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How to Make a Music Streaming App like Spotify?

Music makes the business world go round as the consumer demands have firmly gravitated towards on-demand content, rather than paying per download.

According to the annual IFPI report on the State of the Music Industry, music streaming is setting a whole new range of records:

  • Consumption of audio streams has increased by 93% in the US in 2016.
  • Streaming revenues are up by 45.2% and now account for 43% of all digital sales.
  • Over 900 million users don’t mind using ad-supported music streaming services.

Digital Media Music report from Statista also has some juicy details for startups planning to conquer the local markets:

  • By 2021 music streaming will account for 86% of the EU Digital Music Market.
  • Streaming revenues in the Nordic Countries have grown by 98%.
  • Chinese Digital Music market is among the most promising ones, with the annual growth rate of 22.22%. By 2021 it will hit US$1 billion in revenues.
  • In fact, streaming services generates 92% of digital music revenues in China.

McKinsey named Asia one of the most promising and lucrative emerging markets for music streaming companies. With high growth potential and a new generation of digital native consumers, the local markets present a new frontier for savvy entrepreneurs. Yet at this point, most global companies are losing to the local competitor JOOX, which offers better localization and personalization for the users:

Additional Reading: Mobile App Localization: Does Your App Need It?

It’s safe to say that music streaming is a hot business niche. But what about Spotify-like app development? Should you copy their model?

Well, the current numbers indicate that it clearly works:

  • Spotify is close to 100 million total users.
  • The company boasts some 40 million paying subscribers.
  • By 2020, they plan to hit the 100 million mark.
  • In 2015, 20 billion hours of music was streamed on the platform.

So no wonder everyone wants to build an app like Spotify and reap the same rewards. However, it’s not enough to understand how to make an app like Spotify. If you want to succeed you need to think of a competitive product edge, test-drive it with your target audience and only then count those rewards.

In this post, we’ll outline the general features and development costs for a music streaming app.

How To Develop a Music Streaming App: The Essentials

Spotify isn’t the only music streaming app out there. Yet it their product has set a high benchmark in terms of user expectations and functionality.

If you are wondering how to build a music app that gets traction, you’ll need to settle on the following points first.

What Device Range Will I Support?

Spotify now heavily invests in their mobile apps (Android and iOS), leaving some fans frustrated with the quality of their desktop app. Being omnichannel present (desktop, web, mobile, Smart TV, PlayStation, Car Systems) and sustaining a great product quality is tough. You may want to start with one platform and expand later on.

Managing Music Streaming

In a nutshell, here’s how Spotify works.

The company stores the content on multiple servers, connected to their app blackened. When you request the song, the app should locate in on one of their services and direct it to your gadget. The song is then cached on your device and you can listen to it.

Yet, the developers behind Spotify use a bit more advanced architecture:

  1. The app first checks your device’s cache to see if you have streamed this song before.
  2. If it’s already there, the app just retrieves it without sending a call to the servers.
  3. If it’s not there yet, they start extracting the particular track from cache of the nearby Spotify users before calling the closest server.

This custom approach allows enables more seamless user experience, plus reduces the load on servers. That means that the songs are delivered faster and less bandwidth is required for processing the requests.

While the price to develop a similar architecture is higher, it will save you a pretty penny down the line.

This isn’t the only option for managing music streams, however.

You can enable music streaming by using some exciting APIs and SDKs (including Spotify’s). Previously we showed how to make a music app with SoundCloud integration.

The kicker, however, is that most APIs come with daily play request limitations, which may be initially OK for testing your MVP, but will become a frustrating roadblock later on.

Music Library Storage Options

One of the common frustrations with Spotify is that you can’t host or upload your own tracks and organize them in a music library.

The app only allows creating curated personal playlists and subscribing to existing channels shared by others. Google Play Music and Apple Music (iTunes) allow you to add and seamlessly sync songs that you already have on your device with your in-app playlist.

If you plan to support the latter option as well, you’ll need to offer some music hosting space to your users. Both Google and Apple allow you to store a certain number of songs for free and upgrade your plan later on.

AI or Human-Powered Music Discovery?

Part of Spotify’s unique appeal is their Discover feature, which automatically generates a new weekly playlist based on the user’s music preferences. And it’s all cooked up by an algorithm.

This service became incredibly popular with the users with over 1.7 billion streams generated in a couple of months after the initial launch.

So how their recommendation engine works?

The algorithm analyzes the data from 2 billion playlists and matches it with your personal taste profile. Everything that falls in the intersection of those gets on your Weekly recommendation list.

That’s in plain talk. The actual processes are bit more complicated.

Spotify’s approach includes collaborative filtering (something used by Amazon and most e-commerce apps suggesting you more goods after you’ve clicked around a bit); and natural language processing. The suggestions are continuously refined using deep learning techniques to enable better personalization. For managing all the data in real-time, the company uses open-source Kafka software.

Matthew Ogle, who’s working on this project at Spotify, says that in layman terms, the process looks like this:

If you want to learn more about their tech stack, check out Discover Weekly project slide deck.

While the algorithm is awesome, it’s also quite expensive to implement. So don’t discard human curation just yet.

Sharing recommendations and public playlists still matters a lot to the Spotify community. If you don’t have the capacity to build a “smart suggestion engine” initially, you invest in leveraging the social element instead.

Give your communities the tools to share and curate their favorite tunes. The entire experience could be gamified, for instance.

  • You can create special trendsetters badges and acknowledge the most influential users.
  • Or hire a group of human curators, which will conduct weekly streams and highlight the best new tunes and talents.
  • Or invite influencers/artists for weekly shows.

Or, if you are up for another challenge, you may want to treat your users to mood or event-based music recommendations. That’s how Songza startup grew their initial user base…and successfully got acquired by Google Play Music in Jan. 2016.

So, do not underestimate the power of music curation and personalized recommendations, as it will play an essential role in your product’s success.

MVP Music Streaming App: Key Features

Here are the bare essentials for building a music streaming app:

  • Account Registration/Login – you may want to support Facebook integration for more seamless experience and to gather additional insights on your user.
  • Music Discovery
  • Music Storage/Organization
  • Social sharing and Curation

A full feature product should include some cool twists to those – say allow exchanging lipsync videos with your friends or delivering hyper-localized music recommendations. Make your product bold and edgy if you want to compete with Spotify! And if you need the tech expertise for that, Alty team would be delighted to advise on the optimal tech stack!

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