The Ugly Side of Spotify's "Discovery Mode" Musicians Need to Know

What is Spotify's New Paying-for-Influence Tool and What Does It Mean for You? - De Novo Agency

For independent artists, succeeding on Spotify is crucial today. The popular music streaming platform is quickly approaching 300 million active monthly users, and reaching your audience on their is so important for artists.

Here at De Novo Agency, we make Spotify a big part of what we do. It's one of our core services, it's a vital part of our client coaching, and it's a platform that we advise on often in this blog. All that said, when Spotify launches a new tool, we're going to cover it and help you understand it.

And that is what we're here to do today.

Spotify Discovery Mode Tool

Spotify's 'Discovery Mode'

To put us all on the same page, earlier this month, Spotify announced a new tool being called the 'Discovery Mode' tool. At first blush, the tool sounds like a good idea and a helpful tool for artists and labels.

Essentially, you will be able to mark certain tracks to notify Spotify that these are a priority for you. So, if you put out a new album and there are three tracks you'd like to prioritize you can do so through 'Discovery Mode'.

How does 'Discovery Mode' Work?

Once you have flagged these tracks, this will influence their priority in the selection of songs in Spotify's algorithm. This will be carried out in two major ways on the platform.

Spotify Autoplay Tracks

When you finish listening to either a playlist or an album on Spotify, you will begin being played tracks based on your prior selections, as long as you don't have the album or playlist on repeat. Their algorithm uses your play history to serve tracks to you. These are known as Autoplay Tracks.

With 'Discovery Mode', your flagged songs will be weighted with more priority once the user is hearing Autoplay Tracks.

Spotify Radio

For those who aren't familiar, Spotify Radio allows you to hear songs played on radio stations based on an artist or an individual song that you select. Again, 'Discovery Mode' will prioritize flagged tracks here.

What's the Catch?

We reiterate, on a surface level this sounds great, right? Well to talk in clichés for a second, the other shoe to drop here is that nothing in life is free. This is generally true, and it is true in this case.

This service will not be free for artists or labels but the cost will not be paid upfront as a service fee but instead, you will pay royalties on these tracks. Spotify is positioning this as a good thing, but we will explore this more in a moment.

In a Press Release from Spotify earlier this month, here is what they had to say on the matter.

"To ensure the tool is accessible to artists at any stage of their careers, it won’t require any upfront budget. Instead, labels or rights holders agree to be paid a promotional recording royalty rate for streams in personalized listening sessions where we provided this service. If the songs resonate with listeners, we’ll keep trying them in similar sessions. If the songs don’t perform well, they’ll quickly be pulled back. Listener satisfaction is our priority—we won’t guarantee placement to labels or artists, and we only ever recommend music we think listeners will want to hear."

As you can see, Spotify is pitching this as an added benefit to artists and labels. But is it really?

The artist side and business side of the music industry have been butting heads for longer than most of us have been alive. The distrust of corporate giants is alive and well and Spotify has found itself in the crosshairs of artists and the newly formed Union of Musicians and Allied Workers.

This Union has been demanding more transparency from Spotify especially when it comes to how artists are paid, and they have written this new tool off as just another cash grab from a greedy corporation.

This article from Pitchfork on the 'Discovery Mode' tool does a great dive into the complexities around this issue.

Picture of Money

De Novo's Recommendation for 'Discovery Mode'

Before we give you our recommendation, it's worth clarifying that Spotify has made it clear that this new royalty fee will only be applied to the additional streams from the boost from the tool.

Okay, here's the takeaway. The idea of giving a tool that allows artists to more strategically promote certain songs over others is not a bad thing. As we said early on, everything about this was sounding great until we got to the cost.

On the topic of cost, a royalty for this boosted service isn't necessarily a bad thing either. However, the part that should give you pause is the lack of clarity of just what this will cost you.

To this point, it isn't clear exactly what percentage the royalty will be and if the tools boost will be worth it. Artists remain cautiously guarded about offers like this and we completely get it.

So, we recommend right now waiting until we find out more or testing the tool very cautiously, with a preference towards the former. If you continue to organically promote the songs you are highlighting to your fans on social media, you can boost their performance at no financial cost.

As always, it's your career and your choice. However, waiting until we know more is that not a misguided path. As they say, patience is a virtue.

We will continue to update on this topic as we learn more.

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