If you’re sick of mattress ads during podcasts, you can sleep easy

They hinted at it and now it’s reality. Spotify has launched a paid podcast subscription service.

Current beta testing within the Anchor podcast creation tool, allows creators to publish podcast content aimed at fans who love the shows so much they’re willing to pay to listen.

Why is Spotify’s new concept worth talking about?

Well, Spotify isn’t any old subscription company; it is, along with Netflix, Salesforce and Microsoft a Subscription Economy flag-bearer.

It’s available in nearly 100 countries, has nearly half a billion monthly active users and as of the end of 2020 had 155 million premium subscribers.

It has a market cap of more than USD $50 billion, making it Sweden’s third largest company, ahead of Volvo and H&M. This is not just an organisation making minor changes.

It’s one of the world’s great subscription companies making a small but potentially vital adjustment to an entire system of commerce.

We live in a media golden age

At Zuora we talk a lot about what the Subscription Economy is and how it changes the way we take part in society – we talk about user ship over ownership. And if there’s one industry that’s been changed more than any other by the subscription revolution, it’s media.

In many ways, we’re now in a golden age of media: we have more music, movies, TV and entertainment to explore and more new voices to discover than ever before.

In the era of the Product Economy – the diversity of choice didn’t exist because media production and distribution was done by just a few major publishers and studios.

It wasn’t quite the gatekeeper system of the pre-internet news world, where proprietors and editors dictated what information punters did or didn’t see, but it was very close.

These big players tolerated commercial ‘failure’ but only to a very limited extent. If two movies in a row weren’t box office winners or two albums in a row weren’t hits, you got dropped.

What Spotify made possible was a closer connection between a fan base and an artist.

What might once have been a “cult classic” – something that flopped in cinemas but found a small and hugely dedicated following later – is now considered a staple of the Netflix offering.

The gatekeepers are dead – or are they?

Today everyone can be their own studio. It’s what’s become known as the Creator Economy, and it’s hard to develop it without the Subscription Economy as its breeding ground.

That’s not to say, however, that this golden age of media, with its healthy segment of individual artists and independent development teams succeeding independently of large studios, has brought an end to the dominance of establishment institutions.

In its 2020 annual report, Spotify said that music from Universal, Warner, Sony and Merlin Network made up very close to 80% of its musical streaming content.

This is a problem for Spotify (they still struggle to make a quarterly profit despite their monumental success). It’s also a problem for anyone like me trying to argue that power has substantially shifted under these new subscription-enabled arrangements.

But I’m not trying to convince you of some kind of massive “video killed the radio star” claim.

All I’m saying is that even though the gatekeeper organisations remain influential, they are no longer the be-all-and-end-all entities they once were.

They still guard the bridge, but many more creators than ever before are crossing without their go-ahead. And that’s simply because the Creator Economy lets them.

Artists or authors, can now connect with audiences through a conduit like Spotify or Substack or Medium, without the mediation, and crucially the approval, of a publisher or a studio.

Creating a stronger Creator Economy

What Spotify is about to do seems to make the relationship between fan and creator smoother and more direct than ever before.

What their announcement means is that podcasters now have the opportunity to offer their shows as paid services through a Subscription Economy powerhouse.

That’s exciting news if you’re sick of strange mattress ads interrupting your favourite discussion of footy, politics or 1990s basketball shoes.

Our latest End of Ownership survey that revealed more than three out of four Australian adults (78%) now have at least one subscription service, up from 67% in 2018.

Spotify changed music consumption for the better, bringing about a golden age for audiophiles and audio-inclined creators.

This step may seem small in the scheme of things, but it’s a move towards an evermore decentralised system where fans have much more power and creators reap the benefits.

Nick Cherrier is helping businesses shift to the Subscription Economy. He is a revenue growth and marketing specialist with over 10 years experience across strategy consulting and digital advertising.