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The Spotify Listening Party Was Not As Successful As Expected

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(CTN News) – Three years after Spotify bought live audio startup Betty Labs, we think it’s not using the technology.

Betty Labs launched the sports-themed Locker Room social audio app in 2020. It allowed sports enthusiasts to host watch parties, discuss, and react to games live.

After buying the app, Spotify rebranded it Greenroom, a Clubhouse clone that appealed to a wide spectrum of users, independent of their music, sports, fantasy football, or other interests. Greenroom users may create a virtual room and speak live with like-minded people, like other social audio apps.

In 2021, Spotify Live was briefly available as a subscription service.

Greenroom closed last year. The absence of takeoff may have been due to social audio’s current issues (see Clubhouse and Reddit Live Talk). Customers also complained about the standalone app’s many bugs and poor audio quality (unexpected for a prominent music streaming provider). Another disappointment was the 1,000-person room.

Thank goodness Spotify supported live audio. In December 2023, the company launched an in-app experimental feature called “Listening Party” that lets superfans attend invite-only live listening parties where they may ask questions in a real-time chat room, hear from the artist, and even request to speak. (A spokesman told us at the shutdown announcement that Spotify Live considered Listening Party its most promising feature.)

Spotify has tested the feature with Lizzy McAlpine, MGMT, Bleachers, and Zara Larsson. Recently, Billie Eilish held a Listening Party for her Spotify-selected top fans to celebrate the arrival of her latest album, “Hit Me Hard and Soft,” on Friday, May 17. It was a good turnout of 2,500 users, including me. A spokesman told TechCrunch that listening parties typically draw 1,000–3,000 people.

The Listening Party was boring. The live chat responses of fans demonstrated their excitement. It was Eilish and her producer and composer brother Finneas O’Connell who gave the introduction speech, although Spotify’s live audio feature was rarely utilized. Instead, Eilish used her piano to energize her fans about her live performance of “CHIHIRO.”

Eilish’s live session was mostly a 50-minute stream of her new album, not real-time audio. It ended abruptly with Eilish not saying goodbye.

We weren’t the only ones who Spotify responded in this way to a listening party.

MGMT supporters complained throughout their session. “I thought they were taking questions afterward,” a Reddit user stated. Someone another said, “MGMT isn’t saying anything.”

Eilish’s event lacked “Onstage,” a critical Listening Party feature that lets fans ask artists questions live during conversations. Fans only replied in writing in hopes of Eilish seeing it. Thus, it was more like a group listening session than a live user discussion for which social audio is intended. This was compared to a tedious Zoom call: “This could have been an email.”

Eilish’s Listening Party was better than nothing and distinct from her two live listening parties in Los Angeles (May 16) and New York City (May 15). We realize that artists are not responsible for certain aspects. However, we were disappointed.

Another issue is that hundreds of thousands of fans cannot contact their favorite singers since they must be “highly engaging” listeners to be accepted to Listening Parties. However, the maximum capacity may prevent server crashes.

While Spotify Live’s discontinuation disappointed, Listening Party reveals that Spotify is trying to optimize its $62 million investment in Betty Labs. Our function evaluation shows that Spotify is still a long way from becoming a live audio powerhouse.

Fortunately, Listening Party is still in testing and has room to grow. It’s only available in Indonesia and the US.

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Salman Ahmad is a seasoned writer for CTN News, bringing a wealth of experience and expertise to the platform. With a knack for concise yet impactful storytelling, he crafts articles that captivate readers and provide valuable insights. Ahmad's writing style strikes a balance between casual and professional, making complex topics accessible without compromising depth.

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