Spotify Home
Apr 2020
Building a Social Music Metaverse
Addressing Spotify’s lack of social interaction by enabling immersive music discovery in interconnected virtual worlds.
Problem & OpportunitySolutionMedia PresenceApple GlassesrealityOSProcessStrategyDesignReflection
Intent:
Solo Project
Role:
VR, UI/UX, Dev, Strategy
Tech:
Unity, Cinema 4D, Autodesk Maya, Substance Painter, Adobe CC, C#, Figma
Duration:
4 weeks
Music is inherently social. However, most global music streaming services including the one from market leader Spotify are mostly siloed non-social experiences. As many people discover music in a social context through their friends, there exists the opportunity to leverage VR technology to build an immersive experience that shifts the discovery of music to a social format that is equally not constrained by your friends’ physical location. Such product will ensure Spotify’s longterm leadership position in the global music streaming industry.
The Problem
Long distance relationships are ubiquitous and inevitable in our society, but they are difficult to maintain.
Long distance relationships are a common part of everyone’s lives. Whether it is due to moving to a new city, because of a new job, studying, or vacation, there are many reasons why friends and loved ones are separated and there are many challenges these people face in order to maintain such relationships and stay connected. Some of these challenges include a lack of communication and the lack of feeling physically together. To overcome this, people make use of different apps and software's to spend time with each other and be a part of each other's day to day lives. However, in-person closeness and contact across a distance are not the same. According to Albert Mehrabian, professor of psychology at UCLA, even if 7% of our communication is in the words and another 38% is tone of voice, which are both accessible through telephone, and if few more percent accounts for the visuals when using video chat, a serious proportion of the information in the communication is still missing, including nuances of body language. Ultimately, the problem is finding ways to have more engaging social experiences across long distances.
The Opportunity
Discovering music is a social activity, as 63% of people discover music through friends.
Source: YPulse Monthly Surveys n=1000 ages 13-37, September 2019
Global music streaming services have been mostly a non-social activity for over a decade now. However, there have been attempts to establish social features from many music streaming leaders in the past, including Apple (iTunes) and Spotify. Spotify has tested implementing social features in 2011/12 which were comprised of personal profiles, adding friends, and sharing music. These features were quickly turned down as they were hardly adopted by its user base. This does not mean that social features for music services have no potential. More or less, it means they should be done right. Soundcloud is a great example of a music streaming service that has successfully established social features.
"Music is one of the most social things there is. [It is] inherently social."
– Daniel Ek, CEO of Spotify
Source: Eriksson, M., Fleischer, R., Johansson, An, Snickars, P. & Vonderau, P. (2019). Spotify Teardown: Inside the Black Box of Streaming Music. MIT Press. P. 56
According to the CEO of Spotify, Daniel Ek, music is inherently social. There are dozens of occasions where people listen to music with their friends and family rather than alone. And consequently, the same applies to discovering new music. In a survey conducted by YPulse among people aged 13 to 37 about how young people are discovering music, 63 percent of those aged 18 to 24 responded they are discovering music through friends compared to 50% of those aged 25 to 37. This is clear evidence that there is an opportunity for music streaming services to adopt social features.
Business Value
Social features foster user conversion and retention and create new revenue streams.
Spotify can be considered a social media. However, social interaction mainly happens between artists and fans. Only on the desktop version of Spotify and when logging in with Facebook or by following users, you can see a feed of what other friends are listening to. Other than that, there is not much more social interaction or value for following users which almost feels incomplete. It makes sense to add more social features, as users increasingly request them and this need is even bigger when friends are apart due to location constraints or a global pandemic. In addition, social features can foster user conversion and retention and create new opportunities for new revenue streams and increased ad revenue. And Spotify finally seems to listen with the introduction of group sessions, a social feature that lets everyone pick what plays, when people are listening together.
Lastly, Spotify is the is the most popular global audio streaming subscription service with 286 million monthly active users, including 130 million paid subscribers, across 79 markets (as of 2020). Based on Spotify's mission, which is to unlock the potential of human creativity—by giving a million creative artists the opportunity to live off their art and billions of fans the opportunity to enjoy and be inspired by it, it would make sense to once again disrupt the industry and be an innovator for virtual music discovery, concerts, and events.
Business Strategy
  1. Take full control of the global music streaming market and future-proof the product experience.
    The music streaming competition including Apple Music and Amazon Now have rapidly increasing subscribers and increasingly become a threat. Spotify as a global music streaming market leader is well positioned to be at the forefront and take control of this market by utilizing emerging technologies to ensure that they are future-proofing their product experience to remain ahead of competitors.
  2. Turn music streaming into a more social experience by using new technologies.
    Leverage the inherently social nature of music to turn music streaming into a social experience that parallels real life social experiences.
introducing spotify home
A multi-user Virtual Reality simulation intended to make the discovery of music more immersive, social, and fun.
Spotify Home is a standalone VR application that will be available in the Oculus Store and on Steam and is deeply tied into the existing infrastructure of Spotify. The way it works is simple: Every user has their own “Home”, a virtual space that they can individually design according to their taste. Users can unlock new decoration items by mastering predefined challenges (e.g. “Listen to X hours of music"). In addition, users can invite friends to their home so friends can discover music together, dance, and have fun, for example every Monday and Friday for Discover Weekly and Release Radar or simply on the weekends when friends can't see each other in person. In this endless metaverse that consists of many interconnected virtual worlds, people peacefully come together to celebrate and discover new music in a new immersive, social, and fun way.
Spotify Home
Make Yourself at Home.
This is your Spotify Home. A space where you and your friends discover music together. A space that is only limited by your own imagination. Make it look however you want to. Make it small and cozy or as big as a million dollar mansion. This is the space you come back to every week to socialize and have fun.
Onboarding and locomotion
Discover, Dance, Socialize, Repeat.
Onboarding and teleport locomotion make it easy to move around freely, talk to your friends, and dance the night away.
Party with friends
One Big Virtual Party.
Spotify Home is as fun as the best house party you have ever been to, except that it is not constrained by your friend's physical location. Party from anywhere and still feel close together.
playlist control
You are the DJ.
This is your home. You are the DJ and can play any tracks or Spotify playlists you want. Want to open music control to friends? No problem. Your friends can even queue new tracks to make it one big collaborative playlist.
Mood
Set the Tone.
Dance to your favorite tracks and see the music video or visualizer on the big screen up front.
Personalize
Make Your Home Look the Way You Want it to.
Add new objects from the inventory to fit your home to your personal style including furniture, custom fan gear, and more.
Gamification
Show Off What You Got.
Unlock new objects for your inventory by completing achievements such as "Listen to X hours of music". The more time you spend in your home the more you can show off when your friends are over.
Avatar
Feel Good About Yourself.
Customize your avatar in many different ways to find the look that makes you feel good about your virtual self.
The video above coherently shows the full user journey running on Oculus Rift S.
The Process
In the following, I will thoroughly explain the main aspects of the process of arriving at our final solution. Alongside, I will give explanations about our decision-making for several critical design decisions. While the process is explained chronologically, some of the components including but not limited to designing, prototyping, and testing have been carried out iteratively.
Research & Strategy
Understanding and Discovery
To holistically understand the problem and consumer demand/unmet needs, I conducted primary and secondary research, and held focus groups where we examined current market trends, consumer value drivers, competitive threats.
Secondary Research
As part of the secondary research, I asked myself several critical questions, which are discussed in the following.
Is there evidence for a consumer demand/unmet need?
Social media platforms built around the consumption of music such as SoundCloud exist and their popularity is rapidly increasing.
  1. As of March 2019, SoundCloud has 76 million registered users and 175 million unique monthly listeners.
  2. In 2019, 200 million tracks have been uploaded to SoundCloud, up from 125 million in 2016. (Source)
    Discovering and listening to music is inherently social, it is surprising that Spotify does that have internal features that can address this.
    "Music is one of the most social things there is. [It is] inherently social."
    – Daniel Ek, CEO of Spotify
    Source: Eriksson, M., Fleischer, R., Johansson, An, Snickars, P. & Vonderau, P. (2019). Spotify Teardown: Inside the Black Box of Streaming Music. MIT Press. P. 56
    1. Discovering music is a social activity, as 63% of people discover music through friends. (Source)
    2. Discovering music in a social setting tends to occur among younger viewers, in larger households, and with strong brand-engagement. (Source)
    Does Spotify have a social component to it now? If not, why?
    1. As of 2020, Spotify has very limited social features including a feed of what friends are listening to (Desktop only), the ability to follow users and artists, the ability to see published playlists of users and artists, and to collaborate on public playlists.
    2. Users have to have an explicit intention to use existing social features, as they don't appear in a feed or on the home page (excluding Desktop if enabled in settings).
    3. In 2020, as a response to Covid-19, Spotify introduced a social beta-feature called "Group Sessions" that let's multiple users pick what song plays, when listening together. (Source)
    What value add would a social component give Spotify? How does this component integrate into Spotify's existing core product offerings?
    1. A social component can help Spotify to maintain it's leadership position and disrupt the global streaming industry once again.
    2. Social features can foster user conversion and retention and create new opportunities for new revenue streams and increased ad revenue
    3. A social component can naturally be tied in to the existing infrastructure of Desktop and mobile experiences and in standalone applications for emerging technology for further market disruption.
    Why is Spotify specifically well-positioned to implement a social feature?
    1. Spotify is the most popular global audio streaming subscription service with 286 million monthly active users, including 130 million paid subscribers, across 79 markets (as of 2020).
    2. Based on Spotify's mission, which is to unlock the potential of human creativity—by giving a million creative artists the opportunity to live off their art and billions of fans the opportunity to enjoy and be inspired by it, it would make sense to encompass the inherently social nature of music and help artists and fans to be more inspired.
    Do competitor streaming sites offer a social feature? What do/don’t they do well? What has contributed/limited their success?
    1. Only SoundCloud is based around major social features which are essential for its success.
    2. SoundCloud's premium subscription service SoundCloud Go has very few subscribers in comparison to its unique monthly listeners.
    Primary Research
    To further understand the core problem, I conducted primary research in the form of a survey and focus groups.
    Core Behaviors to Understand
    1. How do frequently do people discover music?
    2. How do people generally go about discovering new music? What is the process?
    3. What are the important factors that people seek out when they are identifying music they like?
    4. Is it difficult to discover new music? What are some challenges?
    5. What are social situations where people discover new music?
    6. How do people find out about music from friends?
    7. How different is people's music taste from the one of their friends?
    8. Do people consider music streaming to be a social activity?
    9. How many people have listened to music with someone else? What about group sessions over long distance?
    10. How often do you use music streaming services?
    Focus Groups
    I held 3 focus groups comprised of the following demographics (n = number of participants, approx. equal number of male and female participants):
    1. Group 1 (n=8): CLASS
      Mid 20s
    2. Group 2 (n=5): JOB
      Mid-Late 30s
    3. Group 3 (n=3): FAM
      Mid 40s
    Focus Groups Consolidated Insights
    1. People discover the majority of music through curated and playlists and recommended songs (including personalized playlists such as Discover Weekly and Release Radar on Spotify).
    2. Music tastes of close friends are usually between "somewhat related" to "very similar" and people are discovering a noticeable amount of music through friends. Hence, people are interested about what friends are listening to.
    3. In a social setting, people discover new music when listening together with friends or family, but the likeliness of discovering new music that fits their taste is higher when listening with friends than with family.
    Survey Consolidated Insights
    Below, consolidated insights of the survey we conducted are shown. The survey received 86 responses from people aged 16 to 54.
    1. More than 80% of respondents have discovered music that they like in a social setting.
    2. Younger people usually discover new music through real-life interaction and events, or text messages / social media.
    3. Roughly 60% of respondents said their closest friends have similarities in regard to music taste.
    Affinity Mapping
    I used affinity mapping to organize all research findings and determine areas of opportunity. Below you can see the consolidated affinity map in a digital format.
    Opportunity
    After organizing the research, I determined the following areas of opportunity:
    1. Make the discovery of music more immersive, social, and fun.
    2. Leverage the inherently social nature of music to turn the music streaming service into a social music experience.
    Defining the Strategy
    After determining areas of opportunity and after conducting all secondary and primary research, I finalized the business strategy, as shown earlier.
    1. Take full control of the global music streaming market and future-proof the product experience.
      The music streaming competition including Apple Music and Amazon Now have rapidly increasing subscribers and increasingly become a threat. Spotify as a global music streaming market leader is well positioned to be at the forefront and take control of this market by utilizing emerging technologies to ensure that they are future-proofing their product experience to remain ahead of competitors.
    2. Turn music streaming into a more social experience by using new technologies.
      Leverage the inherently social nature of music to turn music streaming into a social experience that parallels real life social experiences.
    Persona
    To better understand the users we design for, I created a persona of our potential target audience.
    Ideation
    Concepting the Experience
    Based on my research, I started concepting the user experience through a competitive analysis, brainstorming sessions, and prioritization matrices.
    Competitive Analysis – Oculus Home
    Based on the notion of a fully customizable home, I analyzed how existing services organize and structure the experience.
    Feature Brainstorming
    After analyzing competitive or similar experiences, I brainstormed what features need to be in place that help users achieve their goals and eliminate pain points. The outcome is as follows:
    1. Onboarding
    2. Inviting friends
    3. Customizable environment
    4. Song / playlist quick overview and controls
    5. Customizable avatars
    6. inventory menu
    7. gamification / achievements
    Determining Core Features
    Core features of the experience are the following.
    Design
    Building the VR Environment
    Based on my concept, I started building the 3D environment by modeling assets in Autodesk Maya, texturing them in Substance Painter, and compositing it all together in Unity.
    Modeling Assets in Cinema 4D and Autodesk Maya
    Below you can see screenshots of the modeling, UV-ing, and initial compositing process in Cinema 4D and Autodesk Maya, before the assets were exported, textured, and brought over to Unity.
    Iterating through the Environment Design
    Below you can see iteration milestones of the environment design that was composited in Unity and how I arrived at the final result.
    1. First visual iteration to see in which direction the project might go.
    2. Iterating on the idea of cover objects that show the current track, previous track, and next track.
    3. First steps in regard to Spotify branding.
    1. First completed home setup that was tested with users in VR.
    2. Front wall acts as a big screen where the music video of the current track is displayed, if available. If not, a music visualizer is displayed.
    3. Added more assets.
    1. Final environment design including custom avatars.
    2. Increasingly more customization options
    3. Fully shifted style to personal home of a rock / Arctic Monkey type fan.
    Designing the VR Menu
    In addition to the environment design, I designed menus in Figma and built it in Unity to add customization and control options.
    Music Controls Menu
    The music control menu gives users a quick overview over the current track and playlists as well as queued tracks. The host or users with applicable rights have the ability to skip or go to the previous track as well as play and pause the current track.
    Inventory Menu
    The inventory menu gives an overview over available objects that can be placed in each user's home. The final menu shows realtime 3D objects in a scroll view which are not shown in the 2D design.
    Achievements Menu
    The achievements menu adds gamification and shows achievements through which users can unlock new inventory objects.
    Prototyping & Testing
    Coding Rapid Prototypes and Testing with Users
    Over the course of the project, I wrote over 500 lines of code and created over 40 prototypes, the majority of which have been tested with users. Below you can see a selection of the scripts I wrote.
    Reflection
    Spotify Home was my first VR project using my own personal VR hardware. Having finally made the investment for a VR headset (Oculus Rift S) was a crucial step to exponentially improve my VR knowledge and skills. In my opinion, exposure to new technology is very important for personal growth. And this project just proved that. It gave me a lot of time to explore and be inspired by content and it equally made me fall in love with VR even more. At the same time, this project and the investment in my Oculus was also intended to be part of my preparation for my Facebook summer internship in Seattle. It made me feel very confident producing content for VR and it refreshed my C# coding skills for rapid prototyping.
    Team
    Dominik Hofacker
    Experience Designer