clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Luminary gets into the exclusive album game

Plus, we’ve got a new writer starting soon

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

Hi, everyone. Before we get into the news today, I have a very exciting announcement to share.

Later this month, Ariel Shapiro will join Hot Pod as our new lead writer. Ariel pioneered the podcast beat at Forbes, where she created the publication’s first top earners list for podcasters, reported on big tech’s swift moves into the space, and broke news about massive audio industry deals. She could not be a better fit, and I’m thrilled to have her joining the team.

We have a formal announcement out in The Verge’s newsroom with more details, and… would you look at that, there’s even more news hidden in there: The Verge’s publisher, Helen Havlak, shares that we’ve got some exciting growth plans for Hot Pod this year, including “another hire, a refreshed look, and more in-person events.” I’ve been in conversations about all of these things over the past couple months, and I couldn’t be more excited about where this newsletter is headed next.

I can’t wait for you all to meet Ariel once she starts. One of my favorite parts of writing this newsletter has been getting to know everyone in the podcasting community, and that’s one thing we absolutely don’t want to change — so I expect lots of meetings and introductions in the weeks to come.

Alright, that’s it for newsletter news. Now onto the news news.


Luminary gets into music

Luminary isn’t just a subscription podcast service anymore. On Monday, the company announced it would be the exclusive home to No Fear of Time, the first album from Yasiin Bey and Talib Kweli’s Black Star in 24 years. The album comes out May 3rd.

Bey and Kweli had already been working with Luminary, so the pairing makes some amount of sense. Alongside Dave Chappelle, the two musicians are co-hosts of the Luminary exclusive podcast The Midnight Miracle. Luminary also announced last month that it was deepening ties with Chappelle and his production company and that the service would begin prioritizing content focused on “music, sports, and comedy.” Releasing an actual album is certainly one way of doing that.

This seems like a great perk for fans of The Midnight Miracle, and it’s the kind of high-profile release that could certainly get some new listeners to sign up. That said, I assume there’s a reason album exclusives have fallen out of favor, and my guess is Luminary is next to find out why.

Back in 2016, there was an arms race over which music streaming service could scoop up more high-profile albums — Apple Music got Drake, Tidal got Beyoncé, and Spotify just waited it all out — but the trend fell off a year later. Labels ultimately didn’t like that exclusivity hurt their streaming numbers, and streaming companies were paying a lot for the privilege, with the benefit being a gamble on potential signups.

I get it — differentiation is hard and expensive. Maybe Luminary’s focus on a specific market segment will help it succeed with music exclusives where others failed. Or maybe this is just a one-time experiment; I’m not aware of all that many other Luminary podcasters who are also acclaimed for their music and would be as much of a natural fit.

Luminary didn’t comment on the extent of its album exclusivity. In the past, the exclusivity was usually a streaming exclusivity and lasted two weeks.

Some extra data in Apple Podcasts

Apple updated its Podcasts Connect dashboard this week with some new data: details about a show’s follower count and how it’s changed over time. The dashboard can now show net new followers over various time periods — the last week, the last month, the last two months, and all time.

The charts also now show how listening time is broken down between followers and non-followers. From what I can tell, this feature actually existed in the podcast dashboard for a long time but, judging by the screenshots I’ve seen online, seems to have disappeared from the main page in recent years.

Seeing as followers are a pretty meaningful audience metric — and knowing how much those followers are actually engaging with your show is pretty meaningful to knowing how well your series is landing — this seems like a big addition in terms of data. Of course, there’s still all kinds of caveats about how the measurements work, particularly when it comes to download numbers. Apple spells all those out here.

Apple announced it was going to add this feature late last month when it also announced that podcasters would be able to add custom subscription banners and upload MP3s for subscriber-exclusive audio.

Guy Raz tries Amazon’s Clubhouse clone

Amazon has lined up Guy Raz as one of the celebrity hosts to draw users to its new live audio app, Amp. Raz’s live show, 5 With Guy, debuted on Sunday, and it has a handful of big guests lined up for the weeks to come, including Anthony Fantano, Sam Sanders, and Steve Albini. The show airs every other Sunday at 9PM PT.

The reason I bring this up is… this is the first I’ve heard about Amp since it was announced last month. And because the app isn’t available on Android right now, I wasn’t actually able to tune in to check this out. The app is also in a limited-access beta on iOS right now, so perhaps the limited reach makes sense. But the app has some growing to do. Data.ai pegs it at #242 on the iPhone “entertainment” chart in the App Store as of last week.

Apple TV, plus podcasts

Apple TV Plus is launching another podcast, no subscription required. This latest title, Run, Bambi, Run, is produced by Campside Media and hosted by Campside Media co-founder Vanessa Grigoriadis. The eight-part series tells the story of a police officer who “was dubiously convicted of killing her new husband’s ex-wife, before braving a daring escape as part of a years-long quest to clear her name,” Apple writes in a press release.

I continue to be fascinated by Apple’s podcast strategy. For the longest time, Apple’s only move seemed to be working on podcasts that served as companions to its TV series. But now, the company seems to be making podcasts for the sake of making podcasts… or at least trialing ideas before they hit TV. My question now is, when do they start getting adapted — or put behind a paywall?


That’s all for today. We’ll be off next Tuesday, but we have some special columns for Insiders this week while I’m out.