adStream: Spotify manages ad load with user-selected ad-free blocks

adStream is an ad-watch journal of interesting commercial sightings in streaming audio.


adstream may2015 spotify preroll 250wAt last year’s RAIN Summit NYC, then-Global Director of Ad Product Strategy Gary Liu proposed an unusual user experience in ad-supported music platforms. Liu suggested offering the user a 30-second premium-sold ad which could be played or skipped. If played, the user “purchased” a block of ad-free time. If skipped, the listener would be subject to normal streaming ad loads.

Dropping out of our Spotify Premium test account into Spotify Free, we instantly encountered an implementation of Liu’s idea. (Gary Liu left Spotify earlier this year.) A pre-roll splash page started a playlist listening session, offering a 30-second video ad in exchange for 30 minutes of ad-free listening. We could refuse the offer. We did nothing, and the video ad proceeded.

Interestingly, the commercial was for Spotify Premium, the subscription plan that has no advertisements. Spotify is in the midst of label negotiations, where part of the discussion reportedly focuses on the viability of Spotify Free to funnel listeners into the paid plan. Advertising the no-ad feature in a way that gives the listener a no-ad block of time is an interesting promotion tactic.

Brad Hill