Get ready, groupies. Spotify puts VIP access to bands up for sale
The streaming music service joins with Bandpage to let musicians sell experiences to fans like private concerts, duets, and pre-show parties.
Joan E. SolsmanFormer Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
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Three Folio Eddie award wins: 2018 science & technology writing (Cartoon bunnies are hacking your brain), 2021 analysis (Deepfakes' election threat isn't what you'd think) and 2022 culture article (Apple's CODA Takes You Into an Inner World of Sign)
Spotify has set up a new merch table with Bandpage, but instead of simply selling T-shirts and stickers, the streaming music service is hawking private concerts, a Skype call with an artist, or the chance to party with your favorite band before a show.
Based in Sweden, Spotify operates one of the biggest subscription streaming-music platforms in the world. It will sell the VIP experiences, along with traditional merch, in collaboration with Bandpage, a website that functions as the centralized profile for more than half a million bands and musicians.
While streaming music has accelerated as the music industry's biggest area of sales growth, it has been plagued by questions -- sometimes outrightaccusations by high-profile musicians -- about royalty structures that shortchange artists. The Spotify and Bandpage partnership join a series of warming ties between musicians and digital-music platforms that explore new streams of revenue and data sharing.
In just the last week, the Internet's biggest radio service, Pandora, unveiled its first ever direct deals with independent labels, and Smule, a music gaming company, unveiled a dedicated program to develop promotional campaigns with artists, such as arranging a duet between fans and artist through its Sing! Karaoke app or setting up a special concert where a contest winner sings on stage with the band.
Previously, Spotify has offered basic merch with Topspin and tickets through Soundkick, but Spotify's Director of Artist Services Mark Williamson said in an interview that "in typical tech company fashion, this was really all about testing." The Bandpage partnership selling experiences is the next generation of those tests, he said.
"The functionality that Bandpage brings is that it really allows us to look at merch in a digital way," he said. "What would merch look like in Spotify if we invented it?"
J Sider, the founder and chief executive of Bandpage, said in an interview that more than a thousand of these experience offers are available on Spotify now. They include an exclusive online concert with Ariana Grande, preshow soundcheck parties with Stone Foxes, a song collaboration with members of Tea Leaf Green, and a face-to-face meeting with Porter Robinson, plus a prop from one of his videos.
Sider described the Spotify partnership, his company's largest yet with a streaming-music service, as a milestone Bandpage has been building toward since its beginning.
"It's why I started the company. I'm a musician from Virginia who came out to San Francisco to build something like this to offer to musicians," he said.
Bandpage has joined forces with music streaming services such as Rdio, Rhapsody, iHeartRadio from terrestrial radio giant Clear Channel before, but Spotify is the biggest, with more than 40 million active users and more than 10 million paying monthly for premium accounts.
The partnership with Spotify is initially rolling out in English-speaking countries and Scandinavia -- the US, UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Iceland, with other countries and languages coming "in the near future," according to Bandpage.
Both Sider and Williamson said the companies will work together as the partnership develops out to understand better how musicians can be more targeted with deals. Though the "experiences" may not fit traditional molds, the opportunity is nothing to scoff at. Last year, data company Nielsen released a study finding that the 40 percent of music fans who account for three-quarters of the industry's revenue could be spending up to $2.6 billion more on exclusive content and special access.
"The deal with Spotify is also about ways we can work together, and growth in the partnership will help to understand we have all these ways to display the right thing to the right fan at the right time," Sider said. "It opens up a major opportunity."