Workplace

How Spotify uses Spotify

The best playlists to listen to at work, and more insider Spotify tips.

Spotify app with headphones on

Spotify’s use of Spotify goes beyond the fun of “Wrapped” trivia and work playlists.

Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

Ever wondered how the companies behind your most-used tech use their own products? We’ve told you how Slack uses Slack, and how Twitter uses Twitter. We talked to Spotifiers about how they use Spotify, and crowdsourced some tips for maximizing your music-listening experience.

For a few days every December, our social media feeds erupt in Spotify Wrapped results. We gawk at each other’s top artists and genres, judging ourselves as much as we do each other. But Spotify employees can do more with “Wrapped” data than share their stats with friends. At Spotify, “Wrapped” season means "Family Feud"-style trivia, competing to see who can guess 2021’s most-streamed music among users and employees.

You might not consider Spotify a tool for the workplace, but Spotifiers use Spotify at work all the time. One obvious example: listening to music. They’ve nailed down the perfect work playlists for ultimate productivity. If you’re a coder, senior engineer Rich Soni recommends "Kid A" by Radiohead, Deltron 3030 and the playlist "Songs to Test Headphones With." Web engineer Sophia Ciocca recommends the "Orgánica" playlist for its “earthy beats.” Ziad Sultan, VP of Personalization, can’t do songs with lyrics at work. He goes for Spotify’s "Melodic & Euphoric" playlist.

Spotify’s use of Spotify goes beyond the fun of “Wrapped” trivia and work playlists, though. Employees regularly test out new features before they launch, build playlists for teams and even receive work communications through Spotify itself.

A special Spotify testing app

The easiest way to test your product is to let employees play with it internally. Spotify “dogfoods," just like any other tech company. The almost 7,000 employees can interact with new Spotify features through a special internal app. The app is a “nightly build,” updating with Spotify’s new programs every evening. Features like blending playlists with another user, enhancing playlists with song recommendations and Spotify Wrapped went through Spotifiers first. Spotify’s engineers can see how frequently their co-workers use certain features and judge whether that feature is worth rolling out to the masses.

“We learn qualitatively by asking people and surveys, but we also learn quantitatively because we can compare usage and run tests,” Sultan said.

This process is make or break for new Spotify programs. Sten Garmark, global head of Consumer Experience, said “most commonly if we don't use it ourselves on the inside, we're not going to launch it to the world.”

In line with the music giant’s focus on podcasting, it launched a “behind the product” podcast in 2021 hosted by Chief R&D Officer Gustav Söderström, called “Spotify: A Product Story.” The mini-series documents how Spotify came to be, from its roots trying to tackle music piracy in the early 2000s to its lofty plans for the “future of audio.” Söderström interviews early Spotify employees about Spotify scrambling to adapt as people started primarily listening to music on iPhones, and Spotify’s pivot to podcasts.

Podcasts, but just for Spotify employees

If you’re one of the biggest audio platforms in the world, using audio to communicate with employees is a no-brainer. “Audio is a very powerful medium, whether you're transmitting information or actually conveying emotion,” Sultan said.

Every Spotifier has access to an internal employee podcast hub on Spotify. Garmark said the hub was built in conjunction with Spotify’s foray into podcasting.

“The hub is used to make insights and discussions about mental wellbeing, product, team, and culture available to all,” Garmark wrote in an email.

The hub includes recordings of town halls, as well as a podcast called “Heart & Soul Conversations” that features conversations with Spotifiers and guest speakers on mental health. One episode featured different Spotifiers talking about managing their mental health during the pandemic, and changing lifestyles as Spotify announced employees could work from anywhere (barring time zones). Another focused on how to manage anxiety and depression. Sultan said the audio format is an effective way to reach employees because as Spotify users themselves, it’s intuitive.

Spotify, of course, has other ways of communicating with employees, too. It sends out newsletters, which are peppered with musical references to Led Zeppelin or Olivia Rodrigo. It also has more synchronous methods of communication. Employee concerns or larger controversies — which Spotify has had a few of in recent weeks, facing petitions and challenges from Neil Young over hosting Joe Rogan’s misinformation-laden podcast as well as laying off workers in one of its podcast studios — are best addressed in an interactive Q&A video call. The podcast hub is not the best format for these conversations, and instead exists to “provide information in an enriching way,” Sultan said.

Miscellaneous tips

Spotifiers spend all day with the product, so they’re bound to have some tips to improve your Spotify experience. Here’s a roundup:

  • Folders are a godsend when it comes to organizing my library of ~575 playlists. I literally have folders in folders.” —Alya Fetyani, associate technical account manager in New York
  • “I asked friends and family to add tracks to a collaborative playlist I listened to during a half marathon. It made it feel like they were cheering me on via music.” —Katherine Richardson, advertising in Nashville
  • I favourite my friends with good taste['s] Discover Weekly playlists. That way, I have a few new playlists to explore each week instead of my one only, and theirs are usually much better than mine!” —Marcin Wolniewicz, engineer in Stockholm
  • “I finally found out how to batch remove/add tracks to my Liked songs: Press shift while clicking the first and last song you want to change, then right-click for a context menu.” —Niklas Herder, engineer in Stockholm
  • Copying a friend's playlist or popular playlist on Desktop: Hold the command key and press C → N → V. (Then [tweak] it so it's exactly what you like to listen to.)” —Ross Simpson, technical operations specialist in Liverpool
  • “When you bring up the share dialog to get the link of a Spotify song, press the option button on your keyboard to get the Spotify URL instead of the https link!” —Roel van der Ven, senior product manager in Potsdam
Policy

Musk’s texts reveal what tech’s most powerful people really want

From Jack Dorsey to Joe Rogan, Musk’s texts are chock-full of überpowerful people, bending a knee to Twitter’s once and (still maybe?) future king.

“Maybe Oprah would be interested in joining the Twitter board if my bid succeeds,” one text reads.

Photo illustration: Patrick Pleul/picture alliance via Getty Images; Protocol

Elon Musk’s text inbox is a rarefied space. It’s a place where tech’s wealthiest casually commit to spending billions of dollars with little more than a thumbs-up emoji and trade tips on how to rewrite the rules for how hundreds of millions of people around the world communicate.

Now, Musk’s ongoing legal battle with Twitter is giving the rest of us a fleeting glimpse into that world. The collection of Musk’s private texts that was made public this week is chock-full of tech power brokers. While the messages are meant to reveal something about Musk’s motivations — and they do — they also say a lot about how things get done and deals get made among some of the most powerful people in the world.

Keep Reading Show less
Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

Sponsored Content

Great products are built on strong patents

Experts say robust intellectual property protection is essential to ensure the long-term R&D required to innovate and maintain America's technology leadership.

Every great tech product that you rely on each day, from the smartphone in your pocket to your music streaming service and navigational system in the car, shares one important thing: part of its innovative design is protected by intellectual property (IP) laws.

From 5G to artificial intelligence, IP protection offers a powerful incentive for researchers to create ground-breaking products, and governmental leaders say its protection is an essential part of maintaining US technology leadership. To quote Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo: "intellectual property protection is vital for American innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Keep Reading Show less
James Daly
James Daly has a deep knowledge of creating brand voice identity, including understanding various audiences and targeting messaging accordingly. He enjoys commissioning, editing, writing, and business development, particularly in launching new ventures and building passionate audiences. Daly has led teams large and small to multiple awards and quantifiable success through a strategy built on teamwork, passion, fact-checking, intelligence, analytics, and audience growth while meeting budget goals and production deadlines in fast-paced environments. Daly is the Editorial Director of 2030 Media and a contributor at Wired.
Fintech

Circle’s CEO: This is not the time to ‘go crazy’

Jeremy Allaire is leading the stablecoin powerhouse in a time of heightened regulation.

“It’s a complex environment. So every CEO and every board has to be a little bit cautious, because there’s a lot of uncertainty,” Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire told Protocol at Converge22.

Photo: Circle

Sitting solo on a San Francisco stage, Circle CEO Jeremy Allaire asked tennis superstar Serena Williams what it’s like to face “unrelenting skepticism.”

“What do you do when someone says you can’t do this?” Allaire asked the athlete turned VC, who was beaming into Circle’s Converge22 convention by video.

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Google Voice at (925) 307-9342.

Enterprise

Is Salesforce still a growth company? Investors are skeptical

Salesforce is betting that customer data platform Genie and new Slack features can push the company to $50 billion in revenue by 2026. But investors are skeptical about the company’s ability to deliver.

Photo: Marlena Sloss/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Salesforce has long been enterprise tech’s golden child. The company said everything customers wanted to hear and did everything investors wanted to see: It produced robust, consistent growth from groundbreaking products combined with an aggressive M&A strategy and a cherished culture, all operating under the helm of a bombastic, but respected, CEO and team of well-coiffed executives.

Dreamforce is the embodiment of that success. Every year, alongside frustrating San Francisco residents, the over-the-top celebration serves as a battle cry to the enterprise software industry, reminding everyone that Marc Benioff’s mighty fiefdom is poised to expand even deeper into your corporate IT stack.

Keep Reading Show less
Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a writer-at-large at Protocol. He previously covered enterprise software for Protocol, Bloomberg and Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JoeWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

Policy

The US and EU are splitting on tech policy. That’s putting the web at risk.

A conversation with Cédric O, the former French minister of state for digital.

“With the difficulty of the U.S. in finding political agreement or political basis to legislate more, we are facing a risk of decoupling in the long term between the EU and the U.S.”

Photo: David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Cédric O, France’s former minister of state for digital, has been an advocate of Europe’s approach to tech and at the forefront of the continent’s relations with U.S. giants. Protocol caught up with O last week at a conference in New York focusing on social media’s negative effects on society and the possibilities of blockchain-based protocols for alternative networks.

O said watching the U.S. lag in tech policy — even as some states pass their own measures and federal bills gain momentum — has made him worry about the EU and U.S. decoupling. While not as drastic as a disentangling of economic fortunes between the West and China, such a divergence, as O describes it, could still make it functionally impossible for companies to serve users on both sides of the Atlantic with the same product.

Keep Reading Show less
Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

Latest Stories
Bulletins