Spotify Expands Services to Include Video, More

Just when all music streaming services started to look alike, Spotify has added a number of new features that you won’t find on any other music streaming service. The additions are radical new ideas including adding video not related to music and podcasts under the “Shows” category. Spotify is creating original video programming and music compositions for its Running feature that measures a runners cadence and plays music to that tempo. These new features along with reorganizing its music, are good reasons to click on “show me the new stuff” after updating the iPhone app when Spotify offers the opportunity to try out their "experimental" features.

After the update, mood playlists are called “Now” and have been expanded. Where there has been playlists catered to different activities, Now has seven times during the day from “Early Morning” to “Morning Commute” to “Late Evening” and “Bedtime.” Genres now include decades playlists including the relatively new “Best of 2010’s” back to a “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” playlist from the 50’s.

The big news is that Spotify is venturing beyond audio to stream video clips. Unlike other music streaming apps, these are not simply music videos and music related video clips, but a variety of popular videocasts and clips from TV. Robot Chicken from Comedy Central’s Adult Swim, talk show clips from Jimmy Kimmel Live, Conan, Late Show with Seth Meyers, and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, and clips from TWiT, and Nerdist, are some of the listed video content. ABC, ESPN, Fusion, Maker Studios, NBCUniversal, TBS, Vice News are some of the other partnerships that will provide videos. Videos are limited at the initial launch as I couldn’t find the latter shows announced in Spotify’s blog. The new “Shows” menu also lists a variety of “Audio Shows” (podcasts)—from Science Friday’s Podcast to Life of the Law, Awesome Etiquetteand Home Theater Geeks (also available in video).

Spotify’s streaming music service is following the lead of video services with original programming. Spotify Originals include both original video content and original music. While the Originals videos aren’t music videos per se, they are music-related. Included in the list of Originals are Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls, Dance Move of the Day and Turntable that pairs chefs and musicians together in what is described as “an intimate performance and meal.” Landmark is an aural history of the “greatest” albums as told by the legends who created them. Spotify indicated in their blog that more shows will be available in the future.

Running Originals are Spotify’s own music that works with its new running feature. Spotify Running is much more than just another workout playlist. The app has been modified to use the phone’s accelerometer to detect your steps (cadence), and your pace. Whether you are sprinting at 200 steps per minute or jogging at 140 steps/minute, Spotify Running will play music to match the tempo. The tempo is always displayed during your run which allows you to manual change the tempo to speed up the music tempo to inspire you to run faster to keep pace, or slow down.

Other streaming services have created playlists for different running cadences to help runners keep the pace. That’s good if you know your pace and don’t mind listening to the same music every day. Spotify Running music is chosen based on our listening history, which is added to multiple-genre playlists. Runners can also choose from different genres of Original Running music created by Spotify. The Running originals will simply speed up or slow down the music to adjust for your chosen (or measured) steps per minute. Later this year, Spotify Running will be accessible via the Nike + and Runkeeper apps.

While not part of the announcement, I’ve noticed a couple of useful features that quietly appeared recently. One feature allows one device to detect another that is already playing Spotify. A message appears on the second device asking if you want to continue playing on the first device or control from the second device. When I’m playing from my iPhone and open Spotify on my iPad, I can continue to play Spotify music on my iPhone or switch to listen on my iPad. It works cross platform (Android to iOS) but appears to only work mobile to mobile as it does not detect music played on a Roku box or other TV streaming device. The other feature will play a sampling of the music when you lightly touch a playlist, album, or song. Running your finger down a list of songs will give you a taste of the whole queue.

When I switched to the new features, I noticed that “Radio Stations” have disappeared. We’ll have to see if this is part of the experiment or if it was intentional. Overall, the features could be enough to attract new listeners to Spotify and are certainly worth the experimentation.