Digital Media

Tuneup, redefined: You can now Spotify your Uber ride

The two startups link up to let passengers play their own personalized Spotify music as soon as they get into an Uber car.

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Uber CEO Travis Kalanick (left) and Spotify CEO Daniel Ek (right) announce a new partership where Uber riders can fire up their favorite songs on Spotify during their ride. Uber


Uber and Spotify are hooking up to let users play their own Spotify stations, songs and playlists whenever they take an Uber ride.

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and Spotify CEO Daniel Ek held a press conference on Monday to announce the deal, which places a Spotify button in the Uber app. When pressed, a paying Spotify subscriber's music will start playing as soon as they get in the car. The new feature will roll out in 10 cities on Friday.

"For music lovers, that's nirvana," said Kalanick, who also called the partnership "sexy, interesting and fun."

Though far from representing a tipping point for either company's ambitions, the partnership between Uber and Spotify nevertheless advances goals for both companies. For Uber, it means that Spotify's millions of users may now have an incentive to take an Uber car over a ride from one of its ride-sharing competitors. For Spotify, the partnership is an undeniable -- albeit somewhat niche -- route into music listening's inner sanctum: the car.

"One of the big things for us is how do we get into the car," Ek said. "Instead of just doing car integrations, we thought about what's the next generation of transportation systems and Uber is such a perfect fit for us."

A vast amount of listening occurs in automobiles, which is why companies with intimate auto collaborations, like Sirius XM, have thrived. All the growth in Internet-streaming music services elsewhere notwithstanding, the digital upstarts are far behind in the race for in-car usage: 58 percent of people in the US tune into AM/FM radio for in-car music most or almost all of the time, compared with just 6 percent who say the same for online music, according to a survey earlier this year from Edison Research.

The deal between Uber and Spotify was previously reported by the New York Times, relying on people familiar with the plans. The companies didn't disclose the financial terms of the partnership but Kalanick did say it was a "mutual win-win" for both startups.

Uber has forged partnerships with companies like Starbucks, United Airlines and Hyatt Hotels in the past. But this partnership adds something extra in that the Spotify app is actually integrated into the Uber app. When users open their Uber app, they'll see the button to connect their Spotify account. When they e-hail an Uber car, they'll be able to select music from their Spotify playlists or from a featured playlist curated by Uber.

Not all rides will come with a Spotify option, however. Drivers must opt-in to have the feature in their cars. Kalanick said he is confident that the majority of drivers will welcome the feature despite some passengers' music selections.

"If somebody comes in with death metal and wants it really loud, the good thing is the driver has control over how loud that's going to be," Kalanick said.

The launch cities are London, Los Angeles, New York City, Nashville, Mexico City, San Francisco, Singapore, Stockholm, Sydney and Toronto. Eventually the service will be available worldwide. To get the feature, users must have a premium Spotify account.

The companies will also hold live events on Friday in which all users who sync the two apps might have a chance to get ride-alongs with artists like Andrew W.K., Jake Owen and Diplo.