March 08, 2016

Spotify is at its core a social service. It was designed to be a simple way to listen to music with friends. And the app itself is billed as your “best friend,” who knows your taste in tunes and makes you “personal mixtapes” every week.


But if Spotify is supposed to be my friend, why doesn’t it talk about music the way my friends do?


Imagine you’ve just found some great new music, and you’re telling your friends about it. Think about what you might say. Now contrast THAT with some specimens of Spotify’s language:




Please, Spotify, try to contain your enthusiasm.


These are some pretty soft sells. If you want your friends to get excited about the music you're sharing, you have to sound excited first! Be more compelling!





So these are more compelling. But in all the excitement, Spotify forgot to actually tell me anything about the music. Heavy metal is pretty "wild & free." So is dubstep. For that matter, so are the free chromatic compositions of early-20th century composer Alban Berg. Spotify needs to be more clear about what we're working with here if it wants to give me a reason to click.


It turns out one of the above playlists is electronic pop and one is indie folk. I’m not telling you which is which, and good luck guessing. Spotify, when my friends describe music to me, they’re usually a little more… what’s the word? Descriptive.





Woof. This is Papa Spotify dropping us off at a friend’s house and asking if “you bros are planning on having a cool, Chill Party.” This is undercover Officer Spotify sidling up to a gaggle of tweens and asking “You kids wanna smoke some drugs?”


No one talks like this. You can’t just take a word cloud of everything trending on Twitter, run it through a blender, pour it into sentence-shaped molds and have it sound authentic. Read the sentence aloud. If you can’t imagine yourself credibly saying it to someone you know, try something else.



What It Could Look Like


Spotify has a great opportunity here. Because we’re talking about music, they have license to express a range of emotions most companies’ can’t. They can be sad or mad, heartbroken or head-over-heels, pumped up or chilled out, silly or severe. They just ALSO have to be clear, compelling, and credible.


Take a look and tell me which you would rather click on:



The Moral of the Story


Spotify’s spotty language strategy is an example of a phenomenon that happens all the time. Companies work hard to develop a great product that provides a valuable service to its users, but then they shoot themselves in the foot by thinking they can get away with slapping any old language on top of it.


It’s a fantastic app. But if Spotify really wants to me to think of it as one of my friends, it needs to start sounding like them. Because no matter how stellar a service you are, only my friends get invited to my cool, Chill Parties.


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