Finding new artists on Spotify just got harder after layoffs put an end to useful music encyclopedia, and I’m tired of it

Person holding an iPhone showing music apps
(Image credit: Castorly Stock / Pexels / Creative Commons)

It's not been a great week for feeling warm and fuzzy about the best music streaming services. While Amazon is busily degrading its Prime Video service to try and get more cash from customers and Warner Bro. Discovery seems hell-bent on burying Coyote vs Acme unseen to use it as a tax break, Spotify's layoffs have claimed another casualty: Every Noise at Once, the third party site that delivered the music discovery service Spotify doesn't.

The site wasn't owned by Spotify, but it was created and maintained by one of its most important data experts, Glenn McDonald, as a labour of love. When McDonald was laid off in December, he lost his access to the service's data – and that means Every Noise at Once cannot be updated ever again. And that's a real shame, because ENAO was a great way of finding music on the site that you might never otherwise know about. And losing McDonald means losing the expertise that brought key Spotify features including Daily Mixes, Fans Also Like and some niche genres too.

McDonald was one of over 1,500 victims of Spotify's most recent round of layoffs, which fired around 17% of its workforce just before Christmas – something that was largely buried on social media by the noise of people posting Spotify Wrapped. The mass layoffs were part of a wider cost-cutting drive that has also seen Spotify stop paying royalties for most of its streaming catalog, and which has made investors so happy that just last week CEO Daniel Ek was able to sell some of his shares for $57.5 million. Ek previously sold shares worth $100 million in 2023, and the firm's chief financial officer cashed out shares worth $9.377 million just last month.

Opinion: Spotify is not in the music business

Of course, you can't expect a commercial company to support a third party service such as ENAO. But the fact it was necessary and loved does indicate that Spotify could be doing a better job of its core function, bringing you good music. 

As Techcrunch put it: "If you work at a big tech company and get laid off, you probably won’t expect the company’s customers to write nine pages of complaints on a community forum, telling your former employer how badly they messed up by laying you off. Nor would you expect an outpouring of Reddit threads and tweets questioning how you could possibly get the axe. But that’s how fans reacted when they heard McDonald’s fate."

Given the sheer scale of Spotify's layoffs and cost-cutting you'd think it was in dire financial straits. But it isn't. Quite the opposite, in fact. As Music Business Worldwide reports, Ek's ordinary shares in the company are currently worth $7.69 billion thanks to a brilliant financial quarter that saw monthly active users up by 23% year on year – massively exceeding the company's target – and new subscribers up 15%, again beating Spotify's own target. Revenues were up 16% year on year to $3.99 billion for the quarter. 

And despite its losses, Spotify continues to spend big on the likes of Joe Rogan, signing a new podcasting deal for a reported $200 million over three years. Big-money podcasting deals are one of the key reasons Spotify is running at a loss despite bringing in billions of dollars in revenues.

I think the mistake we make, like we do with many other big tech firms, is that we misunderstand what they are. Spotify isn't really a music company; a company focused on delivering the best musical experience possible wouldn't do things like announce a hi-fi tier and then not launch it for three-plus years. But if you think of such announcements as being like Elon Musk's promises of self-driving Teslas, announcements made to get shareholders excited without necessarily being delivered any time soon, then it all makes much more sense. 

Spotify's core job isn't to help you find brilliant music. It's to make shareholders and executives money, and it does that brilliantly.

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Carrie Marshall

Contributor

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.