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Apps as Stars and Constellations

Founded in 2008, Spotify has traditionally been a single brand and a single product, the Spotify app, which is the same installation for free and premium users.

One recent and noteworthy development was the release of the separate app Spotify Kids, first in beta in Ireland in October 2019 and then gradually in other markets

There is also Spotify for Artists, which is not a product for customers. 

Casually browsing the App Store, we see that Spotify Ltd. also offers music making/podcast editing apps Soundtrap (acquired in 2017) and Anchor (acquired in 2019).

Additionally, there is Soundtrack your Brand, a separate app and company which has a partnership with Spotify to offer its content for businesses. 

(Apple Music has a similar(?) arrangement with PlayNetwork, which offers a more clearly branded “Apple Music For Business”.)

In a November 2019 podcast episode of “Invest Like thew Best”, host Patrick O’Shaughnessy asked Spotify CEO and founder Daniel Ek about the distinction of “star versus constellation business strategies”. From a transcript:

This has to do with the idea of breaking up a larger app/platform into multiple apps/platforms, instead of building more features into the main app

Ex.: How Facebook created its own Messenger app

“The reality is we’ve seen very few examples where this has worked. The exception is with the large platforms – Apple, Google, and to an extent, Facebook.” – Daniel Ek

On average, people download 1 new app per year

“Getting distribution on something new is insanely hard in this day in age” – Daniel Ek

When does breaking up an app make sense?

“When you have a very different constituent than your core constituents and the job to be done is materially different than the one you’re providing, then it may make sense.” – Daniel Ek

Given this, Spotify just launched Spotify Kids 

From a press release describing the new app: 

Beyond the content, the entire Spotify Kids user experience looks and feels different from the Spotify app. And that’s intentional. It’s built for kids, with their specific cognitive skills in mind, and exudes a fun, familiar, playful, and bright atmosphere. This look and feel also varies by age group—for example, the artwork for younger kids is softer and character-based, while content for older kids is more realistic and detailed. 

So, the strategy is clear: the priority is to keep new things in the main app, and launch a new app when it is absolutely necessary.

Anyway, it interesting that the result is that there is basically one single app (available in dozes of platforms – iOS, MacOs, Windows, Android, Linux, Tizen, Xbox etc) to serve nearly 300 million users (138 mm paid and 170 mm free at the end of June 2020) in more than 90 countries. This has been a successful strategy since Spotify launch twelve years ago but one can wonder how far in the future this strategy will remain.

The diversity of the users of the product – and the diversity of ways the product can be used – must be so high and likely ever increasing, that the challenge to accommodate all of them in a single app/interface will only increase with time. I can only wonder how many more different “spotify apps” are going to be available twelve years from now. 

(Some very random brainstorming here: “Spotify for DJs”? “Spotify for Audiophiles”? “Spotify for Classical Music”? “Spotify for ‘Music Collectors’”?  Some kind of social network of their own? For Teens? For Seniors?)

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