NASHVILLE – Spotify spent the first 10 years of its existence focusing on the consumer; the next 10 years will be focused on the creator, says Troy Carter, the streaming giant’s new Global Head of Creator Services, during a very on-message Q&A session at the Music Business 2017 conference in Nashville on Wednesday.
He cited new artist Julia Michaels (who is also an established hit songwriter) as a performer Carter and his team said they took a special interest in. They helped pick her single, plan the release date and a rollout. “And that’s an artist [for whom] that we’ll probably be there every step of the way,” Carter said during the Q&A, which was moderated by Nate Lau of The Tennessean.
“I think Spotify was incredibly great at breaking songs but we weren’t great at developing artists,” he continued. “Now we’re trying to wrap this engine around artists and help develop the next generation of superstars. So it’s not about songs, it’s going to be about how do we help you build out bodies of work, how do we help you plan out your tour, how do we help you know who the fans are. So we’re investing in careers at this point.”
In a pointed moment, Lau asked Carter, the former manager for Lady Gaga and Megan Trainor, “If you were a manager today, would you think streaming royalties were fair?” …
Carter replied: “I would say no, but I would also say the value chain’s broken. And I think what needs to happen is we need to reconfigure the entire value chain. Also, is it also fair that if Max Martin wrote the hit on a record, that the person who wrote the worst song on the record is under the same rate as Max, essentially? It was almost like a welfare system before. The hit songs really really matter and you’ve got every single producer and writer on the album trying to make that hit. But I do it’s really about rethinking the value chain.”
Carter — who is also the current special advisor to the Prince estate but did not mention Prince at all during the Q&A, and declined to comment when asked by Variety about his role — said he believes Spotify’s data will help change the music industry in the future.
“I think it reshapes the entire business,” Carter said. “What I love about Spotify is that it’s a very honest platform. We play a game called best song wins. It doesn’t matter if you’re the biggest artist in the world or an act that was on Soundcloud and finally went to Tunecore and uploaded on Spotify, then the listeners don’t lie. This isn’t call-out radio research or anything like that — this is actual people leaning into records, and you’re finding out whether things are fake or real really quick. And I think creators and artists having access to that sort of platform is powerful and I think we’re already seeing that the entire business is going to be reshaped.”
This is true of both arena-level acts and unknown jazz artists, he says. The company can help a major star like The Weeknd, for instance, find new fans who have similar tastes but may not have discovered the star yet.
“We knew who The Weeknd’s fans were, but we also knew he’s R&B, he’s pop, he’s a little bit more rock, he has music with Daft Punk, and we 4-X’d the music for him,” Carter said. At the same time, little-known niche artists can search for likeminded fans and grow their audience as well, even finding geographical concentrations of fans with data that wasn’t available just a few years ago.
“I think we’re just scratching the surface of what Spotify for Artists is going to be, but my guess is it becomes a tool that essentially you almost won’t be able to operate without,” Carter said. “Spotify is 10 years old, but the reality is for our industry, the last 18 months is when people started digging into it, so it’s a constant education.”