‘Rather than a land grab, streaming should be a race to build the most excitement’

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Sean GlassAfter revealing what he really thinks of Apple exclusives, former Apple Music employee Sean
Glass (pictured inset) has written a follow-up article tackling solutions for the problems he sees in the music business. Since his first post, we’ve learned that Lucian Grainge has indeed banned exclusives, found evidence of Spotify punishing ‘Apple artists’ like Katy Perry in playlist placement, and, according to numbers revealed by Spotify’s Global Head of Creator Services Troy Carter, that the service is on course to surpass 50 million subscribers within six months.


I’m not writing on behalf of Apple. I left Apple Music in June, and these words and opinions are my own.

In my last blog, I wrote about pre-Troy Carter Spotify.

A Spotify that preaches music be free. A Spotify that, to my knowledge, exclusively markets artists by playlisting them (save for the Metallica documentary).

A Spotify that features three indie artists on Today’s Top Hits (out of 50 today).

I believe platforms need to focus on more than playlist placement to develop artists.

Troy is the best person I could imagine for this job. I am confident he, along with Tom Calderone, will do great things, but my article was written before we’ve seen any of that impact.


I do not want any music to be exclusive to any platform. At Apple Music though, exclusives (or windows) are not about excluding.

They are about surrounding the release with exciting content and conversation, creating cultural moments that Apple elevates and in return becomes forever associated with.

At Tidal, they are solely about withholding. I believe Apple can remove the ‘exclusive’ tag from its strategy, let everyone have it at once, change it to ‘brought to you by’ and be even more effective.

Rather than a land grab, make it a race to whom can build the most excitement around their platform. I hope this happens.

“At Apple Music, exclusives are not about excluding. They are about creating cultural moments that Apple elevates and in return becomes forever associated with.”

$10 a month is not too much, $50 might be. Think back to CDs. Music should not be free, IP has value.

Music cannot just be subsidised by brands that sell soda and NO just using music as an ad to sell concert tickets is NOT OK either.

I believe the underdeveloped Apple Music Connect is a better answer to freemium than ads.

Effectively, we should shift from sampling to connection. Fish where the consumer fishes and build feedback loops.


Playlists must democratise, or the indies die, and diversity goes away, taking creativity with it.

There are three indies on Spotify’s Today’s Top Hits. I lost count on Apple’s Hot Tracks, plus it’s all new not just Top 40 Radio.

I do not trust the studies that tell us playlists feature a healthy amount of indies. Indies are dying for lack of representation. Apple needs to do better as well, but at least Hot Tracks is there and it’s the first thing users see.


Beyond playlists, Kiiara, Gallant, A.Chal and many more premiered (non-exclusive) on Beats1, developed through Apple Music’s ecosystem, and have all gone on to big things.

Regarding how Spotify develops artists: Hozier (pictured) hit No.1 on Spotify’s US chart with Take Me To Church. This is when Spotify decided to give Take Me To Church an extra lift.

Kiiara’s Gold has been in heavy rotation at Beats1 for over a year, along with three other singles.

Gold featured in Hot Tracks in June 2015, when she was anonymous and unsigned.

Kiiara is now signed to Atlantic Records, but I’ll never forget the day when Zane Lowe flipped over Gold and I tracked down the manager to be the only one he would give the .wav file to.

A year later, Gold, signed to Atlantic, sits on Spotify’s Today’s Top Hits playlist.

Read this Rolling Stone profile on Carl Chery and Bryson Tiller. Everyone should look at the work that Carl, Neil Dominique and Tunji Balogun did together to develop Tiller.

Apple did not break Chance the Rapper, Apple was just deserving and a little lucky to be his partner. 

Chance has an incredible team around him and does not need Apple or anyone else. This is not a template, he is unique.


Discover Weekly is a great first step, exposing new artists to listeners constantly, but we can do much better.

Scott Vener will find something before anyone else and put it on OTHERtone Beats1. Blogs pick it up, UGC playlists pick it up and people start listening.

It’s tested against algorithms, it passes and gets thrown into the DW mix.

Francis and the Lights featuring Bon Iver Friends is on my DW this week. Way too late, I listened to that immediately on release day on repeat. I prefer to just have the human Scott Vener tell me what’s good.

Discover Weekly (30 songs), Fresh New Finds (30), New Music Friday (66), Viral 50 (50+50) and Release Radar (26). Who has time to consume 252 new songs every week?

Are there 252 new songs every week worth listening to? That’s excluding, by the way, any real dance music, which has been shut out of streaming services—no, EDM playlists do not count.

Give me the 10 best songs of the week, genre agnostic.

I’d rather spend more time with the unforgettable, than a little bit of time with so much that I can’t even remember if it’s memorable.

“I’d rather spend more time with the unforgettable, than a little bit of time with so much that I can’t even remember if it’s memorable.”

Make that list the holy grail with major bragging rights and exposure.

I don’t know what Happy or Chill means as a playlist, but I read Hypebeast’s newsletter every day and their Best Of Week playlist is a must listen for me.

Flume’s and Odesza’s Never Be Like You and Say My Name are great songs—classics. But they do not reflect every single mood or activity in my arsenal as a human being.

That’s what happens when you let the computers do all the work.

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  • SociallyDrivenMusic

    Sean: You are spot on in your assessment of the ludicrous current approach to Playlists and Freemium:

    “Music cannot just be subsidised by brands that sell soda and NO just using music as an ad to sell concert tickets is NOT OK either.

    I believe the underdeveloped Apple Music Connect is a better answer to freemium than ads.”

    The situation you highlight is a microcosm of the industry as a whole. However, I’d suggest that the industry doesn’t want to be educated. The only solution is to show them the way. Socially Driven Music is about to launch with the mission to lead on this issue and many others. Let’s collaborate. -SL