Spotify has good news for artists (no, it's not upping its royalty rates). It's offering a new promotional tool, which it calls Showcase. When you take out a Showcase ad it'll appear on users' home pages or home screens as a You Might Like banner. Spotify recommends using it not just for new music but for making listeners aware of deep cuts and the wider context of new releases.
Showcase is in part designed to promote music you've already released. For example, you might use Showcase in the run-up to a new EP release to make listeners aware of your existing releases and get them excited about your imminent release. Or you might use it to keep people interested in a recent release when it's dropped out of the new music playlists.
The feature is part of a wider suite of artist tools previously announced including Marquee, which is a full-screen ad for new releases targeted at previous listeners, and a Discovery Mode tool, which enables artists and their teams to prioritize specific songs in Spotify's algorithms. Spotify has also added tools to help sell concert tickets and merch.
Showcase is available in the US and will roll out to more markets in the coming months.
Opinion: Showcase won't help bands on a low budget
Like most online advertising on the best music streaming services, Showcase is made for artists with deep pockets – or more likely, their record labels and management. It's charged on a cost per click basis so you're only paying for results, and the system won't show your ads to people who've already streamed the release in the last 28 days.
But with prices starting at $0.40 per click you're going to need to impress a lot of people to get your money back. While Spotify doesn't publish its per-stream payment rates, multiple sources such as USA Today and the New York Times say the rate is between $0.004 and $0.008 per stream. The artists that are likely to benefit most from this are the ones with deep catalogs, concert tickets and merch to sell. In other words, artists that are already pretty successful.
For all the PR speak about "surfacing the right music to the right fans at the right time", what we're talking about here is paid advertising. And that means there's a fear here for musicians who don't have deep pockets and advertising budgets: what incentive does Spotify have to make your music visible if you don't pay? Artists who built followings on the likes of Facebook and Instagram, now both owned by Meta, watched their reach disappear almost overnight as the push to sell ads meant that not only weren't your unpaid posts reaching new people; they weren't reaching the people who'd specifically chosen to follow you either.
I'm not suggesting that that's what Spotify is doing here. But I do wonder where low-budget and no-budget artists fit in all of this, when Spotify is telling even the most established artists that the best way for users to discover their music is via paid advertising so they can jump the algorithmic queues. What incentive does Spotify have to showcase music when it can make money from getting you to Showcase your music?
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Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.