Spotify today is launching a new feature that combines spoken word audio commentary with music tracks. The new format will allow Spotify to reproduce the radio-like experience of listening to a DJ or a music journalist offering their perspective on the music. But Spotify is also making it possible for anyone to use the format to create a music-filled podcast through an integration with Spotify's own DIY podcasting app, Anchor.
Spotify says the new shows will still compensate the artist the same as if the track was streamed normally, as the format relies on Spotify's music catalog licenses just like regular streams.
However, the experience will be customized to listeners based on what tier of Spotify's service they use.
Image Credits: Spotify
Premium subscribers will be able to hear the full tracks as part of the shows, Spotify explains, while free listeners will only hear the 30-second previews.
Listeners can also interact with the music content within the shows as they otherwise could in a playlist -- by liking the songs, saving the track or viewing more information about the track without having to leave the episode page or do a search. To do this, you'll hit "Explore Episode" on the show's episode page, or tap the play bar at the bottom of the screen to pull up the track list.
Image Credits: Spotify
The format is similar in some ways to Pandora's Stories, also a combination of music and podcasting, introduced last year. But Pandora's effort focused on allowing artists to add narratives to their music -- like talking about the meaning of a song or what inspires them. Other creators could also apply for access.
Spotify's new format, meanwhile, is immediately open to all users in supported regions.
As of today, the Anchor app will now allow any user to create a show using this format in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Ireland, to start.
The app's update will allow users to select a new "Music" tool, which then connects them with the entire Spotify music catalog of over 65 million tracks. Users will also be able to connect their Spotify account to browse and select songs from their own playlists to add to shows.
This is a significant update, as limitations around streaming rights had previously limited podcast creators from being able to easily integrate licensed music in their programs.
Image Credits: Spotify
Creators will also be able to insert ads in their shows, via Anchor Sponsorships. The company notes that this process is still considered a beta, and it will be manually reviewing shows using the format for now. The review process can take up to 24 hours.
Spotify says the feature will expand to more markets soon.
At launch, Spotify is also launching its own set of seven Spotify Original Shows that put the new format to work, which can be found in the new "Shows With Music" hub in the Browse section of the Spotify app or in a programmed shelf in your Home tab.
These first seven shows include (descriptions via Spotify):
Halleloo Happy Hour with DJ Shangela - Grab a drink and join our effervescent host, "Shangela" (A Star is Born, Ru Paul's Drag Race), for her weekly happy hour playlist! Featuring games, guests, and tea. Halleloo!
Murder Ballads - Explore the history and folklore behind some of America's most mysterious and violent songs.
60 Songs That Explain the 90s - The 1990s were a turning point in music. Listen along as The Ringer’s preeminent music critic Rob Harvilla curates and explores 60 iconic songs from the ‘90s that define the decade.
Our Love Song - Every week a couple shares the soundtrack that defines their love story. As a culture we are fascinated by love and romance. It is why the majority of songs are about love and heartbreak. This show will not only explore entertaining love stories, but also the classic songs that define these relationships.
Conspiracy Theories: Music Edition - A deeper look at some of the most fascinating theories surrounding famous artists and the music industry as it affects the world.
Rock This with Allison Hagendorf - Rock This with Allison Hagendorf is a weekly show celebrating all things Rock & Alternative culture, featuring one of a kind interviews and highlighting music from your favorite and emerging artists.
10 Songs That Made Me - An artist or celebrity creates a storytelling playlist of 10 songs that mark meaningful moments in their lives, providing personal insights into each song choice.
This isn't Spotify's first attempt at combining spoken word and music on its platform. Last year, the company launched "Your Daily Drive," a personalized playlist that included both your favorite music and podcasts. But this could be a disjointed experience, as the music and podcasts generally do not relate to one another.
The new format, meanwhile, is more of a storytelling experience and could prompt creators to make more music-filled podcasts, helping Spotify to expand its podcast listenership and revenues.
Spotify said earlier this summer it had already grown its podcast catalog by 50% to reach 1.5 million shows, and its podcast advertising outperformed in the most recent quarter.
The company has also been busy adding big names to its podcast catalog, including Michelle Obama, Kim Kardashian West and Joe Rogan. But some early data on the efforts indicate these deals may be more useful in retention than new user acquisition. And the deals are pricey. (And in Rogan's case, controversial).
By opening up music-filled podcast creation to all, Spotify has a more affordable way to expand its podcast library and even reach a long tail of listeners.