Spotify today announced that it has acquired The Echo Nest, a Boston-based music intelligence company, for an undisclosed sum.
The Echo Nest’s technologies act as the foundation upon which many other music services have been built. Its APIs have been used to collect fan-written artist biographies for Yahoo; to create location-aware music databases for Nuance; and to power music recommendation tools for Rdio, iHeartRadio, and Spotify.
Those tools will remain available after the acquisition. “The Echo Nest API will remain free and open to support its robust developer ecosystem,” the company says. “The developer community is crucial to the success of both Spotify and The Echo Nest and will remain a priority for the combined companies.”
This acquisition will make Spotify even more important to the streaming music ecosystem. The company already uses its music catalog to convince developers to build apps for its platform — now it owns the services that have allowed many other companies to bolster their own music services.
Put another way: Spotify isn’t just appealing to music listeners by offering a streaming music service. It’s also trying to establish itself as the company to which every other company turns to realize its own musical ambitions. Promoting its developer platform was the first step toward realizing this goal; acquiring The Echo Nest is the next.
Reactions from around the Web
The Echo Nest’s leadership team explains the reasoning behind the acquisition in a blog post:
We started this company nine years ago in a kitchen at the MIT Media Lab, our dissertation defenses looming. We never wanted to do anything but fix how people were discovering music. None of the technologies in those days were capable of understanding music at scale. We both were working on our separate approaches, that, when combined, could really do that. All the while, we were watching the world of music change around us. We knew some version of Spotify was to come, and that the real power was in that beautiful moment when you found a new band or song to love. Every decision we’ve made since then, including today’s announcement, was made from that vantage point of care and often insane passion.
TechCrunch notes that Spotify’s current commitment to offering The Echo Nest’s APIs to rival companies could easily flag:
As with any such acquisition, early statements about continued service availability and plans do not necessarily reflect future developments. Plans can change, and it’s not likely that other internet streaming music services will be thrilled about the idea of having platforms built in part around key tech pieces controlled by their immediate, and largest competitor
Pando weighs in
I wrote about The Echo Nest’s attempts to completely understand music and music culture in August:
[The Echo Nest CEO Jim Lucchese] refers to the dual aspects of The Echo Nest’s service as areas of the brain: One side seeks to understand the beats that make our hearts race, the other strives to learn more about the person banging the drum. Companies have been utilizing the first side for a while. Now, through the partnership with Yahoo Music, The Echo Nest might finally be able to demonstrate everything else it’s learned (and learning).
Lucchese explained the company’s attempts to remain as current as possible to me in September:
‘As new artists are constantly bubbling up and new collaborations are taking place, just having a canonical collection of the songs and artists and collections out there is something that we’re really maintaining. Then, on top of that, it really comes down to context and having an underlying understanding of music when someone is speaking into an application.’
Pando’s David Holmes explored Spotify’s royalties payments in December after artists complained about the service and concluded:
Because Spotify operates a “freemium” ad-supported service and has chosen to go international aggressively and early, its royalty model is necessarily byzantine. While that may be cold comfort to struggling artists looking to get paid, at least now they know how they’re getting screwed, who’s doing the screwing, and, perhaps, why.