As the way we get our entertainment changes, advertisers continue to find ways to target the audiences who are tuned in. Spotify, for example, is apparently not content with playing the occasional ad between songs on its free tier. The streaming service is now testing “sponsored” songs that labels pay to run on the platform.
After TechCrunch spotted a new “Sponsored Content” opt-out setting, Spotify confirmed that it’s testing “Sponsored Song” ads, which constitutes “a product test for labels to promote singles on the free tier.”
Sponsored Songs can be targeted at certain kinds of users, lest advertisers risk putting off a listener who is devoted to all things Transylvanian Synth Pop seeing the latest hit from the Polka Cousins Of Pulaski, WI (which is obviously a punk band).
If these songs do well, the ads could roll out officially, Spotify told TechCrunch, but only for users on the free tier.
While this may ring some “payola” bells — the illegal practice of record companies paying radio stations or DJs to put their musicians on the air — according to the Federal Communications Commission, you can pay a broadcaster — in this case, a streaming service — to play your song, as long as that sponsorship is disclosed on the air. As long as the listener knows it’s an ad instead of a song with no strings attached, it’s fine.
In this case, the songs are clearly labeled, and they’re not really being “played” by Spotify, as users still have to click on the song to play it.
Spotify’s hope is that once you’ve encountered some new tunes, you may feel inclined to save the song to your library, share it with others, or check out more music by that artist, and perhaps generate some revenue for them and their label.