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Spotify's Chief Content Officer: playlist searching 'could use a lot of improvement'

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Spotify's Chief Content Officer Ken Parks stopped by Berklee College of Music's Rethink Music conference today to answer questions from an audience full of music professionals and students

Spotify CCO Ken Parks
Spotify CCO Ken Parks

Spotify's Chief Content Officer Ken Parks stopped off in Boston today for a quick appearance at the Berklee College of Music's Rethink Music conference to answer questions from an audience full of music professionals and students. We had the opportunity to ask Parks if Spotify plans to improve search-ability of its playlist system, noting that Spotify's search capabilities are rather limited in terms of letting users find playlists created by users who aren't directly in your social circle. Parks responded definitively: "the short answer is yes, and I agree that is something that could use a lot of improvement." While he didn't say when we might see these improvements, it seems that Spotify definitely recognizes this need, as Parks reiterated "we plan to make that much better, it has to be."

"We plan to make [playlist searching] much better, it has to be."

One major focus throughout the first day of Rethink Music has been how those working in the music business can best take advantage of the new music technology quickly unfolding before them, and the discussion with Parks definitely reflected that theme. Several questions focused on what Spotify can do to increase revenue and opportunities for musicians, but Parks was somewhat evasive on the issue. He said that Spotify was "trying to grow as fast as [it] can" to become "a global business" and noted that what the music industry needs to match its former glory is "to increase the number of people using legitimate services" - after all, the bigger Spotify gets, the more money it'll be paying out to artists.

"We're bringing a lot of new money into the ecosystem."

The interview's moderator pressed on, noting that one of the biggest issues with Spotify is that artists aren't all that happy with the Spotify streaming income they receive from the record labels. Parks passed the buck on this issue a bit, noting that Spotify doesn't have "access to to those royalty statements" to know how artists are getting compensated, and revealed that it can take six months to a year for royalties to start being paid out to artists. He did mention that Spotify has "paid over a quarter of a billion dollars back to the rights holders since inception," and noted that income is "incremental" revenue on top of what artists were already making. Parks defended Spotify by saying that "we're bringing a lot of new money back into the ecosystem, and the lion's share of that is getting shared back with those who create or contribute to the creation of music." And with Spotify hoping to scale to a "Netflix-like subscriber base, which should happen in the not-too-distant future" there will be more revenue to go around; Parks is hoping that artists will "make as much as they make, probably, on a popular download service."

Without more concrete answers on how Spotify plans to increase revenue for musicians, an audience member asked how the company plans to "blow this thing out" to reach the ubiquity necessary to drive major revenue. Park noted that Spotify is still in the early days, with lots of people still needing to be introduced to the concept of services like it, to see that there's this relatively new way of consuming music. To reach that new audience and see more growth, Spotify will need to "grow virally." The company's counting on its partnership with Facebook to make that happen — Parks said that to grow, "create a really great integration with a social network that's going on a billion people in it." While it may not be ideal for a company to be so tied to the fortunes of another service, Spotify could be in a worse position than relying on Facebook.