When Spotify and Topspin announced today that bands would be able to sell t-shirts and other branded merchandise through the music service, it hit four birds with one stone. First, the announcement assuages recording artists who are skeptical about Spotify’s value, or hostile to streaming distribution generally. In that respect, the announcement is about relationship management with musicians at large. Neither Spotify nor Topspin will take a fee on merchandise sales.
Second, the merchandise component is actually good for musicians and bands. Recording acts often make a substantial portion of their income through non-music products, or “merch.” Including this component helps a band create a fuller and more business-oriented profile in Spotify. The third benefit goes to music fans using Spotify, who now are exposed to desirable secondary products without having to seek out t-shirts and caps on other websites.
Finally, in the ongoing competitive battle that is heightened by this week’s launch of Beats Music (tomorrow), this smart piece of business development gives Spotify a well-timed announcement.
We have long thought that Spotify and the other services could build better artist profiling. Being a fan isn’t all about listening to pure audio. Video, merchandise, photos, and other brand collateral is generally missing from listening platforms — although concert/tour information has made helpful inroads. All these services need to differentiate from each other, and also compete with YouTube and Facebook as artist connection points. Spotify seems to be moving in that direction.