Turns out exclusives might be important to Spotify after all.
On Monday afternoon, HITS Daily Double broke the news that Troy Carter, the influential artist manager and tech investor who helped guide artists including Lady Gaga, John Legend and Meghan Trainor to stardom, had been named global head of creator services for the streaming music company.
“After 15 years of talent management, I’ve decided that it’s time to explore new roads,” Carter wrote in a Facebook post Monday. “I’m a firm believer that Spotify is the future for music. In my new role as Global Head of Creator Services, my job is just a natural continuation of what I’ve always done — protect the voice of artists.”
From his new perch, Carter will have a mandate to scoop up high-profile artists and music releases just as the arms race for exclusives is heating up among streaming services. The hire marks a sharp departure for Spotify, which as recently as April was calling long-term exclusives “bad for artists, bad for fans” through its global mouthpiece, Jonathan Prince.
It’s likely made that turn because of how aggressive and ambitious Spotify’s rivals have become in their attempts to turn high-profile releases into branded multimedia events. In the past year, Apple Music has footed the bill for a Taylor Swift concert film and an Internet-crushing music video for Drake; Tidal has put together an entire documentary series designed to promote the release of Nick Jonas’ new album, “Last Year Was Complicated.”
Spotify, which is closing in on 100 million monthly active listeners, has more users than Apple Music and Tidal combined. But it’s recently been frozen out of several high-profile releases, and is probably hoping to reverse that trend by positioning itself as a service that can help artists turn their album launches into outsized, video-swollen events sponsored by advertisers.
It will be Carter’s job to make that happen, and he was a good choice for the job. For more than a decade, he has been one of the most influential artist managers in music, and he has a track record of securing enormous brand partnerships for his clients: He got Kia to make a lavish investment in Lady Gaga that helped promote the “Applause,” and just last year he secured an eight-figure check from Skechers to help promote Meghan Trainor’s platinum-selling single “No.”
Those brand relationships will be good for Spotify, too, as it seeks to grow the revenue it earns outside of its users’ subscription fees. While the company’s revenues are still growing quickly, surpassing $2 billion in 2015, it also remains in the red because of its enormous licensing fees.
Of course, the brands won’t come without the artists or releases, so Carter’s primary job will be to convince top artists that Spotify should be part of their next album rollout. Which artists he might go after first is anyone’s guess, but a former client like Lady Gaga might be a safe bet. Gaga has intimated that she will release an album this year, once she finishes conceptualizing and plotting out her new look. And even though her last two albums failed to deliver the mammoth success of “The Fame,” brands will be salivating to work with her.
While the fight for exclusives has become one of the bloodiest battlefronts in the streaming music war, the irony is that most consumers don’t care much about them. Fewer than 10 percent of music listeners consider exclusive songs to be the main motivating factor in signing up for a music subscription, according to MusicWatch research.