For whatever reason, some of the neatest announcements in digital music history have been surrounded by an air of mystery. Call it the iPod effect. The latest player in this game: Spotify, which is summoning reporters to a Nov. 30 “Global Press Conference” with the tantalizing teaser, “What’s next for Spotify?”
People are talking, which is of course the point for the nine intervening days. All Things Digital thinks Spotify will announce a digital music store. PC Magazine doesn’t know. VentureBeat agrees with All Things Digital: Spotify plans to launch an MP3 store.
We respectfully disagree, because we think we’ve already broken this story.iOS, Android, and other platforms build — and sell — music apps that draw on Spotify’s catalog of 15-million-plus songs.
That last bit is crucial. Developers can already build apps on top of Spotify — they just can’t sell them, removing a substantial incentive for making cool stuff, especially when so many other app developers have struck gold on the app stores.
Spotify will make its API available to commercial developers — even one-person operations operating on shoestring budgets — and we suspect that it will also announce big improvements to that API development tool.
Our guess: These “special guests” will be third-party app developers making stuff out of Spotify’s music.
Developers we’ve spoken with at Music Hack Days (the latest of which was attended by Spotify) have not been shy about denigrating Spotify’s existing API, which some of them have said is hard to work with.
Spotify needs to flex its muscles a bit to show bands, labels, and publishers that if they’re not on Spotify, they won’t be part of this ecosystem
As a result, we feel that Spotify will announce not only commercial terms for its API that let app developers charge for their apps, which, again, we have already confirmed, but also that Spotify is revamping its API to make it much easier to integrate the service into third-party apps.
You might ask: Why would record labels, some of which are pulling music from Spotify, allow another layer of stuff to be built around their music, by people they don’t even know?
The answer is simple: If a music fan wants to use a third-party app (like this one or this one) to listen to Spotify on a smartphone or tablet, they need to pay $10 per month for a full Spotify subscription. And some of that money goes to labels, publishers, and artists (“black hole” aside).
This is why they call it an “ecosystem.”
These labels pulling their stuff from Spotify could even explain the timing of this event. Spotify needs to flex its muscles a bit to show bands, labels, and publishers that if they’re not on Spotify, they won’t be part of this ecosystem — which could arguably be massive, because a wide range of features for playing back and sharing Spotify’s music is likely to emerge once app developers have more incentive to build them and better tools with which to do so.
The “special guests” mentioned in the invite? Our guess is that they will be developers who have already built apps out of Spotify’s music, even in the absence of a commercial license, or perhaps developers who have built new ones.
We’re still planning to attend this press conference, of course, which is “global” in nature, we assume, to attract developers all over the world. Those developers will have the chance to build and sell apps in any app store, with Spotify as the musical back-end, without ever hiring a lawyer or obtaining a meeting with a single record label executive.
We’ll have to wait until Nov. 30 to know for sure what Spotify is announcing, but we have a feeling we won’t be too surprised. A commercial API just makes too much sense for Spotify not to announce it.