Universal Music Artists Gain Ability to Tease Unreleased Music on Spotify

Universal Music Group announced on Thursday (March 28) that its artists will soon have the ability to tease unreleased music on Spotify.

Sharing snippets of unreleased songs on social media has been one of the most popular promotional methods for artists during the TikTok era (sometimes to the chagrin of songwriters). In many instances, artists haven’t even finished writing the song that they tease. But fan enthusiasm can make these scraps of music go viral anyway, especially on TikTok, sending artists scrambling to write another verse, record a full song, and release it as soon as possible — hopefully to a rapturous reception.

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The Universal Music Group announcement is notable because it comes as the company’s stand-off with TikTok nears the end of its second month. Official recordings of UMG acts are not currently available on the app. (Same goes for many, but not all, songs that feature contributions from UMPG songwriters.) While most UMG artists continue to use the app as a social tool to communicate with their followers, their ability to promote their music on TikTok is severely limited.

Teasing songs on Spotify represents a potential alternative for these acts. “We’re excited to broaden our relationship with Spotify through the introduction of new content offerings and collaborations that will bring deeper ‘social music’ experiences to the platform,” UMG chairman and CEO Lucian Grainge said in a statement.

Spotify founder and CEO Daniel Ek added that “the forthcoming features will put more power in the hands of artists and their teams to help them authentically express themselves, efficiently promote their work, and better monetize their art.”

UMG did not say when its artists would be able to start sharing pre-release snippets on the platform. It’s also not clear the extent to which Spotify users will actively hunt for pre-release music on the streaming service — many prefer more passive forms of engagement.

TikTok, in contrast, excels at engaging those who see fandom as a participatory sport — they want to comment on unreleased demos and make their own remixes. And for younger listeners especially, the app is often a popular source of music discovery.

Midia Research found that TikTok is the second biggest driver of music discovery for Gen Z after YouTube. U.S. TikTokers “are nearly twice as likely to discover music on short-form video platforms than the average user of social or social-form video platforms,” according to a Luminate study released in November.

Spotify is then where many of these listeners go and listen to full songs they found on TikTok. To make this process even more friction-less, TikTok launched a new feature last year that allows users to quickly save music they find on the platform to Spotify and other streaming services.

But Spotify executives have been eager to tout the streamer’s ability to drive discovery on its own. “There’s a disconnect between where music is being teased and where music is actually being streamed,” Sulinna Ong, Spotify’s global head of editorial, said at the company’s Stream On event in 2023. “The most powerful time to reach fans is when they’ve chosen to engage with music, like when they open up Spotify.”

At the same event, Spotify co-president Gustav Soderstrom said that “Spotify recommendations drive close to half of all user streams.” “Each time your music gets played on a playlist like Release Radar, you receive, on average, three times more streams from that listener over the next six months,” he added. “And when a listener decides to follow you, they listen to, on average, five times more of your music.” This recommendation system sets Spotify apart from platforms that deliver “just a fleeting moment of viral fame.”

UMG also announced on Thursday that its publishing arm inked a deal with Spotify so the platform can share music videos in the U.S. Spotify music videos launched in beta for premium users in 11 countries — but not in the U.S. — earlier in March. At the time, Charlie Hellman, Spotify’s vp and head of music product, called videos “an important part of so many artists’ tool kits.

“It’s a natural fit for them to live in the same place that more than half a billion people choose to listen to music,” Hellman added in a statement.

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