Many of us would assume that for a digital music platform with over 70 million paying subscribers worldwide, huge mistakes regarding user experience (UX) don’t happen. Spotify just proved that assumption wrong by committing the biggest UX blunder since the recent Snapchat redesign debacle with their over-promotion of the new Drake album “Scorpion”.
Considering Drake’s monthly listener count, I’d be surprised if most Spotify users don’t display some interest in his music. I’m personally guilty of tossing plenty of Drake into my party playlists for this very reason. He’s consistently at the top of the streaming charts and has solidified himself in recent years as a cross-genre artist that appeals to a wide spectrum of listeners, especially those that use streaming services as their music consumption method of choice.
So why wouldn’t marketing’s decision to blast every Spotify user with Drake content be an amazing idea? Users would surely want to know “Scorpion” dropped if they haven’t heard about it yet, and they’d certainly appreciate not having to go search for it if they knew it did. Additionally, listening to one Drake album usually turns into a walk down 6-God memory lane, so displaying some memorable Drake hits via curated playlists would be of great service, would it not? Hindsight is 20-20 of course, but Spotify could’ve used a healthy dose of UX foresight before committing to the strategy. Here’s a screenshot on the day of Scorpion’s release:
“Browse” is the landing page for the Spotify web application, so it’s the first page users see when they open it on their laptop or desktop. The mobile app has a different interface but a similar layout for the “Home” page. These pages are designed to encourage browsing of content, so their purpose is to help users discover new or meaningful music they’re likely to enjoy based on personal listening history. It’s a tried-and-true strategy for platforms that utilize user behavior to recommend suggestions (think Pinterest’s “Explore” or Snapchat’s “Discover”). Heavy promotion of Scorpion in this case was based on the assumption that all users will buy into the popularity. Assumptions like these are commonly proven wrong in the world of UX, and the result of Spotify’s decision was that many users felt this trusted area of curation felt hijacked.
As a result, the Twitter-verse blew up and it quickly became obvious that Spotify had allowed the Scorpion promotion to sting the user experience:
Spotify: hey, we make playlists catered to your unique tastes.
Spotify user: listens to 18 hours of Mongolian throat singing, Icelandic drumming bands and a peruvian death metal band.
Spotify: pls listen to drake
— Spochadóir. (@creamygoodness_) July 1, 2018
Spotify: YOU WILL LISTEN TO DRAKE AND YOU WILL LIKE IT.
Me: But I want to….
Spotify: DRAKE. pic.twitter.com/xdxcej6bB5
— Dani Deahl (@danideahl) June 29, 2018
I did not sign up to Spotify to have Drake shoved in my face. Okay thanks bye. pic.twitter.com/7eRIfSH6k3
— Miss Ott Lepland (@OttLepland) June 29, 2018
Me: I'm looking for some good music..
Spotify: How about Drake?
Me: Eh.. Kinda in the mood for something else..
Spotify: Ok, so Drake?
Me: No, listen I just..
Spotify: DRRRAAAKKKEEEEE pic.twitter.com/N4T7eqCwFA
— tanner 🧢 (@tanncap) June 29, 2018
@Spotify I pay for premium which is presented as ad free… yet I’m getting blown up w Drake ads. I want a refund.
— Robert Baldwin (@the_realbobbyb) July 2, 2018
It goes without saying that this isn’t the reaction a company that depends on happy users paying monthly subscription fees wants. Speaking of subscription fees, according to NileFM Radio: “Some users claimed they contacted Spotify’s customer service, and were able to get a refund or at least a month worth of credit, while others were denied both.”
Still a young company in terms of their existence on the public market, the tough lesson Spotify learned is that marketing teams need to align themselves with a successful UX strategy. This means a consistent flow of communication back and forth with plenty of strategy review meetings. This alignment based relationship preserves the high-quality user experience the success of a product is built on. Users may never be aware of this alignment effort, but they’ll continue to enjoy using the product without complaints that go viral on Twitter, without lowered App Store/Play Store ratings, and without emails to customer service demanding refunds.
We’d love to hear from you if you’re curious about how to build a successful UX process or how to align your marketing teams around a successful UX strategy. Contact the CRi Solutions team today and schedule a consultation by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org or by clicking the green contact bubble in the lower right of your screen.
I joined CRi as a User Experience Designer in 2016. Originally a pre-med student in college, I found myself fascinated by the human mind. After completing an internship in behavioral neuroscience I began a focus on human-computer interaction. As a UX professional I’m continually fascinated by the impact of great products on human mood and behavior.