Spotify first arrived for your music, and later for your podcasts. After then, it’ll be your audiobooks.
Spotify is still on a drive to stream all types of audio, especially those that don’t need record labels to pay royalties. Spotify CEO Daniel EK laid out the company’s aspirations to grow into audiobooks in a presentation last week. Spotify acquired Findaway, an audiobook platform, last year, and this move will be predicated on that acquisition. This appears to be great news for listeners, but what about authors?
“Spotify, in my opinion, has a poor track record when it comes to taking care of creators. As a result, as an author, I would be concerned about the pay scheme “Todd Cochrane, an author and podcaster, said Lifewire via email. “How can a flat-rate monthly platform compensate an author in the same way as Audible, the undisputed king of audiobooks, compensates an author?”
Spotify’s objective, as outlined in Ek’s presentation, is to make all types of audio available to everyone, everywhere. Spotify’s policy is “ubiquity,” which means making it simple to listen to the service on your phone, in your car, or even on a speaker that includes the service. It all started with music, but now your monthly subscription also includes podcasts and Spotify-only audio programs, which Spotify also refers to as podcasts, which is a bit confusing.
The advantage of podcasts over music for Spotify is that they are less expensive. Spotify is required to pay the record labels a fee for each song streamed. When you listen to a podcast, it doesn’t have to do that, therefore every hour a listener spends listening to something other than music is an hour of songs Spotify doesn’t have to pay for.
“Rather than buying content directly from publishers, Spotify entered the audiobook industry by purchasing Findaway,” author Sarah Prince told Lifewire via email. “Spotify made a wise decision here, especially if they ever expect to compete with Amazon. In essence, Findaway provides Spotify a leg up on audiobook content, similar to how Anchor offered Spotify a leg up on podcasts.”
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It’s simple to see how audiobooks appeal to both Spotify and listeners in this environment. It’s easy to have all of your audio in one location, but it’s not always a superior experience. Podcast apps that are specifically designed for podcasting, for example, offer additional customization and podcast-friendly features. Spotify’s app, on the other hand, has to do everything. If you just want Spotify for its music, you’ll be stuck with its podcast promotion banners all over the place.
You presumably use Audible (owned by Amazon) or Kobo to listen to audiobooks. It is possible to purchase audiobooks directly from publishers, just as it is feasible to purchase ebooks directly from publishers, but who does this? You buy from Amazon if you have a Kindle. It’s presumably Audible if you listen to audiobooks on your phone.
If Spotify can get a foothold in the audiobook business, it has the potential to shift the power balance—even if simply because the market is more evenly split.
“Spotify may be the first firm to compete with Amazon’s audiobooks (Amazon owns Audible). I believe Spotify will provide bigger royalties than Audible in order to attract more authors and listeners to the platform “explains Prince.
Authors may benefit in a variety of ways. One reason is that Spotify users who have never heard audiobooks before may want to do so. Another benefit of increasing competition is that they may be able to get better deals.
On the other side, record labels benefited from the increased music listening that came with the streaming revolution, with artists receiving fractions of a penny per play on Spotify, Apple Music, and other platforms. Even if Spotify raises its subscription fees, authors will only get a piece of the same pie, which is now split among an even larger number of individuals.
“Expect us to play to win, just like we did in podcasting,” Ek said in his pitch. We believe that by having one significant company dominate the market, we would be able to increase the market and provide value for both users and creators.”
When large corporations enter areas established by artists for their own profit motives, things can go either way for the creators and their supporters. Audiobooks can be amazing, but it’s bad news if their success comes at the expense of the people who write the books that make them possible.