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Insider (June 17, 2021): Spotify officially kicks off its Clubhouse competitor, Sony Music Entertainment acquires Somethin’ Else, Shuffles at Vox Media

Spotify formally rolls out Green Room. A little under three months after acquiring Betty Labs, the startup operating the sports-centric live audio app Locker Room, Spotify has officially relaunched its Clubhouse competitor as “Green Room.” The push involves a new branding aesthetic — emphasizing a metal green look, which, I dunno, gives me late 90s early 2000s vibes, or maybe I’m just thinking of The Matrix — as well as an expanded presence on both iOS and Android in over 135 markets globally.

There are also a fair few technical updates. Users can now use their Spotify credentials to log into Green Room, which also means that the platform has been opened up to a much bigger potential user base than before, and the app now features a live text chat feature to roll alongside the live audio experience that room managers can toggle off and on at will. (This toggling capability is presumably a good thing, given that live text chat windows tend to get… chaotic quickly. At least, based on my experience as a Twitch and YouTube livestream consumer. And an Internet consumer more broadly, I suppose)

Another technical detail to note: Green Room sessions are recorded by the platform itself, and room creators can get recordings of those sessions sent to them over email afterwards, which they can presumably use to re-distribute as a podcast and monetize over that channel appropriately.

Speaking of monetization, there doesn’t appear to be a direct way to monetize sessions within Green Room itself — e.g., a YouTube-style ad market that exists as a layer on top of experience — but Spotify has formed a Creator Fund that will supposedly provide payouts to participating live audio creators based on the “performance” of their rooms. Interested participants can sign up on this page, which also includes an FAQ that goes into some program details.

Three things in that FAQ stand out to me:

  • On the question of how payouts are determined: “Payouts are calculated weekly and based on a number of relevant factors, including the consumption of each creator’s live audio content and audience size. Creators can earn funds every week with no limit on the number of times they can earn.” In other words, a semi-black box at this point in time. Let the anxious analysis begin.
  • Payouts are strictly tied to rooms that a creator generates; which is to say, the atomic unit of the program is the Room, not the Creator.
  • Payout timelines: “The Fund will not begin paying out until later in Summer 2021, and creators who have registered will be notified. Payments are calculated based on weekly earning periods. Spotify will inform you of any payments earned within 30 days from the end of the earning period. The payments earned are distributed within 30 days from the end of the earning period and from the date when Spotify has received the necessary information from you to be able to conduct the payment.”

So that’s the Spotify Creator Fund. This, of course, theoretically competes with Clubhouse’s approach to driving creator activity on their platform, which has adopted more of an accelerator/in-house studio-publisher approach.

A few more big picture things. Firstly, Green Room currently exists as a separate app outside of Spotify, but it’s my understanding that this isn’t meant to be the long-run arrangement. At some point, we’ll see Green Room be absorbed into the core Spotify app experience, further realizing Spotify’s aspirations of becoming the all-consuming audio platform. The pertinent question here, I suppose, is whether that consolidation of experiences into one context will lead to an incredibly messy app at the end of the day. Spotify is already pretty chaotic as an app, but we’ll see. (I suppose I can always switch over to Spotify Lite if I really wanted to keep my music listening flow simple again.)

Secondly, it’s also my understanding that this particular phase for Green Room — post-rebranding, pre-absorption into the mothership app — is meant to be largely exploratory for the feature. First and foremost for Spotify: who will actually use the feature within the Spotify context, how, and why? Will this be best wielded as a peer-to-peer experience, or as a creator-to-fan experience? And if it’s the latter, will it lean more towards Spotify’s relationships with music artists, or towards its growing podcast presence? If it’s both, how will all that be managed contemporaneously? I imagine Spotify wants it all, but who doesn’t I guess.

Last thing I’d keep an eye on for now: Spotify doesn’t appear to be launching any owned and operated shows on Green Room just yet, but I have to assume that’s on the cards. For one thing, Spotify-operated programming has become increasingly central to the way that company spends its money and thinks about its place in the broader entertainment universe, so I’m going to guess it’s just a matter of time before we’ll start hearing exclusive deals with live-centric talent and show announcements from its owned and operated divisions, in particular The Ringer.

I wonder what broadcast radio companies think about all this. And briefly sticking to Spotify some more…

Follow-up to Call Her Daddy. A few hours after Hot Pod dropped on Tuesday, Spotify announced the closure of the deal that will bring Alexandra Cooper and Call Her Daddy exclusively to its platform, at least for the next few years. Also, according to Variety’s report on the matter, the deal takes the form of a three-year agreement between Cooper and Spotify that’s worth more than $60 million, which is just a stupidly large amount of money.

Call Her Daddy will begin its Spotify exclusivity on July 21.

Clubhouse expands its creator program to India.From the corporate blog post:

In India, over the last few weeks, we’ve seen rooms on cricket, on music (including really fun Antakshari rooms!), rooms on gaming and contests, rooms on religion and prayer, and so much more. We are so excited to see what creators from across India will bring to the table!

The Creator First Program in India will cater to the unique needs of the Indian audience and creators. By participating in Clubhouse Creator First in India, we will help you with production and creative development, help you promote your show, and provide financial support via matching you with brands or a monthly stipend.

So here’s what’s interesting to me: this announcement comes in the wake of Clubhouse’s expansion into Android, which took place amidst a growing sense that the buzzy social app’s downloads were slowing on iOS, and thus carried the feel of pushing into new territory in search of more momentum. That push into the more globally-present Android seems to have paid off, at least lightly, as Android downloads picked up the pace — with India leading the way, according to Sensor Tower data tweeted out by Platformer’s Casey Newton.

The expansion of Clubhouse’s Creator First Program to India, then, is a kind of reaction to where the action is. You play the hand in front of you, in other words.

Sony Music Entertainment acquires UK audio studio Somethin’ Else.According to the press release, the studio’s top execs Steve Ackerman and Jez Nelson will “jointly spearhead SME’s global podcast content and business development strategy.”

In case you weren’t already aware, there had already been a prior relationship forged between the two companies: Sony Music had previously invested in a joint venture with the studio in February 2020.

Anyway, if you need more context on Somethin’ Else, here’s what Hot Pod alum Caroline Crampton wrote about the studio last year:

[Somethin’ Else] was founded back in 1991 and has long been a major supplier of radio shows to the BBC, as well as making numerous TV shows and branded content. Podcasting has been a more recent development as the UK audio market has grown, and so far their output has had a focus on celebrity driven shows such as David Tennant Does A Podcast With… and How Did We Get Here? with Claudia Winkleman. Their shows have had partners across the industry, including Spotify, Netflix and Audible.

Meanwhile, at Vox Media… Today, Explained’s Sean Rameswaram has been promoted to the role of “creative director of Vox audio,” where, according to the press release, he’ll play a “bigger part in developing new projects for Vox — in audio and beyond.” Rameswaram will remain on Vox’s daily news podcast as co-host, where he’ll continue to be involved in pushing the show forward, but the shift will additionally see the production open up a search for a new co-host over the summer. Vox Media has also announced that it’s seeking applicants for two new higher-level audio roles at the company: editorial director of news audio and editorial director of explanatory audio.

I’m reading…

  • From Edison Research: “The portion of the American population that is paying for an audio subscription of some kind has doubled since 2015, and is now almost half of everyone (47%).” The concept of audio subscription refers to a wide range of services, including SiriusXM, Spotify, Audible, and Apple Music. 
  • From Press Gazette: “Survey suggests 10% of UK population now willing to pay for online news.” This includes the finding that “Eighteen to 24-year-olds were least likely to say they would pay (5% of those who would pay for news) but more than double as likely to pay for podcasts (11%).”
  • From the New York Times: “YouTube seems to have shown that it’s possible to both upend an industry and help make it stronger.” The industry specifically being music, by the way.
  • From Bloomberg: Netflix has “also begun to realize how a podcast or a Halloween costume can keep its programs relevant in between new seasons. Netflix has hired or is hiring new heads of consumer products, podcasts and video games.”