Spotify’s Billion-Dollar Gamble: Exploring the Pitfalls of Their Podcasting Venture

In the world of music streaming, Spotify has been a pioneer and market leader. However, despite its success, there are inherent flaws in its business model that have hindered its profitability. In this blog, we will explore why the streaming music industry is challenging and how Spotify’s attempts to improve its model through podcasting have fallen short.

The Evolution of Music Streaming:

Before Spotify, Apple’s iPod and iTunes revolutionized the music industry in 2001. The iTunes model replaced physical purchases with digital downloads, offering a personalized musical experience. However, it also led to an increase in illegal downloads. Spotify emerged as a savior for the music industry by introducing a subscription-based streaming service, allowing unlimited access to a vast library of songs. This convenience attracted users, and Spotify quickly gained popularity.

The Cost of Spotify’s Business Model:

While Spotify’s subscription fees generate substantial revenue, the company faces challenges in terms of profitability. Spotify pays artists a relatively low amount per stream, but the real issue lies in the dynamic nature of their content costs. Unlike Netflix, which pays a flat rate for content regardless of consumption, Spotify’s costs increase as users stream more music. This, coupled with various other expenses, including licensing, staffing, marketing, and legal costs, puts a strain on Spotify’s business model.

Differentiation and Content:

Unlike Netflix, Spotify struggles to differentiate its content. In 2023, all music will be available on all streaming platforms, making it challenging for Spotify to stand out. To address this issue, Spotify turned to podcasts as a new medium. They aimed to tap into the underdeveloped podcast advertising market and create exclusive content to attract users. With significant investments in podcast production companies and exclusive deals with high-profile personalities, Spotify became the largest podcast publisher in the US.

The Challenges Faced by Spotify’s Podcasting Venture:

While Spotify’s foray into podcasting initially showed promise, it has not been as profitable as expected. Despite attracting listeners and kickstarting an arms race in the podcasting industry, Spotify’s spending spree did not translate into significant user preference for their platform. Exclusive podcasts, such as “Archewell Audio” hosted by Meghan Markle, were discontinued, and high-profile deals, like the one with the Obamas, were lost to competitors. Spotify had to downsize its podcasting studios and shift focus to advertising and creator tools.

The Future of Spotify’s Podcasting Strategy:

Although Spotify’s podcasting venture has faced challenges, the company remains committed to the medium. They are transitioning from a content creator and owner to a platform that supports creators and provides advertising tools. By taking a cut of the revenue generated by creators, Spotify aims to grow its ad business and further mainstream podcasts. This approach may not directly attract more customers or differentiate Spotify from its competitors, but it addresses the rental problem and boosts listenership.


Spotify’s business model, despite its success in the music streaming industry, faces inherent challenges. The dynamic nature of content costs and the lack of differentiation have hindered profitability. While their podcasting venture did not yield the expected results, Spotify remains optimistic about the future of podcasts and aims to support creators through advertising and creator tools. By embracing a YouTube-like model, Spotify hopes to grow its ad business and further popularize podcasts.

In a world where information is readily available, spending time learning about the world around us, whether through music or podcasts, is a rewarding experience.

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