Spotify is no longer just a streaming app, it’s a social network

With Spotify’s recent launch of comments on podcasts, the streamer is taking another step toward building a social networking experience into an app largely known for music. Comments will now allow podcasters to connect directly with their listeners within Spotify, alongside other interactive features like Polls and Q&As. Combined with the app’s 2023 revamp, which added a TikTok-style discovery feed, artist profiles where creators can sell merch and concert tickets, and the ability to post to stories, Spotify’s app is shaping up to be a social network focused on all things audio, not just a music streaming app.

After this week’s added support for comments on podcast episode pages — a social networking feature if ever there was one — the question now is whether Spotify will add something similar for music artists in the future. This could be an even more compelling addition to the app, given that the fan bases surrounding musicians tend to be larger and more active than those surrounding most podcasts.

When we spoke with Maya Prohovnik, VP of Podcast Product at Spotify, about the launch of comments, we asked if we could also add support for comments on artist pages.

Prohovnik did not outright deny that such an idea was under consideration, but initially declined to comment, before adding: “I can see a world where we push the boundaries of reality. [support for comments] to other formats on Spotify, but we always want to do what’s right for the format and for those kinds of creators and artists.”

It’s worth noting that the idea of ​​building a social network into a music app has been tried before by Spotify’s biggest competitor, Apple.

In 2010, Steve Jobs introduced iTunes’ new social network Ping as “Facebook and Twitter meet iTunes,” calling it a “social network all about music.” Jobs was clearly on the right track, but Ping never took off during the Apple founder’s lifetime. Shortly after Jobs’ death, Apple shut down Ping in 2012, a rare flop for the iPhone maker. Apple later tried again with a social feature for musicians, Connect, which also didn’t last long.

Even today, Apple still half-heartedly embraces social networking in its Apple Music streaming service, with an optional feature that lets you periodically check the contacts on your devices and recommend new friends for you to follow so you can see what they’re listening to.

Image credits: Spotify

Unlike Apple, however, Spotify has never explicitly stated that it wants to build a social network focused on audio.

Instead, the company has quietly and slowly rolled out a series of features that simply make the app more social for both creators and their fans. With last year’s redesign, for example, Spotify added in-app video feeds to its homepages, including tabs for music, podcasts, and now audiobooks. While the designs of those feeds have been tweaked since launch, the move served as a signal that Spotify was taking lessons from Gen Z’s favorite social network, TikTok, when designing its own product.

Spotify CEO Daniel Ek spoke about TikTok’s impact during the company’s first-quarter 2024 earnings call, telling investors that TikTok and others had “improved the user experience” and that the industry was “learning about these trends and trying to improve our products.”

“…We’re no different than anyone else in the sense that we try to learn from the market,” Ek said, citing the app’s TikTok inspiration. “We learn what consumers like. We try to improve it and provide the best user experience possible.”

Image credits: Spotify

Over the past year, the company has also added new ways for artists to reach fans, through a Spotify Clips feature that worked similarly to Stories on other social networks, allowing artists to add 30-second videos to their profile and album pages.

Artists can also get fans excited about new releases with Countdown Pages, and fans will continue to hear from favorite artists via video messages through the company’s annual Spotify Wrapped campaign. Meanwhile, Spotify users can continue to follow creators and friends on the platform to stay up to date on the latest music and events, and see what friends are streaming. They can collaborate on playlists with others in many ways, including in real time. The company has previously been spotted testing a Communities feature that lets users see what others are streaming in real time.

With the addition of comments, Spotify provides an app where users don’t just start an audio file and then put their phone back in their pocket, but where they actively engage and share their thoughts, feelings and opinions, just as they would on a traditional social network.

Combined, these features ensure that the app is not just a music streamer, but one that competes for users’ time (and ultimately ad revenue) spent on larger social networks.

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