As of June 2017, Spotify boasted 140 million active users, of which 60 million have paid subscriptions. Since Spotify fails to showcase the full range of artists whose material is made available for streaming on their platform, however, this vast audience is unlikely to experience pure and unadulterated discovery unless they go mining for musical gems.
In her newly-published article, "The Problem with Muzak," writer Liz Pelly spoke with an unnamed independent record label owner about the difficulties facing the independent music scene, specifically, as it pertains to breaking through on the world's most popular music streaming service.
“The more vanilla the release, the better it works for Spotify. If it’s challenging music? Nah,” the label owner explained to Pelly. “It leaves artists behind. If Spotify is just feeding easy music to everybody, where does the art form go? Is anybody going to be able to push boundaries and break through to a wide audience anymore?”
Although the label owner's comments don't explicitly include the word "radio," the environment being described is essentially a mirror ecosystem. Hip-hop might be the most popular genre of music in the United States (and on Spotify worldwide), but if you turn the radio dial to an "urban" format station, you won't find lyrical raps that challenge the minds of its listeners or push the art form into exciting new sonic territory; you will find safe, easily digestible, rhythmically-geared ear candy.
While the independent scene has undeniably benefitted from the direct access to fans that free platforms like SoundCloud and Audiomack give their users, a placement on a Spotify playlist, which the company says is data-driven but is dynamically being shaped by their major label partners, is the modern-day golden ticket.
Unfortunately, for fans who prefer mint chocolate chip or cookies and cream, very few of these tickets are being handed out.