that nightmare. They’ll give some competitors a haircut. Some of the weaker ones may even fold. But Spotify won’t sew it up as some predict. The US is just too big and diverse to be conquered by one insurgent. Incumbents are well funded, determined to maintain what they’ve built, and practiced at doing so.

The bottom line: the game’s changing. And getting more interesting. Technology’s making this a competition on content, not geography. I predict listeners will care a lot less about where you’re from than what you’ve got. Soon we’ll find out who’s got what. Welcome to America. Contrary to popular opinion, not everyone gets a trophy just for showing up.