Amid all the music industry speculation about whether podcast listening might in the future cannibalise not just streams of music, but royalties for it too, the assumptions were of a continuing single subscription covering both forms of content. But what if Spotify were to launch a standalone podcast subscription?
That’s a question the streaming service appears to be exploring, in a survey for some of its listeners. Variety exec Andrew Wallenstein tweeted screenshots of a survey he was prompted to fill out after opening Spotify’s app, focusing on a “podcast streaming service” with prices “for these stand-alone services only and that the price of the music streaming service is not included in these offers”.
One question sketched out a choice between a $2.99 or $4.99 a month podcasts subscription, while the next compared the $4.99 one with a $7.99 tier. Exclusive extra or extended episodes; early access to new episodes; and Spotify-inserted ads or not were some of the options being canvassed. The Verge followed up and got Spotify’s response: essentially that it’s just a survey.
With Spotify having regularly made the argument that podcast listeners on its platform are also more engaged with music, launching a separate podcasts subscription could ruffle some feathers. That said, podcast subscriptions have been tried by various companies before, and haven’t been wild successes, so even if Spotify were to launch one, it could flop.
One area where people are very willing to spend money in podcasts is on acquiring their producers, of course. There’s intense speculation about one of the biggest companies, Wondery, with Bloomberg reporting that Sony Music and Apple have held talks with the company about a potential acquisition, although Spotify reportedly balked at the $300m-$400m asking price.
Sony Music spending hundreds of millions on a podcast production company would certainly be fascinating. Partly because Wondery currently has a partnership with Universal Music Group – their first show, a New Jack Swing docu-series, recently debuted. Its last funding round also included Waverley Capital, the VC fund of former WMG boss Edgar Bronfman Jr. This, plus the sight of a major label possibly competing against Apple to acquire a podcasting company, is a sign of the industry times.