Is Spotify’s ‘Discovery Mode’ Worth It? Why It’s Not Working Out for Artists, Listeners, or Anyone Who’s Not Spotify

Spotify discovery mode
  • Save

Spotify discovery mode
  • Save
Photo Credit: Spotify

Is Spotify’s ‘Discovery Mode’ worth it for artists? The short answer is probably not – here’s why.

Discovery Mode allows artists to benefit from algorithmic placement on the platform. But that benefit comes in exchange for accepting a lower royalty rate from those promotional streams. The idea brings into question the credibility of Spotify’s recommendation engine for a variety of reasons.

A recent TikTok video highlights why artists should be wary of participating in Spotify’s Discovery Mode.

“If you’re a Spotify user or ever release music on Spotify, then you need to know about Discovery Mode. Discovery Mode is theoretically a new marketing tool on Spotify. How it works, is an artist agrees to forfeit a percentage of their streaming income in exchange for Spotify algorithmically promoting that artists’ music to more users.”

“Superficially it sounds pretty straightforward, but in reality it’s creating a pay for play situation which can only lead to less money going to artists. Consider this, for artists unless you participate, you could lose out on listeners even when your music is aligned with their tastes. So naturally, most artists (if not all) will opt into the program. But if everyone starts paying to get their music promoted, who will the algorithm prioritize?”

“In a way, Spotify is essentially repackaging what they already do and selling it back to artists as a marketing tool, which is really just a way of reducing their royalties. And for listeners? Your algorithm is going to be all messed up. Spotify is going to be sending you the tracks that are the cheapest to promote.”

Discovery Mode has attracted concern from the US Congress, too. The US House Judiciary Committee asked Daniel Ek what safeguards are in place to ensure the tool isn’t the beginning of a race to the bottom “where the only practical way to get recommended is to accept a reduced royalty.”

Spotify data shows that artists with tracks in Discovery Mode find 40% more listeners on average. 44% of those new listeners had never listened to the artist before – so the recommendations are working. But as the video points out, if everyone is participating, it’s just a way for Spotify to reduce its royalty rates.


2 Responses

  1. Eek

    If nobody uses the service, then Spotify will kill it. Then the MBAs at Spotify will come up with another stupid thing.