You can tell Spotify's getting serious. At their first-ever press conference today, Daniel Ek, Spotify's founder, announced what we've come to expect over the last few days: an app store. The apps will let the 10m global Spotify users add context to their music-listening, by finding out about gigs, and actually helping learn the lyrics to those damn tongue-twisters.
Rolling Stone's editor Jann Wenner threw his weight behind the announcement with a garbled speech onstage next to Ek, saying they'll be creating playlists every day (Spotify has seen over 500 million playlists created to date) and syndicating their album reviews as part of this new app store -- presumably exploration will be a key part of this new addition to Spotify, which has always been an oft-cried downfall of the service.
In total, there'll be 11 apps available on the App Finder from day one -- Billboard; Fuse; The Guardian; Last.fm; Moodagent; Pitchfork; Rolling Stone; Songkick; Soundrop; TukeWiki and We Are Hunted. Some of the apps, such as Last.fm, require you to have a log-in to that service already.
Frighteningly, a new Facebook-style ticker will be added to Spotify, which will -- yes! -- show you what your friends are listening to right that very second. Is the world ready for my daily Rod Stewart sesh? I'm not so sure.
On the subject of app development, it seems that devs will be allowed to submit apps, with Ek confirming they'll be adopting an Apple-like system whereby they "will approve the apps as we think the core importance is on user experience." All apps will be free, however.
Playing around with a handful of these initial apps (including Pitchfork, Rolling Stone, Billboard and Songkick), there was definitely a common strand between many of these publications and services where they would build or incoporate their own playlists into Spotify, supplement their show listings, articles and reviews with links to songs and artists, or offer recommendations to their own content based on what you're listening to.
One of the more useful apps, from a feature standpoint, was Moodagent, the playlist generator which has analysed millions of tracks and will build playlists based around tempo, artists, and of course, mood. Existing within Spotify made using the app a convenient, thoughtless process where you could start with any song you liked and the app will throw a whole lot more at you it thinks possess the same vibe.
Many of these apps, only being developed in the past couple of weeks were minimal, and reps for each company promised more features in the near future. I'd definitely like to see more dynamic generation of lists and recommendations—or even filters for general Spotify navigation—based on a certain criteria unique to each sites content.
Some were hoping that Spotify would allow websites and developers to access the Spotify music database and play songs directly from other sites. Unfortunately, that won't be happening. All of Spotify's app-based expansion will take place from within the app. But it will be open to any Spotify user, regardless of whether they're using the free or premium service.
Speaking to Spotify's VP of Product Development Gustav Soderstrom, he said that even more than partnering up with big sites and editorial outlets, he's excited to get the SDK out in the hands of programmers and seeing what weird things they dream up. He pointed out the social playlist startup SoundDrop as an example of the sort of functionality that could pop up on Spotify aside from curation and recommendation. He thinks there's potential for some unexpected ideas, such as games, and the potential to provide functionality that might even outdo Spotify's own core features.
But will creating a Franken-app improve the Spotify experience? More content for discovery is admittedly nice, but moving from app to app also offers a somewhat disjointed experience, in terms of UI, though it worked much better and fluidly than I had expected. Facebook, which operates on a similar infrastructure, has battled this problem from day one, and still has yet to really solve it. That said, there's a lot of potential in creating a dynamic experience like this, and it will be worth keeping an eye on what Spotify has planned in the future.
Touching upon the subject of the 200 indie record labels who left Spotify after believing it wasn't making financial sense for them, Ek confirmed that they're the second largest revenue source to the music industry across Europe, and that they've (to date) paid $150 million (£96m) to artists. "We pay every time someone plays a song," Ek said, and they're "very happy with how our model is performing."