The disparity in subscriber numbers between streaming services Spotify and Deezer, could possibly be explained by the difference in execution of their marketing strategy and tactics. For years both companies have marketed their brand all over the world in an effort to gain more listeners. The author has analysed all marketing efforts from both companies that he has experienced, both physical and digital, and has compared the differences between both companies. The conclusion was that Spotify has much stronger branding, production, and effectiveness of their owned and paid media. Deezer still has a lot of potential, as it is clear they are not utilising their owned media to the fullest.
Let’s start streaming
When the Swedish company Spotify was founded in 2006 (Crunchbase, n.d.), the music industry was in a very different place than it is today; Revenue had been declining since piracy had hit the scene in 2001 (Routley, 2018) and the future seemed bleak. After the founding of Spotify, there were other players in the industry who recognized the future potential of streaming, such as the French Deezer, which was founded in 2007 (Phys Org, 2018), only a mere year after Spotify. When one contrasts the revenue levels of 2006 to those of 2020, see Figure 1, it can be concluded that streaming has led to an incredible return to growth in music industry revenue.
Figure 1: Visualizing 40 years of music industry sales
Note: Routley, 2018
Yet when one looks at both DSP’s (digital streaming platform) market share, see Figure 2, one can conclude that Spotify has triumphed over Deezer, at least up to 2019.
Figure 2: Share of music streaming subscribers worldwide in 2019, by company
Note: Statista, 2021 – Deezer is part of the ‘Other’ 14%
What factors influenced this market division can be wide-ranging, but from a music marketing perspective, it is crucial to analyse both companies’ marketing strategies and tactics. It is important to keep in mind that Deezer has about 7 million paying subscribers (Musically, 2020), as opposed to Spotify’s 158 million (Spotify, n.d). This disparity in paying users will also be reflected in marketing budgets, and thus marketing tactics.
The author will mainly draw from his own Euro-centric experiences, which can differ from any USA-centric readers’ experiences. The author has noticed that in The Netherlands Spotify has had a strong physical advertisement presence, since about a year ago, see Figures 3 and 4. On social media, however, it becomes clear that this strategy is employed by Spotify worldwide, see Figures 5 and 6.
|Figure 3Note: 45ACIDBABIES, n.d.||Figure 4Note: Romeijn, n.d.|
|Figure 5Note: Bridgers, n.d.||Figure 6Note: 45ACIDBABIES, n.d.|
The physical branding works both digitally and physically since many people on the street and in real life are exposed to the marketing campaigns in addition to the digital outings. However, by often choosing to highlight ‘less known’ musicians, these musicians will relish sharing this milestone in their career. Public opinion has perhaps shifted from billboard adverts equaling selling out to having made it as a musician. In this way, the author has been exposed to advertisements from Rotterdam, Amsterdam, New York, London, and even more, without having been to those places.
Besides these general advertisements, there have also been several campaigns Spotify engaged in with ‘quirky’ datasets they have collected from their user base (More About Advertising, 2017). See the following figure:
Note: More About Advertising, 2017
Contrasted to that is the French Deezer, who has a market share in The Netherlands of about 2% in 2019 (RTL Nieuws, 2019), but has not engaged in any widespread marketing campaigns in said territory. The only physical marketing the author can recall seeing for the said company was the inclusion of Deezer branded socks in the goody bag that every conference delegate at music conference Eurosonic-Noorderslag received, see Figure 8.
Note: Author’s own socks
It seems like a minimal marketing tactic, but the author recalls when he got them, and he still has them, so for an awareness campaign it worked well. However, online sources indicate that Deezer has indeed engaged in multiple advertisements campaigns, including poster campaigns, see Figure 10, and a mass TV campaign in the UK, of which they were the first DSP to do so (Sweney, 2015).
Note: Base Design, n.d.
In addition to their physical advertising efforts, both companies also have digital campaigns and owned media, which can be compared.
Spotify has a well-known end of the year campaign, called ‘Spotify Wrapped,’ in which users get a yearly summary of their listening habits, which is highly customized, condensed into a highly shareable graphic, that users can instantly share to social media apps from within the Spotify app (Perez, 2020), see Figure 11. Additionally, they have now also created a campaign called ‘Only You,’ which provides users with unique insights into their listening habits that have been customized for each listener, such as musical pairings, zodiac playlists, and more, which again is highly shareable (Spotify, 2021).
Note: Perez, 2020
Note: Spotify, 2021
Deezer has opted for a more artist-oriented approach. They have launched several artist development campaigns, all under the name Deezer Next, including alumni such as Lewis Capaldi, Jorja Smith, and more (Deezer, 2020) and their Dutch selection for 2020’s program, Aslaug, had been seen by the author on social media, see Figure 13.
Note: Facebook, 2020
Surely, these artists would (digitally) share the Deezer brand a lot throughout the development campaign, resulting in awareness amongst the artists’ fanbases of Deezer, while simultaneously growing those fanbases in collaboration with Deezer.
For this case study both of the companies’ Instagram profiles have also been compared. See Figures 15 and 16 below.
Note: Deezer, n.d.
Note: Spotify, n.d.
The difference in followers could be explained due to the difference in subscriber counts, however, once we dive deeper into the actual content it seems Spotify’s content is a lot stronger and better branded. A good example is their reels. Every reel Spotify posts has a high production value, is subtitled, intermingled with playful emojis, and the captions contextualize the reel or ask its audience a question. Additionally, they also tag every relevant artist in the reel or in the copy, see figure 17.
Note: Spotify, n.d.
Deezer also posted reels, and the difference with Spotify’s reels is contrasting. The production quality is low (cellphone videos), and some of the videos are not branded, subtitled, or edited in any way. The copy also does not contextualize the reel, and they do not tag artists in any way. This difference in approach is reflected in the much lower engagement Deezer reels seem to have relative to the Spotify reels, see figure 18.
Note: Deezer, n.d.
Based on Spotify’s images, headlines, word choices, tone of voice, and overall feel of their advertisements, the author would suggest their campaigns are marketed towards music lovers, since most of their social content and advertisements revolve around established artists in some sense, estimated being between the ages of 14-34. There are a lot of emojis present in the owned media, which are popular with 14-24 year olds (Tode, 2017), and the short-form videos are very popular with the age group between 13-34 (Consumer Technology Association, 2017). Besides that, the author, belonging to Spotify’s target audience, appreciates the fresh, contemporary look of all the advertisements.
Deezer’s owned media also revolves around artists, and the choice for short-form video of course establishes the age group between 13-34 as well. However, there is a lot less ‘playfulness’ in their brand outings. Besides that, there is no consistent branding present for Deezer, and it seems currently they are simply reposting any content the artists’ marketing companies tell them to post. Deezer will occasionally post a question to their followers, however, there is no engagement, see Figure 19.
Note: Deezer, n.d.
Based on all the previous evidence, the advertisements the author has experienced, and by comparing both Instagram profiles, the author suggests that both companies have the same goal; Repeated exposure, in an effort to gain awareness and possible acquisition (which in this context could mean either a new streaming platform user or social media follower). It is apparent that Spotify’s efforts are generating more social media engagement, and thus awareness, than Deezer’s marketing efforts.
The author did not feel that any exposure to any of the advertisements had any active acquisition components to them (besides the option to follow them on their owned media), they were all focused on awareness. It seems both companies are executing a repeated exposure campaign, by which consumers will view the brand more favourably after having been exposed to it more often, however fleetingly (Koss, 2021).
The author’s sole suggestion to build towards this goal would be to increase the frequency and/or the quality of the creative content. Content that engages with people, such as the ‘quirky facts’ campaign, or is highly customized, such as the ‘Wrapped’ and ‘Only You’ campaigns, drive higher engagement and thus higher awareness. Since Spotify has solid creative content, the suggestion for them would be to upscale and expand the campaigns, whereas, for Deezer, the author’s suggestion would be to improve the quality of their creative content.
Brand exposure and awareness can be achieved through repeated exposure, however, what sets Spotify’s ‘Wrapped’ and ‘Only You’ campaigns aside from this mass marketing is the highly personalized format of both of these campaigns. Since they are highly shareable, they instantly transform Spotify’s entire user base, as of writing more than 356 million users (Spotify, n.d.), into potential brand ambassadors. This could potentially create a feeling of wanting to belong, for any consumers who do not have access to these campaigns, which could be a trigger for a potential monetization or acquisition, meaning signing up for the service. Due to the nature of the campaigns and the fact that they use existing users’ music taste data, the campaigns are always aligned with users’ tastes and interests.
The author suggests that the Spotify campaigns have been highly successful. He has been repeatedly exposed to their billboards, social posts about the billboards, Spotify’s ‘Wrapped’ and ‘Only You’ campaigns. The author has even posted about his own ‘Wrapped’ in the past. Besides that, all of Spotify’s owned social media content is of high quality and produced specifically for the format it is posted in.
Deezer seems to be underperforming with their available assets. Besides the socks the author had received, the only campaign worth remembering was their Deezer Next program. However, the author was familiar with this program due to his background in artist management, as a consumer, he has not engaged with any of the Deezer Next outings until this case study. The author has doubts as to the strength of Deezer’s marketing strategy campaign and execution.
If the major disparity between subscribers at the beginning of the case study had not been a solid indication of the difference in marketing approach and execution, this analysis has provided a suggestion as to why the disparity exists. Spotify has a much stronger marketing execution, resulting in higher acquisition rates and more social media engagement, while evidence could suggest that Deezer is engaging with Instagram because the competition is doing so, rather than seeking to acquire new listeners by taking advantage of all Instagram’s tools, especially since the target audience is already present on the platform. The outcome is a much smaller market share for Deezer. The author believes that Deezer could have leveraged their ‘underdog’ position much more effectively, with more playful and engaging content. The music industry did indeed benefit off of the streaming industry, but it seems Deezer might have had little to do with that after all.
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