Spotify's 'new direction' is in app makers' hands

The subscription music service is betting that developers can keep the site building cool new features that can help the company continue to grow.

Spotify's press event was short on celebs but Sean Parker, the Internet idolmaker and Spotify investor, was on hand to add some glamour. Greg Sandoval/CNET

NEW YORK--Maybe because we're so used to the app platforms from iTunes, Android, and Facebook that Spotify's announcement today that it too is building such a platform doesn't inspire much awe.

Or maybe it's because the new apps that the company demonstrated today at a press event here don't do much that's new. It also didn't help that Daniel Ek, the streaming-music service's CEO and co-founder, didn't have much else to announce other than the new app platform. Not only did we not get any download store or video offering, which were rumored, but much of the news about the app platform was leaked over the past month.

Reports that Spotify, the largest subscription music service with over 10 million active users worldwide, would debut a new developer platform began when Evolver.fm reported that the subscription music service was planning to allow developers to build and sell apps for the service. While most of Evolver's report was dead on, that last part didn't happen. Ek said today that all the apps, which will be made available to the public starting next week, will be offered free of charge.

The reason that matters is we still don't know why Spotify developers will be motivated to build for the service when they won't be allowed to generate revenue from their wares like they can with iPhone or Android apps.

Rolling Stone's app was demonstrated at the Spotify press event today. Sarah Tew/CNET

Then there's the question about how much music fans care about new ways to interact with their music. I wasn't much impressed with most of the apps that Ek demonstrated at the event. The app from music magazine Rolling Stone enables users to listen to music and read reviews from the iconic rock publication at the same time. Meh. I can read reviews on the Web easily now without an app.

The Songkick app gives me some good and often hard-to-find info about my favorite bands. Ek showed the audience how the app helps me learn where and when acts are playing in town and even what their song set was the last time they played. That's handy enough.

But Spotify managers say this is just the beginning and it's easy to see how Spotify's developer platform could benefit the London-based company.

Since launching three years ago, Spotify has built a reputation for providing one of the best user experiences for any of the top music services. By mining the developer community for new features and services, Spotify stands to build on that reputation. We also don't know what kind of apps are coming. That means that there be some cool software down the road.

Anyway, none of Spotify's top competitors, such as Apple, Google, or Amazon, is as well situated to tap into developer creativity.

None of those companies enables developers to build features strictly around their music services, although it wouldn't be hard for them to catch up quickly.

 

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