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Opinion: 5 Things Spotify Must Do To Win in America

Better Advertisements When Listening to the Free Version

By this point the rational public understands that for free music, advertisements are part of the game. We don’t like it, but we understand. The money to create and operate services—and of course write and record the actual music—has to come from somewhere.

However, with Spotify’s ads, consumers may change their minds.

Granted, I have not heard the entire book of advertisements, nor have inspected their targeting engine, but I can tell you this: Spotify, intentionally or not, has ads that drive you away from the free service—and potentially the service all together. They are bad. And they are obtrusive. And they often seem so strangely untargeted that you wonder if their only purpose is to annoy you into buying the premium version. That might seem like a crafty business decision, but these ads should, instead, function as a dependable source of revenue in the free model. Not only does Spotify have visibility into your entire music collection, but if you’ve integrated with Facebook, they can also see your demographic and your interests (if settings allow). They don’t appear to leverage any of this to create quality advertisements.

For instance, I’m listening to Bon Iver and various indie acoustic artists, a pleasant way to fill the airwaves as I work. What ad did I get? An auto-tuned, pop flavor-of-the-month that I’ve never heard of, nor—if you take a gander at my iTunes, which Spotify has—would I ever consider purchasing. The only action my profile, my interests and my music collection would indicate I’d take when hearing this garbage is slamming the mute button. Which I just did.

More importantly than anecdotal gripes, is the business model for the free version. Such grossly mistargeted advertisements mean that advertisers are going to see less and less bang for their buck—and, in turn, pay Spotify less for each placement.

Pandora’s ad targeting—again, if they have your info—is so good that I receive ads about “Thursday nights at the California Academy of Sciences” around the times I might be thinking about my evening plans. Would I rather listen to music during that 15 seconds? Of course. But as a listener and as a consumer, I sense how these ads fit into the financial ecosystem and I’m okay with the short detour, because at least the ad did have some value to me.

Spotify needs to correct this quickly or they’re going to have a lot more people slamming the mute button—then clicking Quit.