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There’s no doubt about it: some DSPs have come a long way since they were first rolled out many moons ago. But it could be argued that many have stayed fairly static when it comes to tools that make sense to the music business and add value to an artist’s career. Indeed, some – bar an aesthetic facelift – have barely changed.
With such a wealth of innovation taking place across the digital sphere, one has to ask what is holding streaming platforms back from rolling out legitimately useful tools that they could also benefit from. And when I say tools, I’m not talking about the back-end dashboards. I’m talking about front-end tools that could help artists and users alike.
We’ve seen some meaningful changes over time. Spotify and YouTube were first out of the block with meaningful merch integrations, or Spotify for touring notifications, for instance. While Merchbar was a headache none of us knew we needed, their Shopify integration makes far more sense in terms of true usability and integration.
Spotify, I would argue, has actually led the way in terms of tools and development across the DSPs. While not all of them have landed well in some places, they have at the very least got an amazing product team churning out ideas in Beta for testing, while many rivals stick with utterly basic, passive functionality.
Some, however, could offer a broader range of tools – and some could start by offering any at all. But there’s an argument, especially for emerging artists, to offer some value to help them grow if they’re truly engaging with an audience. By the time you’ve made it big enough to play a global stadium tour, you could argue that any tools become optional extras to a clever marketing plan, but I do think some features will benefit everyone, especially fans. This could even lead to long-term platform loyalty as well as increased revenue generation.
What follows is a list of things I’d love to see rolled out across all music streaming services.
MARKETING PIXELSFor the love of my sanity, give us some marketing pixels – or expand our on-platform advertising capabilities. The larger platforms that offer advertising abilities still have incredibly restrictive tools if we want to, say, sell merch or tickets. Surely the ability to serve top fans with these makes sense for everyone?
ELEVATE THE NEXT GENERATIONA tool to help smaller artists reach top fans. We all know the start of an artist’s career is the hardest. I would love to see an easy way to interact with and reward top listeners for artists under one million plays a month.
SPOTIFY WRAPPED 2.0While Spotify Wrapped is undoubtedly a huge success, both as a branding exercise and as a user interaction tool, it basically tends to tell you what you already know. Wouldn’t it be amazing to take this a step further? How about Spotify Unwrapped – a discovery tool that rolls out with Wrapped and shows a) what artists, albums and tracks you might like based on your year’s listening habits, b) what new local, national and international venues, gigs, festivals and experiences you may enjoy off the back of your streaming habits, and c) ticket links for concerts to see your most listened-to artists.
GENRE TAGSVisibility of genre tags on tracks played. It took an age to have credits implemented on some platforms (those of you that haven’t, we are waiting...), but what about genre tags? The ability to click the genre you’re listening to and be presented with similar tracks makes so much sense. Rather than waiting for AI to latch on, let people engage when they’re in the mood.
LINKSThe ability on all platforms to add an official website link and/or social profiles. This always seemed like a no-brainer as it’s mutually beneficial. Some services offer it but by no means all. If a snippet of code was added to verify the website for instance, and permissions were granted for tracking, everyone would benefit.
BOOKING ENQUIRIESThis is particularly important for new and mid-level legacy artists, but has potential right the way up the chain. Private events often fall outside of an agent’s scope but can be hugely lucrative for artists – indeed, in some cases, they can be the difference between survival or not.
EVENTS HAPPENING NEAR YOUBased on your listening habits, a list of shows taking place in your current location and a list of popular local artists. This is great not only for those at home but music fans when travelling. Dice is great for gig listings. Why haven’t streaming services got on board?
COLLABORATIVE PLAYLISTS THAT ACTUALLY WORKThe ability to set policies around collaborative playlists. These playlists can be a great idea, a way of sharing music, but one weird choice and it’s ruined. A tool to limit a collaborative playlist to a genre wouldn’t go amiss.
Have you got a request or idea for streaming services? Tweet @SammyAndrews @MusicWeek #StreamingFeatureRequest with your suggestions.
Music’s impact on our daily lives cannot be underestimated. It can provide entertainment, moments of connection and build confidence. But dig deeper and we see the role it can have as a change agent with a significant impact on society.
Here, in the latest BRIT Trust Diaries blog, Sandra Schembri, CEO of Nordoff Robbins, the UK’s largest music therapy charity, discusses the power of music and the impact it can have through therapy, education and collaboration…
At Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy, our vision is clear; we see music as a superpower. We believe in the value of music for all people in our society. Music can connect everyone with their human potential and dignity, regardless of profound disability, illness or social exclusion.
We all feel this superpower of music. Whether it’s the connection you have with a family member singing a song, a festival you attend with your friends, or a student’s time training at The BRIT School. We feel it.
Nordoff Robbins chooses to tap into this power even further, working with people who, without the help of others, struggle to access the benefits that music therapy offer, including connection, communication, and equality. And the benefits of music therapy don’t stop when the sessions end.
In a music therapy session, we start to see what people can do rather than what they can't. We see past their condition and witness their potential. This also has an impact on their family and carers. Music transcends disability and that is one of the true superpowers of music.
The importance of music in education: It will be obvious to anyone who is involved or has worked with The BRIT Trust and BRIT School why music in education is so important.
But it isn’t apparent to everyone. We’ve seen in recent times that it is falling down the agenda. And whilst we welcome the Welsh government’s recent decision to treble funding for music education as part of their National Plan for Music Education, we need to do more.
In music we are equal – through it we can see the world and those in it differently
We see music as a human right. Everyone should have access from their earliest years. It can have such a positive impact in developing skills and providing an output. Which is why it must be part of our national curriculum.
Without music in education, we wouldn’t be able to train more music therapists, which would mean no music therapy. We want future Nordoff Robbins music therapists to come from every walk of life. They don’t need to be classically trained, or be Grade 8 certified, just have solid music experience. And we currently have Sony Music bursaries, making our Goldsmiths validated Master of Music Therapy (MMT) programme more accessible than ever.
As a charity we receive no government funding, so relationships like those with The BRIT Trust are so important to us. The BRIT Trust has given Nordoff Robbins a massive £8 million since we began our relationship over 30 years ago.
Through this support, we help to make music a part of the lives of those who may struggle to access what we know to be true – that music matters and we can truly come alive through music.
This funding doesn’t just directly go to music therapy either. Alongside money raised through partnerships, events and donations, it helps us to train the music therapists of tomorrow through our Masters programme, and it also helps us to continue our research into the many benefits of music and music therapy.
In music we are equal – through it we can see the world and those in it differently. Through music, Nordoff Robbins sees the possibility of a more connected society, one where we all have the means to participate and contribute. So, let’s all stand together and harness the power of music.
If you share our vision, please support us and help to spread the word of music’s true power to connect us all.
To donate, get involved or find out more about Nordoff Robbins and its Masters programme, visit nordoff-robbins.org.uk
Click here for our BRIT Trust Diaries series.