Spotify

Concept work, UX

(For prototype, switch to desktop)
TLDR; show me the money

Spotify

Concept work, UX

(For prototype, switch to desktop)
TLDR; show me the money

Live concert's digital future

Fulfilling Spotify's mission by making quality concerts more accessible

Live concert's digital future

Fulfilling Spotify's mission by making quality concerts more accessible

Challenge
Create a new social feature for Spotify's app
Solution
Livestream concert with chat
Challenge
Create a new social feature for Spotify's app
Solution
Livestream concert with chat

Project background

The live experience is a critical component of music appreciation. As Covid19 guidelines currently prohibit large-venue events, music fans are missing their concerts and musicians are facing devastating financial loss from touring. Many of them are turning to livestream platforms to meet their needs for entertainment and revenue.
Spotify's mission and vision both specifically address income and experience opportunities; answering the current crisis with a livestream feature would not only help artists live off their art and break free of medium constraints, it would also continue to make concerts more accessible for fans worldwide.

Project background

The live experience is a critical component of music appreciation. As Covid19 guidelines currently prohibit large-venue events, music fans are missing their concerts and musicians are facing devastating financial loss from touring. Many of them are turning to livestream platforms to meet their needs for entertainment and revenue.
Spotify's mission and vision both specifically address income and experience opportunities; answering the current crisis with a livestream feature would not only help artists live off their art and break free of medium constraints, it would also continue to make concerts more accessible for fans worldwide.

Before we get started

Here are some assumptions I had going into this project:

People enjoy livestreamed music
People want to connect with other people while watching
Artists use livestreams to expand their following and make money
Companies use livestreams to expand their user engagement and make money

My research goal was to find out how people who use Spotify also use live-stream features in other apps, in order to discover potential opportunities and pitfalls to avoid when integrating a similar feature.

Before we get started

Here are some assumptions I had going into this project:

People enjoy livestreamed music
People want to connect with other people while watching
Artists use livestreams to expand their following and make money
Companies use livestreams to expand their user engagement and make money

My research goal was to find out how people who use Spotify also use live-stream features in other apps, in order to discover potential opportunities and pitfalls to avoid when integrating a similar feature.

Business is good...real good.

Subscriptions make up 62% of industry revenues and, unfortunately for artists, digital download sales have subsequently declined: from $561 million in 2018 down to $462 million in 2019. As of March 31, 2020, Spotify listeners top 286 million, and 130 of them pay for the premium subscription service.

The music industry has changed over the last decade. Streaming services in the first half of 2019 accounted for about 80% of its revenue. Of that group, Spotify is the market leader, pulling $7.44 billion in revenue in 2019, which was an increase of 29% from 2018.

And the livestream industry? Also good?

Yeah, I'd say it's doing okay.

Twitch leads the pack (a jaw-dropper to absolutely no one) with a 2019 revenue estimated at $1.54 billion, of which $300 million was generated via advertising. Many musicians have taken note and are turning to Twitch music to shore up their income, as Twitch has been extremely profitable for gamers (its former top earner made over $500k a month), however, there have been troubles with licensing issues.  

The world is also observing the increasing success of digital music festivals and fundraisers using existing platforms on YouTube, StageIt, Topeka, Verzuz/Instagram, Patreon/Crowdcast, and in some cases, artists are developing their own independent ventures, like Badu World Streaming.

For superfans, livestream platforms have demonstrated a unique ability to give them what they want: seeing their idols up close and interacting with them in real time. Fans also enjoy the hype they can create as a community, much like a crowd at a concert.

Spotify's livestream competitors

Business is good...real good.

Subscriptions make up 62% of industry revenues and, unfortunately for artists, digital download sales have subsequently declined: from $561 million in 2018 down to $462 million in 2019. As of March 31, 2020, Spotify listeners top 286 million, and 130 of them pay for the premium subscription service.

The music industry has changed over the last decade. Streaming services in the first half of 2019 accounted for about 80% of its revenue. Of that group, Spotify is the market leader, pulling $7.44 billion in revenue in 2019, which was an increase of 29% from 2018.

And the livestream industry? Also good?

Yeah, I'd say it's doing okay.

Twitch leads the pack (a jaw-dropper to absolutely no one) with a 2019 revenue estimated at $1.54 billion, of which $300 million was generated via advertising. Many musicians have taken note and are turning to Twitch music to shore up their income, as Twitch has been extremely profitable for gamers (its former top earner made over $500k a month), however, there have been troubles with licensing issues.

The world is also observing the increasing success of digital music festivals and fundraisers using existing platforms on YouTube, StageIt, Topeka, Verzuz/Instagram, Patreon/Crowdcast, and in some cases, artists are developing their own independent ventures, like Badu World Streaming.

For superfans, livestream platforms have demonstrated a unique ability to give them what they want: seeing their idols up close and interacting with them in real time. Fans also enjoy the hype they can create as a community, much like a crowd at a concert.

Spotify's livestream competitors
So if livestreaming is a delicious, low-hanging fruit and Spotify has the best reach, why didn't they pluck it and run years ago?

Remember my assumption that people enjoy livestreamed music? It seems there are some major caveats. Believe it or not, the average livestreamed music performance isn't known for having high production standards; it tends to be casual, sometimes spontaneous and off-the-cuff, and while this might be fine for gamers, it made a big difference to my music-lovin' research participants.

40% of respondents said they did not watch music livestreamed, and of those responses, 57% said they weren't interested, prefer recorded music or an actual concert.

Respondents and interviewees mentioned that livestream video and sound weren't always good.

Livestream watchers reported their interest in the artist as a motivator to watch livestreams, but quality and content still affected their level of attention and how long they tuned in. That brings up another assumption: that fans would want to interact with the artist and each other.  

All the fan interviewees said that unless they really cared about the artist, they would rather hear the music and not spend too much time listening to them talk.

They reported not engaging often in chat sections because it would be rapid, overcrowded, and distracting. When less crowded or they knew their idol would respond, they were more likely to participate.

And how does an artist feel about livestreaming and interacting with fans over chat? It's a mixed bag. They are able to increase their reach, but it's dissimilar to a live show in many ways. Comfortably performing for just a camera is a learning curve, and responding to a chat takes time, effort and concentration that aural and verbal interactions don't.

IG, YouTube, Periscope livestreams generated follows and sales via direction to personal website. Safety became a concern with Periscope.

They also said it was very difficult to gauge atmosphere or respond to a chat section without help.

View survey resultsView interview resultsView research debrief
So if livestreaming is a delicious, low-hanging fruit and Spotify has the best reach, why didn't they pluck it and run years ago?

Remember my assumption that people enjoy livestreamed music? It seems there are some major caveats. Believe it or not, the average livestreamed music performance isn't known for having high production standards; it tends to be casual, sometimes spontaneous and off-the-cuff, and while this might be fine for gamers, it made a big difference to my music-lovin' research participants.

40% of respondents said they did not watch music livestreamed, and of those responses, 57% said they weren't interested, prefer recorded music or an actual concert.

Respondents and interviewees mentioned that livestream video and sound weren't always good.

Livestream watchers reported their interest in the artist as a motivator to watch livestreams, but quality and content still affected their level of attention and how long they tuned in. That brings up another assumption: that fans would want to interact with the artist and each other.  

All the fan interviewees said that unless they really cared about the artist, they would rather hear the music and not spend too much time listening to them talk.

They reported not engaging often in chat sections because it would be rapid, overcrowded, and distracting. When less crowded or they knew their idol would respond, they were more likely to participate.

And how does an artist feel about livestreaming and interacting with fans over chat? It's a mixed bag. They are able to increase their reach, but it's dissimilar to a live show in many ways. Comfortably performing for just a camera is a learning curve, and responding to a chat takes time, effort and concentration that aural and verbal interactions don't.

IG, YouTube, Periscope livestreams generated follows and sales via direction to personal website. Safety became a concern with Periscope.

They also said it was very difficult to gauge atmosphere or respond to a chat section without help.

View survey resultsView interview resultsView research debrief

Is it even worth pursuing, then?

Clearly, the concert experience is more than just being up close and personal with an artist. In order to please everyone, livestream concerts require a professional touch. According to my research, their success will be largely dependent on production quality, performance to interaction ratio, and personalized chat room experience. If anyone can regulate and ensure performance standards and do it well, it's Spotify.

Looking at other livestream platforms' success, the potential revenue for well-executed concerts is enormous. Obviously, Spotify would have to consider how it negotiates with artists and whether to offer the new feature as a third subscription tier or individually priced concerts. With a better grasp of the music industry ins and outs, A-list artists already on payroll, and continued dominance of the music streaming market, Spotify is in an excellent position to set the gold standard for livestreamed concerts. Even better, they'll be fulfilling their mission and vision by supporting artists, and providing an immersive, unifying experience for fans worldwide. So let's do this.

Is it even worth pursuing, then?

Clearly, the concert experience is more than just being up close and personal with an artist. In order to please everyone, livestream concerts require a professional touch. According to my research, their success will be largely dependent on production quality, performance to interaction ratio, and personalized chat room experience. If anyone can regulate and ensure performance standards and do it well, it's Spotify.

Looking at other livestream platforms' success, the potential revenue for well-executed concerts is enormous. Obviously, Spotify would have to consider how it negotiates with artists and whether to offer the new feature as a third subscription tier or individually priced concerts. With a better grasp of the music industry ins and outs, A-list artists already on payroll, and continued dominance of the music streaming market, Spotify is in an excellent position to set the gold standard for livestreamed concerts. Even better, they'll be fulfilling their mission and vision by supporting artists, and providing an immersive, unifying experience for fans worldwide. So let's do this.

Meet and greet

Liz is an avid Spotify user who also loves attending several concerts a year, and The Phantonym is a band that is looking for a new source of income to offset their losses from a cancelled tour. They both would benefit from livestream concerts on the platform they already use regularly.

Meet and greet

Liz is an avid Spotify user who also loves attending several concerts a year, and The Phantonym is a band that is looking for a new source of income to offset their losses from a cancelled tour. They both would benefit from livestream concerts on the platform they already use regularly.

Where's this thing going and how will it get there?

With my research findings, I outlined the goals for the business and the users:

Then I specified objectives for the feature:

Stipulate production standards with lighting, sound, and content so viewers can enjoy a quality experience
Create different kinds of chatrooms so viewers have options on whether or how they participate
Provide monitored chatrooms with external aural crowd feedback to assist artists with interactions
Integrate livestreams seamlessly into existing structure so users can easily locate new feature

Where's this thing going and how will it get there?

With my research findings, I outlined the goals for the business and the users:

Then I specified objectives for the feature:

Stipulate production standards with lighting, sound, and content so viewers can enjoy a quality experience
Create different kinds of chatrooms so viewers have options on whether or how they participate
Provide monitored chatrooms with external aural crowd feedback to assist artists with interactions
Integrate livestreams seamlessly into existing structure so users can easily locate new feature

Wading into the livestream

Due to time constraints, I narrowed the scope to the viewer's experience. Because people like to watch things on big screens, I decided to make the majority of my designs for the desktop application. Imagining probable interaction scenarios led to focusing on pages where they'd discover, locate, watch, chat with and download livestreams.

Wading into the livestream

Due to time constraints, I narrowed the scope to the viewer's experience. Because people like to watch things on big screens, I decided to make the majority of my designs for the desktop application. Imagining probable interaction scenarios led to focusing on pages where they'd discover, locate, watch, chat with and download livestreams.

What's in a name

I soon discovered that my biggest challenges lay in nomenclature, categorization and timing-based location.

Since Spotify already had a tabbed section for concerts on the Browse Page and the Artist's Page, that seemed like a logical place to add access to upcoming livestreams.

In Browse, the original layout had concerts suggested by location and listed vertically. I could intermix livestreams and physical concerts, but that had the potential to confuse people. Listing them separately, one after the other would create an endless scroll scenario, so I brought in a filter/sort duo from the Library Artists page to test the use of that tool. It was still confusing for some, so the final version split the two concert types into horizontally scrolling lists, like the Browse Podcasts section.

First version - Browse

Final version - Browse

A concert by any other name is still cool

Here you can see that "livestream" was renamed "digital." Livestream came across too casual, and the production quality needed to be evident in the terminology. (I had also attempted a virtual/physical distinction, but virtual could misconvey an AR/VR situation.)

In the concerts tab of the Artist's Page, there was a similar ordering scenario, but I made the mistake of putting livestreams below the in-person concerts, because when the pandemic is over, this section will fill up and make it difficult to spot the livestreams.

Part of this was an internal struggle with invading this physical concert page and changing things up too much. There was no need for an artist filter and they were already sorted by date, so I sneaked digital concerts in a way that almost positioned it as a lesser option. The label "Other Locations" is also nonsensical, because livestream exists everywhere wifi spans. On a business level, Spotify would prioritize showcasing their awesome new feature and give it a category and a name that are equivalent to in-person concerts, so this had to be changed.

First version - Concerts tab

Final version - Concerts tab

I modeled the specific livestream concert page after Spotify's in-person concert pages, but in a third tier subscription scenario, instead of finding tickets, users would indicate their intent to watch the performance. In the first iteration I utilized Spotify's terminology of "Add to queue" but in testing, a participant clicked the button and then went to the Concerts section of the Library to see if it was there. This made it clear that the upcoming digital concert needed a place to live, because while the play queue is for past/present/future songs, the list doesn't have the longevity needed for displaying activities in the distant future, and adding a tab for concerts was awkward because a concert is not a song. The CTA got changed to "Add to events" and thus, an events section was born.

First version - Concert page

Final version - Concert page

Home is where the concert is

The Library Concerts page informs the user where their scheduled upcoming events can be found until they're saved. But WHY, you ask? Because the Library hosts music/artists/podcasts that are suggested/played and saved/liked/followed, so this hybrid future event didn't belong there until it was a set of recorded songs. (Check out the mobile prototype to see how digital concerts are organized in this page.) This means the event needs to be housed somewhere the listener uses high level organization and executive control: voila! the User page. It got an Events tab, which then got sectioned by type, similar to Browse.

First version - Concerts page

Final version - Concerts page

Final version - User page/Events tab

View testing affinity map

What's in a name

I soon discovered that my biggest challenges lay in nomenclature, categorization and timing-based location.

Since Spotify already had a tabbed section for concerts on the Browse Page and the Artist's Page, that seemed like a logical place to add access to upcoming livestreams.

In Browse, the original layout had concerts suggested by location and listed vertically. I could intermix livestreams and physical concerts, but that had the potential to confuse people. Listing them separately, one after the other would create an endless scroll scenario, so I brought in a filter/sort duo from the Library Artists page to test the use of that tool. It was still confusing for some, so the final version split the two concert types into horizontally scrolling lists, like the Browse Podcasts section.

First version - Browse

Final version - Browse

A concert by any other name is still cool

Here you can see that "livestream" was renamed "digital." Livestream came across too casual, and the production quality needed to be evident in the terminology. (I had also attempted a virtual/physical distinction, but virtual could misconvey an AR/VR situation.)

In the concerts tab of the Artist's Page, there was a similar ordering scenario, but I made the mistake of putting livestreams below the in-person concerts, because when the pandemic is over, this section will fill up and make it difficult to spot the livestreams.

Part of this was an internal struggle with invading this physical concert page and changing things up too much. There was no need for an artist filter and they were already sorted by date, so I sneaked digital concerts in a way that almost positioned it as a lesser option. The label "Other Locations" is also nonsensical, because livestream exists everywhere wifi spans. On a business level, Spotify would prioritize showcasing their awesome new feature and give it a category and a name that are equivalent to in-person concerts, so this had to be changed.

First version - Concerts tab

Final version - Concerts tab

I modeled the specific livestream concert page after Spotify's in-person concert pages, but in a third tier subscription scenario, instead of finding tickets, users would indicate their intent to watch the performance. In the first iteration I utilized Spotify's terminology of "Add to queue" but in testing, a participant clicked the button and then went to the Concerts section of the Library to see if it was there. This made it clear that the upcoming digital concert needed a place to live, because while the play queue is for past/present/future songs, the list doesn't have the longevity needed for displaying activities in the distant future, and adding a tab for concerts was awkward because a concert is not a song. The CTA got changed to "Add to events" and thus, an events section was born.

First version - Concert page

Final version - Concert page

Home is where the concert is

The Library Concerts page informs the user where their scheduled upcoming events can be found until they're saved. But WHY, you ask? Because the Library hosts music/artists/podcasts that are suggested/played and saved/liked/followed, so this hybrid future event didn't belong there until it was a set of recorded songs. (Check out the mobile prototype to see how digital concerts are organized in this page.) This means the event needs to be housed somewhere the listener uses high level organization and executive control: voila! the User page. It got an Events tab, which then got sectioned by type, similar to Browse.

First version - Concerts page

Final version - Concerts page

Final version - User page/Events tab

View testing affinity map

Presenting: the prototypes

Start by clicking on the image and then head to the upper right corner to expand the page.

View mobile prototype

Next steps

Next would be to flesh out the chat UI, especially the artist interactions. I'd also want to add some accessibility features, like captions and descriptions.

I'd want to improve features that matter to the artist as well, such as the ability to appropriately see and hear fans.

The future version could include more livestream categories, like house shows and listening parties, and improve technological capabilities by adding AR/VR to provide a truly immersive experience.

While I was working on the project Spotify announced they were adding video to an upcoming podcast show, so here's hoping concerts are in the works as well. 🤞

Next steps

Next would be to flesh out the chat UI, especially the artist interactions. I'd also want to add some accessibility features, like captions and descriptions.

I'd want to improve features that matter to the artist as well, such as the ability to appropriately see and hear fans.

The future version could include more livestream categories, like house shows and listening parties, and improve technological capabilities by adding AR/VR to provide a truly immersive experience.

While I was working on the project Spotify announced they were adding video to an upcoming podcast show, so here's hoping concerts are in the works as well. 🤞

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