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How Spotify and Discover Weekly Earn Me $400/month (stevebenjamins.com)
348 points by steve-benjamins 27 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 159 comments

In college about 5 years ago, I heard a presentation from some recording industry people who worked at a studio. They saw Spotify as the reason their industry would still exist in five years. I think at the time total recording revenues were still declining, but the streaming growth was really picking up.

Spotify has brilliantly convinced many people to spend $120 per year on music. The average CD-buyer spent much less than that. It's become normal and acceptable to have a subscription to this stuff. It was hard to imagine in the early 2000s when so many pirated their music for free.

It has always been, and always will be, about convenience first.

Pre-Spotify and pre-bandcamp, getting music you could play on multiple devices was hard. Piracy was the only reliable way you could have the same songs on your walkman, your mp3 player, your phone, and your computer.

Bandcamp is nice, in that it offers DRM-free music in high quality, but Spotify offers raw, unadulterated convenience.

And Convenience is King.

Exactly this. And this is exactly the reason why we'll probably all end up pirating movies again. Pretty much everything mainstream (with the exception of a few artists) is on Spotify. Netflix, Amazon, etc etc. get more fractured every day. Every studio wants their own streaming service. How many will you pay for? 2? 1? 0? Everybody loses.

It's a bad race to the bottom. If everyone and everything in on Spotify, then everyone is happy (so long as Spotify is a benevolent dictator). However, the value to consumers rapidly declines the second something they want is not on the platform.

Netflix is already seriously less useful than it was a few years ago now that more and more copyright holders are pulling their content and starting their own streaming services...

I’ve been working my way through Ebert’s Great Movies of late and was surprised to discover you can’t find some films online, legally or otherwise. E.g., this one:


(There’s two DVD rips listed by the indexer I use but neither of them is the complete film, and no streaming service has it.)

I’m a Netflix, Prime, and iTunes user so those were the first places I looked. Maybe it’s a region thing but it’s not actually viewable on Netflix, at least not in the US.

(This appears to be a recent change by Netflix where they list movies that can’t actually be viewed. Another example of a movie listed by Netflix but not viewable there is the documentary “The Wrecking Crew” - https://www.netflix.com/title/70105364)

This movie really doesn’t seem to be legally streamable. I found a supposed Bluray rip of it via TPB, and an HN reader emailed me links to a couple very poor quality DVD rips on various sketchy web sites, and there’s some even worse quality CD sized rips on Usenet. The physical media is no longer for sale, and I’m not sure it was ever released to BR, the torrent I found (and still transferring) notwithstanding.

A silly example of a movie like that I've looked for off and on in a digital/streaming form for a long time is my favorite Marx Brothers movie, "A Night in Casablanca."

(I know, I know, it's one of their least 'significant' movies -- but IMO it's their most fun and watchable one).

Amazon has it and Tubi claims to. If you watch it and happened to have obs running... https://obsproject.com

oh theres places to get all the shows streamed for free, and getting even the pirating the most obscure music is easier than ever

piracy is currently the most convenient way to consume content now that all the streaming services/labels want to fragment their libraries

I don't think we're quite there yet. Assuming a title is on a streaming service that I have a subscription to, piracy is definitely not more convenient.

I guess for someone starting from scratch, "what streaming service(s) should I should I subscribe to?" might be a difficult and paralyzing question to the point that the answer might be, "who knows, screw it, I'll just pirate everything".

> Assuming a title is on a streaming service that I have a subscription to, piracy is definitely not more convenient.

I'm not sure. A friend watches shows on a pirate streaming site, even though they are available for free (but add supported, not that this matters with addblock) on a legal streaming site. It's just easier to always first check the site that always has the desired content available for that particular target audience than some try and error or even an additional google search.

But context matters. If you pay for a subscription, wanting to get the most "value" out of that makes sense psychologically (just like the other mindset... "already payed for that, who cares where i watch"). Also if you already got the necessary subscriptions and google always directly leads you to the latest weekly episode, starting there doesn't make a difference. One that's not the case (e.g. you can only watch ever other show an the high sea)... well, having to repeat the search on more than one site would certainly be more effort.

Yeah, that's fair, I suppose. A friend of mine has a site he goes to for streaming stuff that isn't available legally on a streaming service. It seems useful to watch things that you can't watch anywhere else, but the quality is just so-so compared to Netflix etc. Reliability also isn't great; he sometimes also has to fiddle with which mirror the player has selected to avoid stuttering and buffering pauses. The overall experience is definitely worse, so I wouldn't go there first if a title was available on a legal service.

Oh but it is, if not more so because there are no dark patterns, no screeching autoplay trailers within seconds of opening the app, no 2 second pauses until the next episode, just a very user friendly streaming interface that gets straight to the point. But I won't divulge the name here.

Well that's not very... convenient.

They have different pain points. I subscribe to a couple streaming services, but torrents let me find content more conveniently than searching several separate catalogues, and Plex's paid version provides a better consumption experience than any of the paid services.

> Assuming a title is on a streaming service that I have a subscription to, piracy is definitely not more convenient.

good thing there are piracy streaming sites with all the content then :p

They know this but they will still milk as much as they can while they can.

not currently for me

all the properly licensed streaming services are about as and a little more convenient than 2004's piracy-scene was for me

the licensed music scene is top notch for me between soundcloud, shazam and spotify

just need to let youtube know that youtube music is never going to happen, and let the other guys know not to mess their things up

for music I only pay for spotify

and if spotify messes up in the availability, I rip the same song from youtube in HD and put it in my spotify library

Yes, convenience is important, but Spotify also appeals to certain groups which can't reasonably be served by physical media distribution (and individual song sales) at all.

I use Spotify to listen mostly to classical music, and I might want to hear something performed by 10 or 20 different performers. There is no way I could afford that by buying "songs" individually.

As a side note, Spotify treats classical listeners horribly, ignoring their requests (such as to show more of song titles, or search by label), which I do not understand, because these are the customers that would most likely pay a premium to get better features.

> As a side note, Spotify treats classical listeners horribly, ignoring their requests (such as to show more of song titles, or search by label), which I do not understand, because these are the customers that would most likely pay a premium to get better features.

This is actually largely to do with what metadata they take and then how they present it. And it’s really tricky.

The metadata associated with classical music is generally speaking more complex than (say) a rock track. Until relatively recently there was not (IIRC) a clear format laid out in the DDEX standards (which are the metadata standards associated with delivering music and other media) for how you present the numerous different elements of metadata associated with a classical release. So it is a real mess.

I don’t think Spotify necessarily even takes the full metadata spec that you can associate with a classical release.

So for example: you may have a recording of the Allegro - which is the third (also written III) movement from Beethoven’s Symphony number 6 - also know as the Pastoral, also known as Op.68 or Opus 68 (and as the “Pastorale” in German) which is in the key of F major.

I need to be sure that the track I’m listening to is not the 4th (IV) movement which is also Allegro and definitely not the 1st (I) which is Allegro but not too much - Allegro non troppo.

Now - I want the version recorded in Austria by the Weiner Philharmonic conducted by Simon Rattle produced by Stephen Jones and released on Warner Classics. You however may well prefer the Decca version conducted by Erich Kleiber with the London Philharmonic (but not the London Philharmonia!) produced by Victor Olof. Or you may want the Kleiber-conducted version with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. How do you distinguish?

As you can see there are a whole load of different pieces of metadata on which people might search - and when it comes to classical repertoire these things really matter to the listener. The way labels try to address it currently on Spotify is to simply stuff as much as possible into the track title. Spotify now have some of this listed in the “song credits” but that is relatively recent. And the info on many tracks is far from complete.

There are some specialist classical services addressing this - but the problem is I would prefer not to have to subscribe to an additional service just for classical music when most of it is sort of available on my streaming service of choice.

So yeah. It’s a mess :)

I agree it's a difficult problem to solve in general. But I set the bar much lower. I'd be happy if I could a) search by label (or limit the results to a certain label, for non-classical folks that is Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, etc), and b) instead of seeing 6 tracks all named "Requiem in D Minor, K.626:3. Sequentia:" be able to tell which one is the "Confutatis".

This really doesn't take that much and it isn't an impossible goal. And yet Spotify wasn't able to implement these two things for years, even though people keep begging them to.

Actually Spotify has had advanced search syntax at least since 2011: http://web.archive.org/web/20110718125428/http://www.spotify.... It just apparently is not advertised by them particularly well to the users. To search from label Decca, just search label:decca (and then select, for example, "See all albums"), or add label:decca to your more specific search if you want to use it as an additional filter. To be able to tell which of the "Requiem in D Minor, K.626:3. Sequentia:" is "Confutatis" — depends on which device you use. On my computer when I select "See all" next to "Songs" in the results, then the track title column is wide enough to show also "Confutatis", or it is also possible to right-click on a track there and select "Show Credits". On a phone one option would be to add "Confutatis" to the search term, or you could start playing one of the results and then you can scroll left-right with the finger on the currently-playing-info-bar below and see the full track names there.

Spotify is literally where I discovered Kings of Convenience https://open.spotify.com/artist/41AbNVba2ccpmcc9QtOJE7?si=4v...

Great band. Check out Erland Oyes other band Whitest Boy Alive if you haven't already.

I’ve given up trying to understand this. For me, buying a physical disc, transferring the files to my computer, and either putting them into Dropbox or transferring them via VLC to each of my devices is so easy.

Amazon music downloads & Bandcamp downloads are even easier.

What’s not easy is needing to manage a subscription account, log in on multiple devices, and either manage caching music local to the device (and frequently needing to clear items out of the cache to switch with other items) or always use cellular data services to stream music.

I obviously cannot argue with massive consumer trends, but personally I do not understand how anyone thinks streaming services are more convenient. I cannot empathize with any use case where streaming would be more convenient.

Whether I’m discovering new music, sharing music, making playlists, or anything else, the absolute number one thing I need is the raw music files. Convenience starts & stops with that.

let's compare:

>For me, buying a physical disc

physically drive to a store, find the cd, purchase, etc. or buy online, wait days for it to arrive, etc.

>transferring the files to my computer

hook phone up to computer, extract files, load onto dropbox, and then finally have access


>manage a subscription account, log in on multiple devices

you literally click one button. that's all. And you login once and never again. no more difficult than logging into dropbox.

>either manage caching music local to the device

again, one button. on your spotify playlist / album there is a "download" button. click it. boom. done. listen all you want, without internet.

>absolute number one thing I need is the raw music files

you and about 1% of people. no one else does, hence why spotify is a billion dollar company and cd's are obsolete.

You forgot the part where you have to find a computer with a CD drive

I had this issue some time ago. My grandparents had some pictures their friends shared via CD. They asked me to show them and print them, but neither me nor my wife had a laptop with a CD drive with us..

>What’s not easy is needing to manage a subscription account, log in on multiple devices, and either manage caching music local to the device (and frequently needing to clear items out of the cache to switch with other items) or always use cellular data services to stream music.

Somehow doing this with Dropbox is easy, but not with Spotify?


You can't imagine that it's easier to search for a new song on Spotify and play it immediately VS buying a physical disc, transferring the files to your computer, then transferring them again to each of your devices?

Just finding the physical discs is huge inconvenience

So, for me, I want to listen to good music, but I don't want to curate a collection. I certainly don't want to deal with the hard parts of starting a collection where I have to buy a bunch of albums at once to have variety; I also don't care to do the work of finding new things to listen to.

I want a radio experience, where some nice person somewhere else (or an algorithm, whatever) picks music for me. Bonus points if they don't come on after every song to tell me all about whatever. I'm not worried about the cost or inconvenience of using cellular data services to stream music, that's the primary reason I have a data plan.

I use a curated streaming service, but I can see the appeal of Spotify, because thanks to the mandatory licensing regime, they can literally stream any released music in a radio context; and having access to everything is amazing. When Launchcast was a thing, it's recommendation engine was pretty great, although they lacked depth in the genre's I want to listen to; I strongly suspect Spotify does too.

Just curious; what genre(s) would that be? I have found the most surprising things on there ...

I was listening to Vocal Trace for a long time. Most commercial services might have the studio albums, but the DJ mixes are better IMHO, and I've been listening to Digitally Imported streams for nearly 20 years at this point, so I'm used to their curation [1]. Lately, I've been listening to their Synthwave channel; I don't know how widely that music is distributed, it's basically new music in the style of 80s synth and video game music (the reddit community is r/outrun); I'd guess this could be found pretty easily on Spotify/others, since it's all originals and most likely the artists are submitting it everywhere.

[1] https://www.di.fm/vocaltrance

OK thanks - always interesting to get acquainted with a new genre. I counted to 80 Spotify playlists when searching on the term (with a few hundred followers as median), so it is at least represented to some degree.

> What’s not easy is needing to manage a subscription account, log in on multiple devices

Yet you seem to do it with Dropbox just fine... You make it sound onerous. The reality is it's a one-time effort of about 20 seconds for each device. Drop the hyperbole, it just makes you look silly.

> and either manage caching music local to the device (and frequently needing to clear items out of the cache to switch with other items)

How is "putting them into Dropbox or transferring them via VLC to each of my devices" materially different from "manage caching music local to the device (and frequently needing to clear items out of the cache to switch with other items)"? If you want to put music on a device that's already full, don't you have to delete something first whether you're transferring files manually or downloading them through Spotify?

Okay, so you honestly can't understand how

> buying a physical disc, transferring the files to my computer, and either putting them into Dropbox or transferring them via VLC to each of my devices

is harder than

> Search for song, click "Play" on song


And let's not even get into backing up, keeping in sync, correct song metadata, etc.

If you honestly can't see how much easier the second thing is compared to the first, I would honestly go see a medical professional about it, because you're literally delusional.

Most people could sign up with a new account and be a song or two through their favorite album by the time you would have gotten back from the store and ripped the songs off the CD, though.

>personally I do not understand how anyone thinks streaming services are more convenient. I cannot empathize with any use case where streaming would be more convenient.

This mindset is the reason why all software is terrible.

Having the same playlists, interface, and experience on various different mediums is more convenient. The vast majority of people do not have enough local music to have to clear out their local cache manually. It's easier to share playlists with your friends who are likely all on Spotify as well.

My issue with streaming is I don't want to have to pay for more mobile data (primary use for me is in the car - can any of these services cache 2 hours worth of stuff for offline use?) and a lot of what I listen to isn't going to be on a streaming service like spotify - fandom music, soundcloud remixes, video game soundtracks (probably some on those services but not all), vaporwaves from youtube. I also still find FM radio a decent experience.

Yes, Spotify allows you to download 10,000 tracks offline per device. No limit on the expiration.

You used to have to go online every 30 days (or something) else they would expire. Is that no longer the case?

Also, it used to be 10,000 across 3 devices and bizarrely only 333 on each device (even if you only used one device)! I think they have since fixed that.

It looks like they still need you to go online to check your subscription status every 30 days, but the 10,000 songs looks like it's per device (up to 5) https://support.spotify.com/is/using_spotify/the_basics/list...

Did you mean 3333 or was Spotifys policy really that absurd?

Oops yes, sorry typo there. 3333.

Okay, I don't disagree with your premise. And I was a small time pirate before Spotify and the like.

But couldn't you legally copy music between devices without being a pirate?

Also, surely nobody tried to have music for an MP3 player AND a Walkman. Those have got to be mutually exclusive, don't they? Even smartphones and MP3 players didn't exist together much.

I personally started paying for Spotify to help myself feel more ethical about my music consumption. And it is very convenient. Except I haven't ponyed up for the family price yet, so only one person in my family can use it at a time.

Only anectodal (from my own experience), but prior to Spotify being widespread, a friend and I used to make maybe £10/month from sales of our (totally unpromoted, just for fun) trance that we make.

Since streaming became the norm, we've not made that amount in over 2 years. We get streams, but the amount you get is miniscule compared to a single sale.

We told them; build it and we'll come. They built it, we came, and we're all better for it.

Now if only MPAA and friends would listen...

> The average CD-buyer spent much less than that.

Citation needed

My understanding is that total spending on recorded music is way down from heights in the 90's. I could be wrong though.

But the 90's is not a good / true benchmark. In the 90's, for the most part the music industry pushed CD's and did not do CD singles. Therefore, if you liked a single song you'd have to buy the full CD (approx $15 to $17). That is, music sales were inflated.

Eventually, this also helped set the stage for Napster, etc. The public didn't want to spend $15+ dollars for s single. And after getting too many one-hit wonders the public was glad to have it's needs met and were even happier when that was also form of revenge against the music industry.

The artificial peak of the 90's was also one of the reasons the music industry took so long to adjust to digital (read: a return to singles buying normalcy). They go so used to those revenues that they forgot what reality was like.


Cherry picking from the article from 2014:

> At the 1999 peak ... according to the music trade group International Federation for the Phonographic Industry, across the total 18-and-over population (both across many countries or individually within one), the average amount spent came to $28 per consumer.

Moving on:

> But that includes people who did not buy any music that year. If we look at just the consumers who bought music, they spent $64 on average that year.

> Another study by NPD Group in 2011 found similar spending, about $55 per music buyer per year on all forms of recorded music

Note, that's all forms of music.

> about $12 per iTunes account per quarter is spent on music, or about $48 per year.

We're still down from the 90s heights, but increasing rapidly: https://www.riaa.com/u-s-sales-database/

Yeah that looks like what I would have guessed, I actually made my living in the music business from 1997-2010 or so.

The recent uptick is certainly interesting though.

Great graph! It doesn't take much away from your observation about the increase recently, but I do think it's fair to point out that you should click the "Adjusted for inflation" button for a fair comparison.

Spotify is the reason why I don't pirate music anymore, or at least not nearly as much as I needed to before. I only pirate music in cases where it's not available on Spotify (and that piracy is usually in the form of youtube-dl).

The average CD-buyer spent less than that?

Given the amount of music I listen to, if I was to buy the singles or full albums I'd be paying significantly more. If I was to buy on iTunes for $1.99 each song that I wanted to listen to now, I would've paid a lot more money than I do now through the subscription model. As I am not limited on price whenever I decide to listen to different music.

I spend $180 on the family plan per year and I have for nearly 10 years because it's certainly convenient and allows for music exploration for my kids. Before spotify we used zune music pass.

I bet you'll get some new interest from this being on the front page of HN too. I just listened to a bunch of your songs and really liked them :)

I love Discover Weekly and get excited every Monday morning when I start work and remember there's a new playlist with music I'll probably like. I created a separate playlist called "Discover Favourites" and when I hear a song I like I put it in there, and it's got hundreds now. I've found so many artists I never would have heard of.

This is a great counterpoint to people complaining about how little they make from Spotify.

One thing that stuck out to me:

> Because you can only submit one song, it’s best to space out releases. That way you can have ten singles considered by Spotify editors— rather than one single from an album for an entire year.

I've wondered why so many artists were releasing a ton of singles on Spotify. This seems like a gameable system.

Is it though? The author makes $400 a month, that's not even close to being a living. Mis metrics and revenue match up with my own experience with Spotify and they are very difficult to achieve. Now imagine that your musical project has 4 people instead of 1, now it's $100 a month per person. Except just kidding, because you'll need to pump all that money (and personal money from members) back into the band to keep things growing.

It's a success because he considers it to be one. Also he's earning more money from his music on Spotify than he was through other means.

He explicitly says he's not trying to earn a living from it.

> Of course that’s not enough to support a full-time artist but that’s not what I’m trying to be. I don't tour, I don't sell merch and I'm not on a label. I just want to make music and Spotify is making that possible.

Sorry, I should have been more clear. The 'Is it though?" is in response to saying it's a great counterpoint to people complaining about how little they make from Spotify. The author isn't trying to make a living of Spotify, but many people are. Spotify revenue isn't even close to enough for them even if you're extremely successful getting listeners like the author has been.

It's a hobby for him, not a living. Most people make $0 from their hobbies.

I think the key point is the artist didn’t really have to do any promotion. Or spend on marketing.

In reality, albums were always so artificial. They were either filled with crap fillers, silly interludes or were just pawned off by the record company as a need to sell units.

Singles is where the heart of the artist lie.

I used to love the Discover Weekly, but now that I use Spotify most days when going to the gym any of my auto generated playlists like discover weekly kinda suck. I usually put on random gym playlists like the popular "Beast Mode" one. While I like this music for working out, I definitely don't normally enjoy listening to rap, hip hop, and EDM music however this is what most workout music consists of.

I wish I could have playlists that get ignored from Spotify's recommendation engine. Because I totally get it, Spotify thinks I'm into that kind of stuff so it's what I use Spotify for the majority of the time, however I have such a hard time finding new music to listen to on there :(.

I've found that the new "made for you" playlists has superseded discover weekly.

I have "work music" (ambient, house, instrumental), "work out music" (hip-hop mostly) and "music I actually listen to". The made for you playlists seem to auto-organize pretty well into those categories.

I've also found that creating custom playlists and using the "recommended songs" that pop up at the bottom works pretty well.

But I agree, it would be nice to have an "ignore this type of [song/genre] when auto creating playlists" option would be nice.

I've tried those out and they still often don't seem to contain music I enjoy. When I start back into a job over the summer where I am listening to Spotify more at work maybe these will start to become better, but currently the majority of what I have been using for Spotify is working out. So in some sense I get why my recommendations are that however that is also the time when I am less concerned about "good music" and stuff that matches my taste, and more just concerned about higher intensity up-beat music.

Sometimes I'll have a couple hour car ride, or be relaxing at home and try and use Spotify to find something and just never seem to find a good way to find something quick. I'm shit when it comes to knowing what I like and what kinds of genres I'm into and that's why a radio style suggestion thing is good for me, it's just been broken by my heavy workout usage.

I've actually as an alternative sometimes been using Google Music instead and been quite happy. I just don't like the selection and do prefer Spotify all around.

It's not conveniently placed but there is a way.


Then there's the Daily Mix playlists that partly addresses this issue. Ideally you would find that there's one Daily Mix with your gym type songs and up to five others with other genres you listen to. But it's as much for discovery of new music so it doesn't fully fix the problem when that's the goal.

Unfortunately there are some issues with this. Here is what that page notes:

> Note: Anything you play privately may still factor into some of the personalized mixes we make for you (but not Discover Weekly).

So it really only would fix the discover weekly partially. But the issue is that they still see that I have workout playlists that I am following and using a lot and still factor that in. And I've found that it can be quite tedious everytime I open Spotify at the gym to have to go in the settings, scroll down a bunch, and then turn it on. It stays on for 6 hours. I'd love if that feature even simply had an option to turn on based on my location.

That would be sometimes 5 times a week everytime I'm at the gym I have to find that option in the settings and turn it on, and then also turn it off if I don't want to have it stay on for the next 6 hours. Not to mention I already have to spend time in Spotify to find the playlist I want to listen to for that day at the gym. So it just feels like a lot of manual work I have to do in the app for a small gain.

There's this weird uncanny valley effect in every music recommendation algorithm I've tried.

Most every song hits a "I 100% understand why you're recommending this. It's superficially similar to some stuff I really like. I hate it though".

Almost like a bad cover band of your favorite artist.

This is the main reason why recommended content just doesn’t work for me. Youtube, spotify, and many other services try to be clever but are just really dumb.

It falls on its face when you are just outside the typical use case. Sometimes I'll throw on an album and listen to it all the way through, or just really listen to one particular artist for a few weeks. Then the recommended content falls on its face as it doesn't know how to handle someone binging Grateful Dead one week and Kendrick Lamar the next.

Yes, that is why I always open up a new private window for YouTube. Then it only picks up on what I'm searching on right now.

100% agree. I disabled YouTube's history just so that it didn't give me weird recommendations. Maybe when browsing reddit I'd watch a weird video or two, or look up something a bit niche or different and suddenly YouTube for the next while thinks that is all I am into.

I have kinda the same problem. Others random playlist are much better then mine. I only get the same old boring stuff, while others get new and exiting music I've never heard... I was an early adopter then paused my subscription for about 6 years because i couldn't find new music. Now when i try again i still cant find any new stuff. I also have the same problem with the Youtube algorithms. Same songs over and over.

Oh yeah, I agree, I am either having to listen to discover weeklys that essential seem like a randomly generated workout playlist, or listen to songs I've heard a million times. Maybe it's also partially a factor of having a reduced library being in Canada, I am not sure :/

I have the same problem. Most of the time I am skipping through >50% of Discover Weekly because the songs are poor recommendations for my tastes or are awfully sequenced in a playlist from separate listening habits (e.g. EDM-AlternativeRock-LoFi).

Finding new music on Spotify could use a lot of improvement, especially for mobile. After a while, it seems like I'm just listening to the same playlists over and over.

Yeah, I am pretty close to stopping my subscription purely because of the poor recommendations.

The mobile app I feel like has only gotten worse. They removed tabs on the bottom and made the search page have more on it, and it just feels even more painful to discover new things. And the homepage is basically just chalked full of "new music" that is based on me apparently being super into hip hop and rap music. Which on the surface may seem true if you look at the workout music I listen to, but in reality is the complete opposite of what I enjoy listening to anywhere else.

I don't know if it could really help in your case, but the "Private session mode" available in Spotify's menu could help. In my limited understanding on how things work, I would expect songs listened in that mode not to be used by their awesome recommendation engine.

It won't factor in songs when making the discover weekly that were listened to in private mode, however the daily ones it doesn't matter for.

It's also a bit annoying to have to everytime I go to the gym not only have to find what I want to listen to, but also remember to go into the settings, scroll down, and turn it on, and make sure to turn it off in case I don't want it to stay private for the next 6 hours.

I wish it turned on based on location. Hell even if there was some intent or way I could trigger that to turn on/off from Tasker I could automate it myself :P.

I'm really bad at finding new music or just music to enjoy in general that I'd like and it's a huge annoyance to have shitty suggestions. Lately I don't even use Spotify much and have been considering just cancelling it.

Apple should have bought Spotify. They could've renamed it "Apple Music" if they wanted but they should have otherwise left it alone. They could've even gotten rid of the ad-supported stuff and made it subscription only, I personally wouldn't have cared.

But my point is that Spotify is everything Apple Music should be. I'm an avowed Apple fan owning and using many of their products and services for decades so when I say Apple Music is terrible it's not coming from a place of otherwise disdain that some have for Apple. Frankly, the whole iTunes and Apple Music teams should be embarrassed with what they continue to release. And if the Podcasts app isn't part of those teams it should be, because it is every bit as bad.

I hate to be negative but a spade needs to be called a spade in this case. Apple needs to be called out on those shoddy products.

When in an early iteration of Apple Music, the app ‘accidentally’ erased all of my music library except that which I’d explicitly bought from the iTunes Store; they burned me as a customer forever.

This is pretty awesome to read, and the charts are really telling.

> For an indie artist like me, the major difference between Apple Music and Spotify is Discover Weekly. Apple Music has no equivalent.

This is just not true, Apple Music sends you 3 different personalized weekly playlists, two of which from Music you do not already have in your library. I have discovered tons of indie artists (many with < 100 followers on Twitter) through these playlists.

Thanks for pointing that out— I just updated the post with a note about that!

As for programmatic plays, there's Discovery Weekly, that eclectic and weekly. And you also have the Daily Mixes which are clustered by artist and genres.

They easy enough to find on Android, all are in "Library > Made for you"

Any idea why you're not getting featured on those playlists?

None. Would love to know why but it's honestly all a black box to me.

It's gatifying as a spotify user to think maybe someday soon there could be a population of artists that make a reasonable living uploading their own music and sustaining their efforts without the need for merch, marketing, or touring -- instead just quietly subsisting on doing something they love doing.

That seems unlikely to ever happen. Corporations have always been better than artists at maximizing their share of revenue. If such a population started to develop, Spotify would probably lower their percentage payout.

I'm glad Spotify has opened up as a new revenue stream for musicians but it's a laughably small amount of revenue for how much work it is to compose/record hours of original music. Live music is still king for making money.

As an amateur pianist myself, $400 isn't a lot of money per month. I can pull $100/hr in an afternoon at a classy gig playing Classical/Jazz/Folk/Pop, you do that once per week and you're well over the $400 total for the month, without all the long history of recording/mixing/mastering/promoting that OP has done. This has allowed me to focus much more heavily on my musicianship and expanding my repertoire, rather than on recording tech/marketing. My ceiling for income is much lower this way-- I can't/don't want to find enough gigs to solely perform...but that's why I code to pay the bills.

The thing about recorded songs or videos is, the income compounds and has a chance to grow exponentially over time. The same is not true for you going around and playing music.

With the amount of exposure he's getting from spotify, he could almost certainly get paying gigs if he were interested.

Also, for some people recording is more interesting than performing.

I make about $200/month thanks to Spotify listing my podcast. Their partnership with Anchor.fm has really helped push my pod forward because the new features on anchor, since the acquisition, have helped me pinpoint an audience.


As an artist I totally loved this! Especially you talking about just wanting to make songs when you get home in the evening, not hustle on every single front. $400 a month is admirable for music creation!

This is a great example of the opportunity created by ‘the long tail’ of web platforms. I’m glad that people can make money making music and that listeners have so much more choice. Very insightful.

They bring up something interesting which is how streaming has changed how music is made. Albums are now shorter with more songs, that nets more plays and more money. They also focus on singles instead of full albums, which gives more opportunity for "playlisting". It's an interesting, albeit concerning, effect that technology is having on art.

Why is it any less natural than a vinyl album in the first place? For example the concept of A and B sides is simply because there are two sides to a vinyl record. I don't know much about the evolution of albums but I assume it's just arbitrary and a result of the underlying technology plus consumer expectations.

That's fair. It was mainly the constraints of the medium that lead to ideas such as rock operas. Now that the constraints of physical storage are lifted we've seen new concepts.

I wouldn't say that the changes to album structure in response to technology changes is "concerning". Art changes as a society changes since art is a representation of the human condition (and the representation is usually made by people trying to represent their current condition). If the majority of music existed solely to get money, that's what would be concerning but I'd argue that's not the case presently.

switched on pop has a great episode on this: https://www.switchedonpop.com/how-streaming-changed-the-soun...

“Don’t bore us get to the chorus.”

Is the new way music made.

I look forward to every Monday to check out my Discover Weekly. Cool to hear it's having a positive impact on artists.

It would be interesting to see the bump you get in listeners post HN front page.

It's a nice uptick— I have ~60 real-time Spotify listeners right now (usually it's around 25 this time of day).

I love this article! Thank you for sharing, Steve. I have two followup questions, if you have time to answer. I used CDBaby and got a deal on uploading a full album, as long as it was under a certain number of tracks and the tracks themselves were under a certain amount of minutes. It was a very affordable way to get my band's music distributed throughout Spotify, Apple Music, Google, Amazon, etc.

If I wanted to trickle out a series of singles leading up to the release of our album to "prime the pump" on all platforms at once (like CDBaby), what service can you recommend that might be the most affordable to do this? Secondarily, what would happen when all these tunes are collected later to become an album? Would we have to pay again and re-upload the same tracks?

Thanks in advance,Steve!

Thank you for sharing your experience. I'm hoping there are a lot of indie artists out there who are seeing success through Spotify like yourself. Musicians and the songs they write are like authors and their books: there are way too many good ones to read in a lifetime so we end up just focusing on a few really popular ones. Spotify is like a giant library just ready to be browsed for those who want to step off the path. Also I really enjoyed A Laughing Heart!

For the machine learning enthusiasts, here is an old article on how Spotify classifies songs into genres based on what they actually sound like (input is a spectrogram) https://outline.com/C3PVuU.

Most conventional methods used to recommend based on what other artists people with the same taste as you like. This method is biased against newer artists as there is no easy way to bootstrap them into the process. Their new technique circumvents this problem and as a result new artists get more exposure.

I also use Discover Weekly (DW) as a listener fairly consistently and have had some success with it. I believe Spotify mentioned in their S-1 how transformative DW has been to music discovery at large. Side note: Spotify keeps making small UI changes that don’t really seem to improve my UI usage. The changes don’t even make it worse. They just keep moving everything slightly. I’ve run into this a few times while trying to find DW.

You can just add Discover Weekly to your list of play lists if that is helpful for you. I do that for DW and my Release Radar.

This is great but I worry that it's like when Google was sending search traffic to smaller blogs all the time... until they didn't. Everyone loves free money but it sounds like it could dry up at any time at Spotify's whim and there'd be no recourse and no explanation.

It is really great that Spotify is putting small to tiny artists into their mass-market playlists. Enjoy it while it lasts.

> Google was sending search traffic to smaller blogs all the time... until they didn't

Is this actually the case / is there data to back this claim outside of generic google bashing? The sole reason I love my discover weekly is I find music I've never heard of, and I can listen to my friend's discover weekly to get new music from their genres. Only supplying big name music would defeat the purpose.

A killer feature for spotify would be if they would tell each individual user how much they are contributing to each individual artist they've listened to. I think that could encourage users to subscribe to spotify and listen more to small artists. I suppose this too could be gamed, but the benefit might outweigh the risk.

Like in dollars? I think it would just turn users off seeing how little artists make off streaming.

I would love to see an analysis of the artists I listen to on spotify. Last.fm tracks all the songs I listen to so someone would just need to scrape that, find info on each song/artist, and make some nice charts. I'd love to see which artists I listen to that are very small/unknown and send them a thank you.

Just after New Year I got some email from Spotify about looking at stats for exactly that kind of thing, it required giving access to a 3rd party (which I revoked immediately after), which suggests to me that it's all data that you can grab from the API.

This is interesting anecdotally but for those trying to make a living from their music, I would argue direct subscriptions seem far more stable and useful as part of your income. For example bandcamp or something like patreon, where I can subscribe to some artist I really like for $1-3/month or something and get access to everything they do. That's the closest model I've seen for non-huge-industry folks making a living from recordings -- which is of course usually supplemented by touring and a dozen other hustles. (for example mastering or teaching)

IMHO overall it doesn't feel like the situation has changed all that much in this era though. The same huge institutions remain magnets for a handful of lottery-winners (big labels, funded orchestras, etc) and everyone else is scraping by in myriad ways, though the ways are a bit different now.

Thanks for sharing with actual numbers! I'll check out your music too.

Discover Weekly is how I find a lot of new music similar to my music, I trust it more than most of the other playlists Spotify or Apple Music create. So far, I've probably discovered 300-400 new songs using Discover Weekly.

That's awesome— thanks!!

Your welcome!

The insight to upload a single every 4 weeks is quite valuable. My songs are all done with pocket operators/an op-1/tone.js, theres a small soundcloud community that follows this type of dawless production but possible longer form ambient tracks would do well on spotify.

I'm curious to know how you use tone.js in a creative way, as I have seen it as a framework for developing musical apps, not a creative tool in itself. Also, do you sync the hardware devices with js stuff, if so how?

I have been at it for a very short period of time but I mainly think in terms of what cycles can i make that will rarely repeat themselves and result in interesting compositions.

Typically I start by defining a main loop, and then have a synth of my choosing randomly select notes and timings. I listen to this randomness until I realize what I don't like about it, then I change the parameter.

Something that helps is every time I instantiate a Tone object I make sure to copy paste the entire params from the Tone API, that way the code itself is the "knobs and buttons" I am used to fiddling with on a real synth.

This is a brian eno tip but I listen to the track at x2-x4 the bpm of what I actually want the track to end up being, it makes protoyping faster while still allowing complex composition.

I keep adding loops and chaining effects until I find something 'almost' complete that needs a human nonrandom touch.

Then I connect my PC output to my OP-1, record the output onto a track, and finish the song on my OP-1.

I plan on recording the midi output of my op-1 and feeding that into Tone so that I can record some more complicated key movements without having to literally program each key press and release. The path is OP-1 MIDI->MIDItoJSON->Tone.js

If you do know of a programming language/library/software like Tone.js but more suited to generative audio I am 100% interested in this field. I am looking to pursue creative coding once I am out of undergrad. I see it as an easy way to stay away from RDBMS which make me feel a sense of corporate dread.

Okay, nice! There are a bunch of langs/environments like chuck, supercollider, MAX. What fits best is mainly about style and preference. A nice way to learn about setups/approaches is to watch algorave videos.

Thank you so much for that list of tech to check out! There are clear limitations with tone.js (mainly me not understanding js syntactic sugar) . I'll check out algoraves too thank you again!

I've got spotify premium but end up listening to tons of Red Means Recording style videos on youtube almost as much as I use Spotify.

RMR and Cuckoo music were pretty much all I watched while waiting for my op-1 to ship, the format is so pleasurable.

I feel I have run out of brian eno to listen to and I would like to make some of my own.

Very cool writeup. I'm a big fan of Discover Weekly as it turns me onto new artists constantly.

I find so much good music on Discover Weekly. It’s one of the big reasons I stick with Spotify. I’ve tried all of the other services but none of them come close. And I am fully in the Apple ecosystem but Apples recommendations are not even close to Spotify.

For what it's worth, Google Play's Radio system and "I'm Feeling Lucky" (a terrible name for what it does in my opinion) works beautifully for me!

Next figure out how to work the YouTube and YTM recommendation algorithm. I know I'm not the only one paying for premium and actively discovering small independent artists everyday through recommendations.

Oh interesting— I haven't been paying attention to the YTM recommendation algorithm. I'll have to subscribe and see if I can figure it out.

The YouTube music equivalent of Discover Weekly is probably the "Mixtape" feature (with the main difference being repeats from your listening history are allowed which is convenient in the case of the offline Mixtape feature). A lot of my discovery comes from the new releases view on mobile and desktop. Sometimes I'm one of the first people to view newly released songs from artists I've never heard of. Which makes me think they can't be doing it all by some sort of cross referencing of listening habits to recommend songs that other people with similar tastes to mine liked. Maybe they do actually have a complex neural network trained on my listening history that can do decently well in deciding what I would like. I do actively like and dislike songs and have been doing so for years so that may be why it's working so well for me.

The main problem I have with discovery weekly now is that I primarily use Spotify for the gym but during the day I like to listen to a work playlist that mostly consists of non-vocal electronica.

So because I spend so much time listening to the work playlist it's began to influence the music on my Discover Weekly which I used to use to curate new hip-hop/metal music for the gym. It would be nice if Spotify gave you finer control over the type of music that hits your Discover Weekly because it really would suggest good music for me occasionally.

Sounds like a feature "power users" would appreciate, such as Circles in Google Plus, but most users would not spend the time to learn.

Everyone here is marveling at the thought that Spotify could launch someone's career. But there is already a service that does this consistently and it's called SoundCloud.

Are you also on Tidal? I was looking for your music but I couldn't find it. I actually prefer their service and I hear they pay 4x the artists compared to Spotify.

Huh. Maybe I'm not Tidal. I'm going to look into this— thanks for the heads up!

From my understanding, Spotify's recommendations have a major flaw - they're based off other users' listening data. What this means is that if a song isn't listened to by very many people it'll never be recommended, and many songs on Spotify don't even have a single stream, let alone however many it takes to get the data to make it a recommendation.

Luckily, the author outlines the fact that many of Spotify's playlists are curated by humans and when you submit an album to Spotify, you highlight a single track for a human to listen to. It is very possible to catch the ear of a human at Spotify and be placed on playlists, which is a spark that ignites more listenership.

How does one land a job as one of these playlist curators?

They have a few openings listed on their job site, such as https://www.spotifyjobs.com/job/content-programming-manager-...

Not true, it's actually the exact opposite. See my other comment https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19503994

No, that is simply research they've done. They haven't implemented it AFAIK. https://www.businessinsider.com/how-spotify-discover-weekly-...

Nope. I find many artists who have 3-8k listeners per month through the daily mix and song radio.

I've had songs with less than 7000 listens recommended to me on my discover weekly

Wow, this is pretty informative. Thanks for sharing.

Anybody have stats on $ per stream? How does that number vary between premium/non-premium and on the region you’re streaming from?

Varies depending on how much of your audience is ad supported vs premium and other variables (family plan, bulk deal through mobile operator, student deal) but blended it’s safe to work on the assumption of ~$5 per thousand for Spotify.

Higher for Apple Music as they don’t have a freemium audience.

I wonder if the $10/mo price of Spotify has anchored listeners to a low price that Spotify can't get out of. Spotify will need to pull more money in to be able to give musicians more money per stream. Even if they were able to increase revenues, musicians will need to be able to claim a bigger part of that pie.

This is an interesting point. Netflix has survived multiple price increases over the years, but they offer content that isn't available anywhere else. I think what will probably happen is one music streaming service will raise prices and the others will eventually follow.

Nice write up, I listen to my DW playlist quite a lot.

I wonder if this approach is fraught with risk though, in the sense that if Spotify tweak the algorithm and suddenly his listener numbers drop. I guess in his case the snowball effect is already in motion, but a tweak could curtail that growth.

Congratulations on your achievement ! Do you have your content on Bandcamp ?

As people share on this thread, convenience is winning the game but there's a rising market for other people that value supporting the artists directly.

Keep it up and great work!

I'm interested how you record your music. I see on your website that you have a producer. Do you record in a home studio? Pro Logic?

I record in my home and Stephen Kerr (https://www.sjkaudio.com/) produces my music. Having a producer like him is hugely helpful to the sound— he brings so much clarity and polish ...

12% conversion rate is very good. I suggest using more sale channels and spend some money on advertising.

If Spotify is becoming for musicians what GitHub became for programmers, I say that’s pretty damn cool.

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