How Spotify Might Win The Streaming Music Wars

A redesign might have just eliminated the only advantage Spotify’s competitors had left.

Spotify, the popular music streaming service with more than 24 million active users, has been dominating the music landscape thanks to its great features, open API, and extensive library of songs. But it has never been pretty. A new redesign, though, has finally changed that, and it could be Spotify’s Little Boy, convincing competitors like Rdio, Beats, Rhapsody, and more to surrender, once and for all.


Spotify is already winning the music streaming wars. First started in Sweden in 2008, Spotify has slowly but surely overcome resistance from record companies, proving that a la carte music subscriptions could work. And slowly but surely, Spotify has been eating the lunch of competitors. Spotify’s recent purchase of music recommendation service The Echo Nest, which drives the engines of most of Spotify’s competitors, was a major coup. With more than 6 million subscribers and 24 million active users, Spotify hasn’t been dented by even high-profile entrants into the streaming market like Beats and Apple.

In fact, up until today, about the only advantage the competitors like Rdio had over Spotify was that Spotify’s app design, well, totally sucked. Seemingly borrowing all of its design cues from WinAmp circa 1999, Spotify’s desktop client looked like something Neo would have running on his computer while hacking before being lured into the Matrix. Even on mobile, Spotify was a mess: it took two years for Spotify to update its app to support the iPad.

In short, Spotify had two separate design problems. Its apps were not unified–they were designed piecemeal across multiple platforms–and its aesthetic seemed behind-the-times compared to more design-minded competitors like Rdio.

But that’s changing. Across all of its apps, Spotify has unveiled a new design that, in the company’s words, “paints it black.” In Spotify’s new look, the cyberpunk-style grays and greens that defined the old desktop interface have been replaced by a dark, almost “night mode” interface. This allows interface elements like typography, buttons, album art, and more to really pop. But these changes don’t just come to the desktop app: Spotify’s new look has been kept consistent across all platforms, including mobile and the web. Despite the fact that the new Spotify app is dark, it doesn’t come across as gothic; it looks slick and modern, like an Apple TV or Amazon’s newly announced Fire TV interface.

Along with the design, Spotify has announced a new feature that stems from the company’s Echo Nest deal: recommendations of music popular in your neighborhood. This might not seem like much, but stay tuned. When we spoke to the Echo Nest earlier this year, Director of Developer Platform Paul Lamere said that this recommendation technology would soon allow apps like Spotify to read your mind and predict the music you wanted to hear, even before you knew it yourself.

Will Spotify’s update eliminate the last advantage competitors, namely Rdio, had? Spotify’s app design almost looks like the Sith to Rdio’s Jedi: where Rdio is clean, content-focused, and light, Spotify’s new look is clean, content-focused, and dark. And sadly, we all know that the Sith ended up killing out the Jedi in the end.