The streaming wars are on. This week, Tidal continued to plug its plethora of star power by hosting two exclusive Jay Z concerts at Terminal 5, premiering Beyoncé and Nicki Minaj’s “Feeling Myself” eye candy, and offering free and discounted passes to the Made in America Festival in Philadelphia — so it was up to streaming leader Spotify to up the ante. Today, the Swedish company, which touts 25 billion hours of streaming since its 2008 launch, held a live press conference in New York City to unveil its plans to “soundtrack your life.”
In a scene straight out of HBO’s Silicon Valley, Spotify turned a venue space on West 37th into a techie hangout for the announcement. Attendees — mostly male, wearing mostly dress shirts — watched with laptops open as Spotify’s team, including CEO and founder Daniel Ek, gave a multimedia presentation. “We’re a technology company by design but a music company at heart,” said Ek. “We’re kind of obsessed with how to integrate music into every aspect of people’s lives.”
That “obsession” includes a slew of new features. The Now start page creates playlists for users all day, like “Morning Commute,” based on past preferences and Spotify’s own curation data. This is very similar to what Beats Music unveiled previously, but features a cool Tinder-esque “swiping” system. Spotify will offer artist-presented radio shows from Icona Pop, Tyler, the Creator, Pop Justice, and more, as well as video and original content from established providers like WNYC, NBC, ESPN, and Comedy Central. For the latter, Broad City stars Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer came onstage for a short comedy routine (that was lost on most of the audience).
The most innovative new feature is Spotify Running. Based upon your listening history and original running compositions by artists and composers, Spotify wants to own your run along the Westside Highway this summer. Here’s how it works: Start running and Spotify will detect your tempo (via your phone) and match songs in time to your step. There’s nothing like running to the beat of a song instead of against it.
“I know a lot of my fans work out to my music…I work out a lot as well,” said DJ Tiësto, who made a cameo appearance. The DJ has also created a new-format song that changes beat as you’re running. “To keep the runner engaged and make it sound interesting…It was quite a challenge,” he said.
Spotify’s strengths may be in technology over razzle-dazzle — let’s be honest, it’s kind of hard to compete with Jay Z and Beyoncé in that department — but the company ended on a formidable note by having D’Angelo perform a short set. Outfitted in a black fedora and leather tank, the crooner sounded sensational accompanied by Questlove of the Roots, and performed “Africa,” “Chicken Grease,” and “Betray My Heart.” Not one to shill for any brands, D’Angelo didn’t name-check Spotify (although he recently produced a four-track Spotify Session) but he did close the conference with a fitting remark: “That’s all, folks.”
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