Warner Music Group, Spotify Ink ‘Innovative Podcast Development Deal’

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Warner Music Group and Spotify are set to develop podcasts together. Photo Credit: Sara Kurfeß

Warner Music Group (WMG) and Spotify have agreed to an “innovative podcast development deal” that will see them jointly create “a series of original podcasts built around WMG’s vast and diverse artists’ and songwriters’ catalogs.”

Manhattan-headquartered Warner Music Group and Stockholm-based Spotify detailed their podcast-focused development deal in a formal release this morning. The leading music streaming service has quietly expanded its podcast library to north of two million programs, including The Joe Rogan Experience, and WMG will add to the total by telling “the stories behind some of the biggest hit songs” as well as providing “an inside look” at the work of leading creators.

However, the concise announcement message doesn’t specify how many podcasts the contract encompasses, which artists/songwriters the shows will center on, or when the programs will debut. But the podcast-development union arrives about eight months after WMG CEO Stephen Cooper specified that his company was “very happy that Spotify is investing in podcasting.”

“It gives them an opportunity to create another vertical that they can create not only an ad-free service around, but presumably, over time, a premium service,” continued the 74-year-old, who received nearly 190,000 shares of Warner Music’s surging stock at 2021’s start, according to SEC filings. “I believe personally that there will be people that come to Spotify for a podcast and stay for music, and that there will be people that come to Spotify for music and stay for a podcast.”

Cooper indicated during the same conference call that “the economics of podcasting remain pretty opaque.” In spite of the potentially underwhelming revenue associated with the format, though, professionals are beginning to capitalize upon podcasting to promote other (more expensive and lucrative) forms of entertainment.

Besides WMG and Spotify’s artist-focused pact, of course, Apple revealed earlier this month that it had debuted The Line, a podcast about Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, ahead of a planned fall release for a documentary of the same name. As Apple and Amazon reportedly spent $25 million apiece on Billie Eilish and Rihanna documentaries, respectively, it appears that comparatively inexpensive podcasts could pay off in part by drumming up interest in larger projects and artists themselves.

Spotify’s expansion into non-music audio entertainment isn’t showing any signs of slowing down, as the entity bought Clubhouse competitor Locker Room towards March’s end and signaled that it would eventually begin hosting on-platform debates, discussions, and more. And about one week ago, the company’s recently acquired podcasting divisions officially unionized.

Warner Music Group – which was trading for $37.42 per share at the time of this piece’s writing – acquired a minority stake in Rotana Music, “the Arab world’s leading independent record label,” in February. This investment was followed late last month by a new licensing deal with Tencent Music as well as the purchase of Moscow’s Zhara Music, which the Big Three label promptly turned into “Atlantic Records Russia.”