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Spotify sharpens its focus on video with 12 new music-themed original programs

TechCrunch TechCrunch 9/05/2016 Ingrid Lunden

MTV gave us a blast from the past last month when it streamed nonstop Prince videos as a memorial to the musician’s untimely death. But, as it turns out, we will start seeing a lot more music video programming on another platform very soon. Spotify — the music streaming startup with some 75 million users — today announced a line up of 12 new “concepts” — original video programs around the theme of music that it plans to produce and stream starting this summer, featuring performances, pop culture, musical storytelling, animation and videos highlighting music culture.

The move comes a year after Spotify announced a move into video to complement its music service.

“We are developing original content that is rooted in music, pop culture, and animation that is driven by the passion and sense of humor of our audience,” said Tom Calderone, Global Head of Content, Spotify, in a statement. “We are working with artists, producers and partners who understand that the Spotify audience has a strong connection to artists and wants to go deeper into their worlds, see their performances and expressions, and hear their stories.”

The video content initially will be shown in four markets: the U.S., the U.K., Germany and Spotify’s home market of Sweden. Not a massive distribution, considering that the company is in 59 markets — but it’s a start. They will be available both to free and premium users on iOS and Android (but not web it seems).

The new content is interesting for a couple of reasons. Adding in video gives Spotify a platform that keeps people more glued to watching, not just listening, to Spotify, which helps the company sell different kinds of ad units to make money against free users.

The other reason it’s interesting is because it helps further differentiate the service compared to other streaming providers. That is a space that was already crowded and is becoming more so, with the addition of new players like SoundCloud. On top of this, original content helps Spotify move away from (or at least complement) the sometimes onerous and not particularly lucrative market of making money from music streaming.

Here is a rundown of the shows as detailed by Spotify itself. As you can see are a mix in both dramatic, factual and musical themes:

Rush Hour – Two hip-hop artists (one legend, one young buck) are picked up in a van during the height of LA rush hour.  As they drive to an undisclosed location they must come up with a remix or mashup of one of their well-known tracks. Once done, they arrive at the downtown LA parking lot stage of Russell Simmon’s new company All-Def Digital, where they perform their new collaboration (as well as other songs) before a crowd of raucous super fans.

Landmark – Comprised of exclusive interviews, archival footage, and unique multi-media elements, each episode of Landmark brings to life the story of an important moment or movement in music history.  Each installment is accompanied by a long-form podcast giving in-depth analysis of specific tracks.

Drawn & Recorded – Featuring narration from Oscar-winner T-Bone Burnett and stunning animation from Drew Christie, each episode of Drawn & Recorded tells a remarkable anecdote from music history.  The stories will range from introspective to comic, and feature artists from across the music spectrum.

Life in Short – Life in Short is an anthology series celebrating music’s most enigmatic artists.  Each 24-episode season covers a single artist and each sub-2 minute episode uses a different narrative device (animation, documentary, tribute performance) to highlight one key aspect of the artist’s life. Episodes will run the gamut from funny to inspiring, to somber.  Each episode is designed to live on its own but, if watched as whole, the series will provide unique insight into the subject.

Trading Playlists – Two celebrities trade Spotify playlists for a day, in the process discovering new music, learning a bit about each other, and highlighting all the ways music is tied to identity and culture.

Singles – Shot in Spotify’s brand new, state-of-the-art music studio in NYC, this series gives viewers fly-on-the-wall access to artists as they record new takes on their most well-known songs. SINGLES will have a super-intimate, almost “low-fi” feel.  While the series will have a consistent look, visual elements will be tweaked to align with each artist’s sensibilities.

Rhymes & Misdemeanors – In each episode of this true crime series, we profile a notorious crime from the music world.  From the PCP-fueled cannibalism of rapper Big Lurch to the murder-for-hire plot hatched by the singer of metal band As I Lay Dying, we’ll get the full story of how some of music’s biggest and most promising acts went tragically down the wrong path.

Ultimate/Ultimate – From Academy Award® winner Tim Robbins comes Ultimate/Ultimate — a comedic, mockumentary series following several passionate (but modestly talented) people competing in a competition to become the next great EDM star.  From pint-sized phenom DJ Sparkle, to frat brothers channeling their inner Daft Punk, the series explores the hilarious, endearing and absurd lengths people will go to to pursue their musical passions.

Generations – In this unique performance series, two generations of hip-hop stars come together to create new versions of their most notable songs.  Each installment of the series will feature musical performance along with documentary segments about the experience..

Public Spaces – Each installment of PUBLIC SPACES features a notable act performing in one of the world’s great public spaces.  Whether it’s Macklemore in Union Square, or A$AP Rocky at the Brandenburg Gate this series will redefine “music for the masses.”

Flash Frame – Flash Frame is Spotify’s rejuvenation of the music video format.  Once a month an A-list act will perform at Spotify’s New York City office.  The show will be captured on video.  After the fact, additional visual assets will be sourced, shot or created (animation, archival footage, additional video production, etc.) and intercut with one of the performed tracks to build a narrative around the song’s theme.  Music video directors, animators, CG artist and other creative trendsetters will be tapped to help craft each distinctive episode.

Focus On… – FOCUS ON is a data-driven performance series that lives at the intersection of music, culture and Spotify.  Spotify will identify a popular band in a key market, and have them play an exclusive show for Super Fans sourced through Spotify’s data. In addition to the performance, each 5-segment installment features segments profiling the fans and the music culture of that particular locale.

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