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January 20, 2014

Spotify Partnership with Topspin Gives Artists Access to Merchandising Channels

For those out there who have seen “Spaceballs” recently, the next bit of news will come as very little in the way of surprise. For those not familiar, one of the characters, a Yoda analogue that goes by the name of “Yogurt,” delivers a brief monologue about how merchandising is where “the real money from the movie is made.” Spotify, meanwhile, appears to have taken this to heart and brought in Topspin to help build a kind of merchandising platform from which Spotify artists can offer up a variety of goods to the music-listening public.

The service rolled out gradually, at last report, and actually started several weeks ago with around 200 different artists. But now, Spotify has opened the metaphorical floodgates and given any Spotify artist access. The merchandising offers available include a wide variety of products, ranging from assorted swag like posters and T-shirts to even larger matters like complete vinyl sets and other deluxe releases. The whole thing runs on the strength of Topspin's ArtistLink, allowing artists to use whatever particular store said artist would like. Better, reports out of Spotify suggest that neither it nor Topspin will be taking a cut of artist revenues from the sale of said goods to cover the costs of the service.

The service won't be available everywhere, at least not for a while. To start with, it's coming out in what Spotify refers to as “English-speaking countries” like the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. However, there are some other countries getting the service that aren't exactly long on English, including Denmark, Norway and Sweden, but for some reason not Finland. However, several other countries are slated to get access to the service “in the future.”

Reports from Spotify's director of artist services Mark Williamson suggest that the users are “responding to it (the service) really well”, though specifics are not as yet forthcoming. Early adopters, however, include the Beastie Boys, Bon Jovi, the Grateful Dead and Led Zeppelin, so it's a safe bet that, if names like these find the service palatable, most everyone else will as well. Indeed, Williamson offered a bit of extra note about future plans, saying “We want to optimize it, so we’ll be examining what’s working across all the artists – what kind of items are selling, from $10 t-shirts through to bundles: a digital download, a bit of vinyl and a t-shirt.”

A good way to approach this piece of news is to consider it alongside earlier reports that had Spotify basically opening up the floodgates as far as free streaming goes. Spotify is offering more to the listener in general; not only is it offering up more music, but it's also paving the way to offer up more merchandise related to those artists producing the music in question as well. That's an attractive package to offer not only the listener but also the artist, particularly the unsigned artist that doesn't have a record label's support and as such needs access to a greater style of marketing.

The question, of course, is will it be enough? With a lot of competition in the field, streaming music is getting to be a much bigger enterprise than some might expect. This means that distinguishing an offering is going to be very important, and though Spotify is clearly making moves in that direction, there's still going to be quite a fight to reach the top of the food chain.

Edited by Cassandra Tucker

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