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Spotify rolls out new podcaster monetisation tools offering benefits many artists would like

By | Published on Thursday 26 August 2021


An update from Spotify this week on its new tools to help with the monetisation of podcasts has caused some chatter in the music community to the effect that maybe the streaming firm is being much more helpful to podcasters than it is to musicians.

Although, in many ways Spotify’s latest dabblings in the podcasting domain are more interesting because it sees the company properly move into the direct-to-fan subscriptions space, a move it could replicate in music down the line.

Spotify first teased its in-development monetisation tools for podcasters at the big Stream On event it staged earlier this year, before beginning an invite-only pilot with a small group of podcasters back in April.

With various tech and media companies trying to dominate the podcasting business, it’s reasonable to assume that any podcast platform that can help podcasters more easily monetise their content will gain an advantage in what is a very competitive marketplace.

Most efforts to monetise podcasts in the past have been advertising and sponsorship based, although an increasing number of podcasters actually make more money through memberships, subscriptions and pay-to-access premium content.

That usually means making a podcast available for free via all the different podcasting apps, but then urging listeners to pay some money via a platform like Patreon, either to access some extra content, or just to get the warm glow of supporting a podcaster whose programmes you like.

Both Apple and Spotify are now trying to make the subscriptions and memberships approach more seamless. Spotify is doing that by adding new tools to its podcast creation platform Anchor – and those tools are now being made available to all podcasters in the US.

Said tools allow podcast makers to directly charge listeners a subscription fee and to then make extra premium content available to those paying subscribers, both through the Spotify app, but also via any other podcast platform. The latter is achieved by providing paying subscribers with a secret feed that links to the premium content.

In an announcement earlier this week confirming that all this was now being rolled out in the US, the line that captured the attention of many music-makers was this one: “We now offer the ability for creators to download a list of contact addresses for their subscribers so they can further engage with their subscriber bases and offer even more benefits”.

Neither artists nor podcasters can directly engage their listeners on the main Spotify platform in that way, but now any podcast makers that can successfully upsell their own premium packages will enjoy that all important direct connection. So, interesting question, other than by launching a podcast, could artists also enjoy a similar direct connection to fans via Spotify in the future?

For all sorts of reasons, it seems unlikely any streaming service would ever provide contact information for people who simply listen to any one track. But could Spotify start offering direct-to-fan tools to artists beyond the existing lacklustre buttons that link through to third-party ticketing and merch stores? And could that include artist subscription packages via which an artist gets a direct connection with the fan?

It seems certain that direct-to-fan services based around online content and experiences – rather than just selling physical products – is going to play a key part of the next phase of digital music growth. And pretty much all the social media platforms are busy adding membership, e-commerce and digital gifting tools at the moment.

Those tools are currently being used more by creators outside of music, but that is likely to change, and as that happens, it makes sense that Spotify, Apple et al will want to jump on the direct-to-fan bandwagon, maybe using their respective podcaster tools as a model.

In a way, it would probably be better for artists – and other creators – if the social media and streaming services properly integrated with the existing third-party direct-to-fan platforms rather than trying to own that space themselves.

However, a company like Spotify is probably better positioned than most to tackle the various music licensing issues with music-based direct-to-fan activity that have generally been just ignored to date. So maybe there’s a big opportunity for it to pursue right there.

In the meantime, back in the world of podcasts, Spotify says that its new monetisation tools for podcasters will start to roll out beyond the US later this year.