As I'm working on a deeper financial analysis of Spotify, I started pondering how Spotify plans to grow and differentiate itself from the other music streaming services. Based on their latest actions, it appears they are partnering with complementors (which are services that increase the value of Spotify), developing good cross-platform apps, and aggressively pricing and marketing their service.
Partnering with Complementors
There is very little platform lock-in with music streaming services. Anyone can sign up for Beats Music, use it for a few months, and then switch to Spotify. While the playlists you make on one service don't transfer to the one you switch to, it's not an issue for most users. People just want to stream particular artists and songs on demand, which all of the streaming services easily provide. Spotify is well aware of this issue, so its been smart to partner with complementors like Facebook and Uber (in addition to many more). For example, the partnership with Facebook allows you to log into your Spotify account and easily find what all of your Facebook friends are listening to. With this feature, you're able to find curated music choices from the people who matter the most in your life.
In addition to Facebook, Spotify also partnered with Uber last week, further increasing their supply of complementors. This latest partnership allows you to play all of your songs while in an Uber car. The goal here is to further increase the value-add of Spotify, as compared to their competitors.
Spotify also makes available a third-party API that allows application developers to tap into the Spotify music collection. Apps like Djay use this API to add extra features on top of the already existing Spotify service. The effect is to further lock-in users, by providing them with more value. This, of course, comes at a lower cost to Spotify, since they don't have to develop these third-party applications - they only have to build the API.
This strategy needs very little explanation. Spotify wants to reach as many users as possible, so it builds applications on as many platforms as it can. It has apps on all of the major platforms (iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Mac OS X, Windows), including the web. If somebody wants to try it, Spotify made sure its service will be available anywhere.
Aggressive Pricing and Marketing
The price for music streaming services is an established $9.99 per month on all the major services. Spotify also offers family and student plans, however. The family plan is $10/month for the first family member, and is discounted to $5/month for additional members. This isn't a novel feature, but not all of the music services offer a family discount. Again, Spotify wants to appeal to as many users as possible.
There is also a student plan that goes for 50% off, or $4.99/month. The aim here is presumably to indoctrinate students, who will eventually graduate and switch to the full price plan. Students are also much more likely to download their music illegally, and having them pay discounted rates is much better than having them pay nothing. Lastly, Spotify must know how vital word of mouth is for younger audiences, which essentially provides free marketing.
It's no wonder why Spotify has been growing faster than their competition - they've been engaging in beneficial partnerships, providing access to all the major platforms, and pricing themselves aggressively. This doesn't mean that they will succeed in the long term, though, it just means they're currently doing well. Perhaps Taylor Swift was foolish to pull her music off Spotify after all?