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Spotify’s Global Head of Music Jeremy Erlich: ‘Any Over-Reliance on Metrics Isn’t Healthy, Even Less With Art’

Following the RADAR series launch last year, the global streaming giants have introduced their Singles program in India in June

Anurag Tagat Aug 06, 2021

Spotify Global Head of Music Jeremy Erlich. Photo: Courtesy of Spotify

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When Spotify’s Jeremy Erlich says that India is “definitely” among the music streaming platform’s “most important countries,” you could construe it a publicity-friendly statement. But they’ve been backing that claim by deploying key programs since their launch in 2019.

Erlich is global head of music at Spotify, which means he and his team often trying to understand global, regional and local trends. He says over an email interview, “While we curate locally, we also make sure we share best practice from country to country, and use our collective learnings to their fullest. We also frequently talk about what is importing and exporting. But most of all, we want to give the Indian fans what they want to hear — and we need local music and culture experts to get that right.”

So far, Spotify’s RADAR artist platform and more recently, the Singles program are gaining significant hype from independent musicians across the country. A chance for a global push to 356 million users on Spotify – plus those billboards in Times Square in New York City – is certainly a big incentive for Indian artists who feel more seen than ever before with their music. In June, the Singles series launched in India with DJ Snake taking on Tamil pop hit “Enjoy Enjaami,” originally made by Dhee, Arivu and Santhosh Narayanan. “The focus for this program, like many others at Spotify, is on diversity and impact,” Erlich says.

In this interview with Rolling Stone India, Erlich also touches upon how streaming had increased responsibilities during the pandemic, trends in the music world and the streaming numbers which artists often chase. Excerpts:

The pandemic didn’t stop Spotify from launching new programs and innovations, both in India and globally. What were the sort of things you had to be mindful of during this period?

Jeremy Erlich: Being a digital platform gave us the opportunity to still connect fans and artists in as many ways as possible — that didn’t change for us. It actually gave us an added responsibility given so many other parts of the music industry were shut. We did however see changes in the way  fans engage with content. Habits shifted – from anything to creating more playlists and listening to content specific to at-home moments, or listening to Spotify via their gaming consoles or TV. We also saw artists being more vulnerable and leaning into innovative ways to engage their fans and we wanted to help foster that ingenuity. We created digital series, we launched global programs like RADAR, and we expanded some of our tools to further support the artist community.

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RADAR has been in action for a year and more now. Artists are certainly happy but the clamor among other musicians to be considered for it is undoubtedly high. What would you say to artists who want to be recognized via this program? Do you feel like they could anyway gain similarly wider listenership on Spotify even without being on RADAR?

Spotify has 356 million users globally, we are the biggest music streaming service – that alone gives emerging artists the visibility they may not get anywhere else. RADAR is a great program and we are proud of how well it has been received but that is just one of many ways in which artists can be recognized on the platform. As mentioned on RADAR Rhapsody, we recently expanded our Fresh Finds playlist to additional markets, including India, we have our playlist pitching tool, which allows artists to have their music seen and heard by over 100 editors across the globe, we have our editorial team who eat, sleep and breathe music every day. We pride ourselves on giving artists multiple ways to be connected with their fans and have their music showcased.

A lot of artists assume that the top of the charts are only going to be dominated by labels. With all the maneuvering that labels do anyway, what would you say to artists who think this?

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I think what we have seen for the last few years is that a variety of artists are finding success – whether you are with a major label or not. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to making a hit that resonates with fans. Also, success means many things to different people – for some it may be finding yourself on the top charts globally, for others it’s gaining popularity in your market or region. And Spotify will be there along the way in the artists’ journeys.

What kind of micro-trends have really been catching your eye right now in terms of India as well as the world?

I wouldn’t call it a micro trend, but a trend that has been dominating the music culture is the globalization of local music and artists. You see artists like Bad Bunny or J Balvin, BLACKPINK or BTS who are making songs that are in their native tongue and they are some of the biggest artists in the world. I want to see that continue – I want to see Indian music breakthrough on the global stage soon. The collaboration between Dhee and DJ Snake is just the beginning of that!

Digital dependency and being transfixed on metrics/streaming numbers is a very real occurrence in the music world right now. A lot of artists introduce themselves just by those numbers. Do you feel that’s healthy?

Any over-reliance on metrics isn’t healthy. Metrics are just snapshots at a given point in time — and while they can help you contextualize and plan — they should never be used to say whether someone ‘made it’ or not… even less with art which should not only be measured by commercial success. Going back to my earlier point, how success is measured is dependent on each individual artist. We want to be able to give artists the opportunity to live off their art and fans the opportunity to be inspired by it.

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