Apple and Facebook made out well by enabling third-party developers to create software applications for their products, so the strategy should do produce similar results for Spotify, right?
The Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that Spotify, the European subscription music that launched a U.S. service last summer will add "Facebook-style" apps to its service. The papers reported that the company will announce the new plan at a press event scheduled for later this morning (Go here to see CNET's live coverage, starting at 9 a.m. PT).
The newspaper accounts follow a story published last month in the blog Evolver.fm, which reported that Spotify has plans to release commercial apps. This doesn't jibe completely with the Journal story, which reported the new apps will be offered free of charge. Developers are already allowed to make apps for Spotify, but they aren't allowed to sell them. We'll probably have to wait to see what's up with that.
But if Spotify's announcement today is a plan to draw developers to its API (application programming interface) so they can help add new functions and features, then the question is whether this gives Spotify a big advantage over rivals iTunes, Amazon, and Google Music.
How much more can whiz-bang software improve our interaction with music? Don't most of us just want our music to be inexpensive, and be easy to access? Music listening is passive. Don't we just want to hit the play button and have our songs available while we study, wash the dishes, or surf the Web?
The Journal story cited a list of features. They don't thrill me, but see what you think. "The 'app finder' is likely to include reviews from magazines and blogs that allow users to listen to albums as they read reviews," the Journal wrote. "One app will display lyrics as a song plays, while another will generate a list of upcoming concerts by artists in a user's Spotify playlists and offer links to buy tickets."
The info on upcoming concerts sounds useful, but all the other stuff is readily available across the Web.
The reason that the apps for Facebook and iTunes succeeded is that those are all-purpose platforms. Will I really go to my music service to keep my calendar or store my phone numbers, post my resume, or organize my life? I suppose I might, if I weren't already doing those things at Facebook and iTunes.
I want music from my music service.
Then again, if we're moving to a digital music environment in which everyone will offer the same songs for the same price, all these software bells and whistles might mean the difference for Spotify. The company is already considered the sector leader when it comes to providing nifty site navigation and ease of use, and more features and functions could enhance that reputation with consumers.
So, while some of the features written about in the Journal story aren't very new, we don't know what kind of new features may be coming by some inspired developer. It's smart for Spotify to tap into a proven source of creativity.
No matter what, if Spotify does unveil a new API strategy, it will provide us with what critics said Google Music failed to deliver when it launched two weeks ago: an idea for digital music that is relatively new and fresh.