Spotify has been steadily expanding its Blend feature, most recently by letting users create shared playlists with up to 10 friends and also allowing them to get in on a shared playlist with select artists.
Blend in its expanded form is a particularly good Spotify feature since it gives the service a social dimension: friends can turn each other on to new music, or scramble down a nostalgic rabbit hole by sharing songs that were important to them in the past.
The artist playlist dimension of Blend was previously limited to 20 musicians or bands, with big names like BTS, Diplo, Charlie XCX, and Megan Thee Stallion all vying for your shared playlist attention. Now Spotify is adding Post Malone, Lizzo, and The Chainsmokers to the list of shared playlist-worthy artists, and also introducing a new Blend feature: the ability to purchase artist merch through a direct integration with Shopify.
Buying merch through Blend is a multi-step process where you first create a shared playlist with the artist on Spotify. You then get a social sharecard with a Taste Match score that reveals shared musical interests, which you are encouraged to post on social media.
Once all that’s all done, you’ll get the opportunity to purchase merch including t-shirts, vinyl, CDs, and more directly via Shopify, with the artist getting a cut of the proceeds.
And while the focus of Blend’s shared playlist and Shopify feature at the moment is on big-name artists, independents who have their music listed on Spotify can also set up a “virtual merch table” via Shopify, with up to 3 products featured on their artist profile.
Analysis: Most musicians make money from merch, not streaming
Although it's one of the best streaming services, Spotify isn’t known for its generosity to artists. A New York Times article cited industry estimates of a “$4,000 per million streams, or less than half a cent per stream,” payout going to record labels, with the label then determining the artist’s cut of that amount.
To make any reasonable amount of money from that arrangement, you’d have to be massively popular – someone on the level of a Post Malone, or maybe a Kate Bush post Stranger Things season 4.
Most touring artists make their money from the venue’s merch table, and having that table extend virtually into streaming services is a positive step. And while Spotify’s Shopify arrangement lets independent artists get in on the action, the service could do more to promote it by expanding its roster of Blend shared playlist options well beyond the current limited number of highly popular, presumably well-compensated artists.
For an example of how to do things right, Spotify should look to Bandcamp, a service that lets artists directly share streams and sell music downloads, along with other types of merch. During the height of the pandemic, Bandcamp became known for Bandcamp Fridays, where the service waived its revenue share and allowed artists to keep the proceeds of any merchandise sold.
Bandcamp plans to resume Bandcamp Fridays starting in September. If you’re an artist with a following less massive than Post Malone’s, you may want to be checking Bandcamp out rather than relying on Spotify to mix you into the Blend.