Pascal de Mul, global head of hardware partnerships at hugely popular music streaming service Spotify, on the growing importance of TV as a platform for music delivery, the thinking behind new features just announced by the Spotify team, and the scope he sees for bringing more intelligent recommendations to TV viewers.
Pascal will be speaking at this year’s TV Connect show, the world’s leading event for connected entertainment, which takes place in London on 19-21 March. For more information and to register, please visit www.tvconnectevent.com
First up, can you tell us why TV is becoming increasingly important to Spotify as a platform?
Last year we launched apps on Virgin Media (in the UK), Boxee and Western Digital set top boxes, so we could see how people interacted with Spotify on the TV platform.
And we were honestly so surprised by the hugely positive reception we received on these devices.
We reached many more users that we expected, but most importantly, the users that tried Spotify on their TV through those devices did so for many more minutes per day than we expected.
In fact, the Boxee device ranks among our top devices in terms of engagement. This shows that people really love using the TV as a device to play music.
This is natural, really, considering that the TV is the biggest screen in the house, and therefore is best placed to offer the immersive experience that music deserves.
Also it is located often as the centrepiece of the living room, just like Spotify is often the centrepiece of our users’ music listening.
Spotify is where our users discover, enjoy and share music; privately or with friends. For us it is therefore logical to be present in the device which is in the centre of the living room, in the centre of the house.
Spotify has just introduced a bunch of new features centred around delivering recommendations from selected artists rather than a user’s social network. Why the shift?
We’ve always been proud of our ability to give you instant, buffer-free access to all the world’s music whenever and wherever you want it.
But we hadn’t yet cracked the code of how to make music more uniquely personal, more human, and helping you to discover a world of new music.
The new features we have just announced – Follow functionality and the Discovery Tab - take what has always been a goal, and makes it a reality, helping you find the perfect music for every moment.
We were able to make these changes thanks to the close relationship we have with both Spotify users and artists. Users tell us they want a better way to discover music, and artists want us to help them connect even more closely with fans.
Now finding the music that’s right for you on Spotify is so much more intuitive, seamless and better connected to the people that matter to you.
The discovery of new music comes from many sources – not just friends, but artists, trendsetters and editorial voices: people have a handful of friends that they trust for music recommendations.
Many times, their music discovery comes from artists, tastemakers, editorials, and other sources. Our influences are all as individual as we are. Spotify now brings everybody together.
What scope do you see here for the TV industry to adopt a similar approach?
The TV industry in a way already follows this approach: I am looking at my TV networks to recommend me which shows to watch. It is the on-demand and social parts which I believe are lacking.
With Spotify we give you recommendations, but leave you free to explore further.
We may advise you to listen to a specific Blur track, for example, but from there you can also explore any of their tracks, or follow our advice further to the related artist – such as MGMT for example.
Also you can explore what your friends are listening to. We even allow collaborative playlists and, through our partner Soundrop we allow collaborative listening.
With TV, many of these aspects do not exist. Although I appreciate that the BBC tells me I should be watching Mad Men (great advice!), I cannot watch any of their shows other than the one currently available, and exploring other seasons or episodes, or other related shows is out of the question.
Also my TV watching is a very lonely experience with no social interaction, not even at social occasions like football games or nationwide shows, unless I watch with a second screen on my lap.
There is a lot of ground for innovation and differentiation, and I look forward to seeing how the TV industry takes this challenge and innovates around it.
Now that’s content discovery wrapped up, what do you have planned for the connected TV space in 2013?
Plans are two-fold. We still have a lot of users who cannot experience Spotify on their connected TV yet, which needs to be solved. And secondly, we’re only at version one of our TV App.
We have a lot of innovation planned, we’re only really at the starting point of a long and exciting journey, so watch this space!