SXSW with Alex Cole
Published on March 16, 2014
Between conference calls and sprinting to catch Snoop Dogg's surprise performance at the #spotifyhouse during South by Southwest (SXSW; in conversation, "South by"), our friend (and brother of our resident Stylist, Juliana) Alex Cole, US Marketing Manager for Spotify, took a few minutes to share his love of music, insight into the Spotify brand, and his SXSW experience with us. What's your position at Spotify? My official title is U.S. Marketing Manager -- Consumer Marketing Manager to be more precise. The team I work on is responsible for creating awareness for the brand as well as educating consumers on what Spotify is – a streaming music service that allows you to discover and play your favorite music for FREE just about anywhere, be it on your computer, smartphone or tablet. We set out to accomplish this “mission” in a number of different ways including, but not limited to, advertising, partnerships and event activations such as the Spotify House at South by Southwest. How did Spotify come to be and what is its purpose? Spotify originally launched in Sweden, plus a handful of other European countries, back in 2008 as a free, legal alternative to the rampant piracy and illegal file sharing, which had so badly damaged the music industry (remember Napster?). Spotify’s mission is to combat piracy by making music more easily, and legally, available for everyone while simultaneously ensuring artists are being compensated in the process (an artist is paid every time their song is streamed on Spotify). As a point of reference, we’ve paid out over $500 million to rightsholders since launch. We made our debut in the United States in the summer of 2011 and have been growing ever since. At present, Spotify can be found in over 50 countries worldwide and boasts a music catalog well over 20 million songs. Shear volume aside, the breadth of our catalog is astounding. Along with the top 40 and your favorite indie artists -- not to mention classics such as Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin, the latter of which joined Spotify in December -- we have an incredible collection of comedy content as well as Latin, Country and children’s music. We hear people talk about how they love a relatively obscure genre of music yet found a treasure trove of it on Spotify (Gregorian chants anyone?). We love that! If it's free, why would one pay for a premium subscription? To set the stage, Spotify offers two “tiers” of service – free and Premium. With free, users can enjoy on demand, instant music on their computer or tablet and “shuffle” play on mobile – all made possible by ads. With Premium, users pay about $10 a month to enjoy ad-free listening on their computer, tablet, mobile device and home entertainment system plus the added benefit of offline mode. Offline mode enables you to download songs onto your device in the instance you don't have Wi-Fi access or cell coverage with which to stream the music. Bringing us to South by Southwest - Spotify is the perfect confluence of music, technology, and business. What is your position or posture relative to SXSW? What do you hope to accomplish there? From a brand standpoint, we work in a number of different ways to foster a deeper connection with our consumers with festival activations, and specifically SXSW, being a great way to help accomplish this objective. At SX, we invite consumers to take part in the unique experience that is the Spotify House where we have exciting new artists playing throughout the day plus a few surprises thrown in for good measure (Snoop being just one). We also have interactive stations set up where consumers can compete in music trivia, have their photo taken in our album collage photo booth (it has to be seen to be believed) and much, much more. At the end of the day it's about living the brand in a very authentic way. SX, as some would attest, is an explosion of humanity, music and incredible thinking, but it's also a lot of noise with so many brands angling for position. So the question arises of how to stand apart- and I think we’re successful in our approach by being true to the Spotify brand. What are some of the must-see bands to see while you're in Austin? Well - this is going to be difficult for me to speak to because I'm leaving tomorrow. Warpaint, who recently dropped a new album – is performing tomorrow evening at our house and I would have loved to see them. I don't know if you're familiar with the group Jungle, out of the UK. They have a really smooth sound layered over some seriously slick beats. I got here a little early yesterday to see them. My favorite track of theirs is "Platoon." There's another emerging artist out of the UK - Jetta. She performed a few days ago. She just belts it with that amazing voice of hers. A few of my other favorites from SX include Future Islands, Vance Joy, and Phantogram. What's the best part about the Spotify House experience at SXSW? The House is a perfect representation of Spotify. You have discovery combined with socialization, built on a foundation of technology and fueled by music all resulting in a memorable consumer experience. This is our third year in Austin and, based on turnout alone, I’d like to think we’re our way to becoming a much sought after destination at the festival. Don’t be a stranger. Come on by next year. ---------- We hung up minutes before Spotify dropped this hint on Instagram for that evening's surprise artist. Of course, we were all a little bummed we were missing a live Snoop Dogg performance. We're huge fans of Spotify at the office - using it for all of our playlists on the blog, in-store, and in the office. It was great catching up with Alex and learning more about how Spotify is truly connecting with their users through experiences like their #spotifyhouse at SXSW. ---------- Photos: Alex Cole and Spotify Instagram.