Music streaming service Spotify quietly announced in October that it would be removing the App Finder and no longer supporting apps in its desktop client, and today comes news of a significant casualty resulting from that move: Soundrop — makers of popular group listening rooms that run on Spotify, Deezer and the wider web, but mainly on Spotify — is shutting down. The team behind the service says it will now focus all their efforts on Show.co, a marketing platform that the startup developed as a by-product of the success of those listening rooms.
The move to close its platform to apps comes at a key time for Spotify. The company is focusing a lot more on how to embed its service in the wider world outside its own walled garden, which, right now, will be a crucial way for it to expand its presence in the face of a few hefty challenges. Specifically, Spotify is facing encroaching competition from Apple and other music streaming sites. And it’s trying to face down a general tide of Spotify discontent among labels and artists — the most recent lashing of which has seen Spotify embroiled in a tense take-down by megastar Taylor Swift.
It seems that Soundrop is looking for a buyer for its service. “We’re not closing down the business itself. We’re closing just the apps in Spotify and Deezer (and the web, but that was really more of a beta). We haven’t sold anything but we see that there’s a value to our playlists and our technology which we intend to explore,” a spokesperson told me. “This may be on our own or with partners. As you can imagine, we’ve received a number of inquiries in the past few days after Spotify made their plans known.”
In a blog post today, the company said the rooms will be closing on December 31, to give “the people who use the Soundrop product (we never think of them as simply “users”)…time to find a new place that helps them discover and enjoy music together with their friends, and allows them to build new homes for communities they created.” Soundrop tells me that it had 120,000 monthly uniques, but a very engaged set of people among them, generating hundreds of millions of music plays.
Spotify first opened its App Finder, its own effort to create an app storefront of sorts, back in 2011. It was a bullish move that positioned Spotify as more than just a standalone service, and as a platform to support others. Of the many startups that sprung up around Spotify and its music streaming platform, Soundrop stood out for a couple of reasons.
First, it was a runaway success, giving Spotify a social spin well before the company itself had launched any of its own discovery and share features.
And second, that breaking of new ground was enough for it to attract investment from key backers, specifically Northzone, which was the first VC to fund Spotify itself. At one point, the Oslo-founded company was even working out of Spotify’s Stockholm offices.
But it was not to last. Just as in other areas of the tech world (see: Twitter and its about-face on APIs in 2012, or LinkedIn’s reigning in of its API), the business of building apps on someone else’s platform is a tricky place to live, since you are always subject to the business decisions of the platform owner, which could easily not be in your favor.
Also, it seems that the business of listening rooms is not that easy: Turntable.fm last year pivoted to live events when monetizing, licensing and amassing a critical mass of users for its service all proved challenging.
“This news is of course disappointing for our fans and partners, but not unexpected by us,” the Soundrop team writes in its post.
On top of this, Soundrop co-founder and CEO, Inge Sandvik, left the company earlier this year. He’s now working on a new project still in stealth.
The writing was on the wall for Spotify app makers in March 2014, when Spotify announced that it would no longer accept new app submissions. As for those who were already out in the market, we may still see more apps closing or pivoting as a result of Spotify’s changes. In another recent move, Playlists, another popular Spotify app, was acquired by Warner Music.