Does the Battle for Streaming Music Lay in the Data?

As Spotify and Apple Music go head-to-head, will analytics help crown the victor?


Apple Music has thrown a grenade into the music streaming industry. It has already hit 10 million subscribers, and 15,000 artists have signed up. To put this into context, Spotify currently has 75 million active users, of which 20 million are paying subscribers. But that has been built up over a long period of time. Apple Music has been around just four weeks.

While the numbers are a definite boost for Apple Music, and higher than many pundits anticipated, it is impossible to judge whether it has been a real success until the three month free-trial that they offered customers is complete, and we see how many convert into paying subscribers.

Even so, Spotify are concerned. As it attempts to stave off a mass exodus of users and maintain the competitive edge that it has built up by virtue of being such an established player, Spotify is increasingly looking to data analytics. They have been buying up a number of music data firms, including Massachusetts-based music data firm The Echo Nest in March. Perhaps more tellingly, they also purchased analytics firm Seed Scientific in June, relocating its whole team of around 20 to its New York office to create a new Advanced Analytics unit that aims to understand and improve the relationship that artists, listeners, and brands have with its service.

Seed Scientific has been crafting algorithms and data-driven solutions for clients across the commercial, public, and social sectors — such as Audi, Unilever, and the United Nations - since 2013. Conveniently, one of Seed Scientific’s former clients also happens to be Apple Beats Music.

Adam Bly, Seed Scientific’s founder and CEO, said of the deal: ‘Seed Scientific was founded to advance ‘Scientific Thinking’ in the world using data. Today, our algorithms, insights, and applications are beneath the surface of major brands, NGOs, and governments. We are thrilled to now be joining forces with Spotify — a pioneer in shaping culture with data — to create the leading advanced analytics organization in the world.’

Spotify’s deal for The Echo Nest earlier in the year helped it analyze over 35 million songs, discovering in excess of a trillion data points on those songs in the process. This has enabled better song recommendations for users. It has been applying deep learning, a subset of artificial intelligence technology to train its systems to recognize patterns in music and recommend songs to listeners that sound similar to the songs they have been previously liked - those that they rate highly and listen to frequently. Its likely that the purchase of Seed Scientific will provide them with another resource to perfect recommendations.

It has already helped with the streaming service’s new ‘Discovery Weekly’ feature. The feature provides customers with a two-hour personalized playlist of music based on their personal tastes every week. The company said of the feature in a blog post that ’it’s like having your best friend make you a personalized mixtape every single week.’ Which makes it sound a bit creepy, I’m not entirely sure I’d want my best friend giving me a mixtape every week. Whether it’s enough to convince people to swerve Apple Music and stick with them is unclear, but analytics has proven one way to take on the might of industry behemoths such as Apple before, and there’s every chance that it will do so again.


Read next:

Social TV: Cross-Channel Insights on the ShareThis Platform