YouTubers Ryland Adams and Lele Pons are among the creators who are slated to make big-budget audio shows for Spotify over the next year as part of its plans to dominate the booming podcast space.
“We’ll have a budget like we would have if we were doing a TV series,” Paul Feig, director of films like Bridesmaids, The Heat, and the Ghostbusters reboot, recently told The Hollywood Reporter. He, too, is making a podcast for Spotify — a scripted true-crime satire series called The Case Of Adirondack Rose. “That is, for something audio-only, quite good.”
Adams and Pons, who have 4.5M and 15M subscribers respectively, will both produce unscripted, pop culture-related series. (Pons’ forthcoming podcast will be produced by her longtime partner studio, Shots). And they, along with Feig, are just three of the more than 30 creators Spotify has inked audio deals with since this summer. Other notable creators who’ve come onboard include Jordan Peele, Kevin Bacon, and Mark Wahlberg.
And, of course, the Obamas. We didn’t know it when the deal was announced in June, but Spotify sealing an exclusive partnership with the former first couple and their fledgling production company, Higher Ground,wasn’t just an eye-catching pact with public figures. It was also a defining moment for Spotify’s new content strategy.
Since its launch in 2006, Spotify has focused almost entirely on music, offering millions of songs for ad-supported and monthly subscription-supported streaming. It did attempt to broaden its content scope in 2015/2016 by adding videos from partners like Vice, Comedy Central, and ESPN — but that foray crashed and burned. “Video wasn’t resonating with audiences, and we didn’t really have a product that lent itself to video in a meaningful way,” Spotify’s head of studios, Courtney Holt, told THR.
Holt was the one who spearheaded Spotify’s earliest podcast deals, bringing in comedian Amy Schumer and broadcaster Joe Budden’s talk shows (3 Girls, 1 Keith, and The Joe Budden Podcast) for exclusive distribution in August 2018. Over the next few months, Spotify’s podcast library — both through official partnerships and through independent creators uploading their own shows to the platform — grew to more than 15,000 series.
That brings us to the beginning of this year, when Spotify went all-in and spent $500 million acquiring two of the biggest companies in podcasting: distribution platform Anchor and producer Gimlet Media. It also bought storytelling-driven studio Parcast for an undisclosed sum.
Spotify is also making additions to its digital and physical infrastructure. At the end of June, it released a redesign of its app that gives music and podcasts equal prominence in users’ libraries, and debuted Daily Drive, a curated playlist that gives users a mix of music and podcast they might be interested in. As for physical buildout, the streamer is currently constructing a new campus in Los Angeles that’ll house 17 podcast recording studios, a mixing room, and a live event space, per THR.
Spotify’s latest numbers indicate that so far, its investments are paying off. From July to September, the number of hours users spent streaming podcasts on the platform jumped 39%, and the number of podcast listeners who converted from streaming for free to paying for Spotify’s $9.99/month subscription was “almost too good to be true,” the company wrote in its Q3 earnings letter to shareholders.