Fresh off its breakup with Taylor Swift, Spotify announced Monday that it had found a new partner: Uber. Starting this Friday, Nov. 21, Spotify and Uber users in 10 cities will be able to sync their accounts and cue up a playlist to begin when their ride arrives. The service is available to Spotify Premium subscribers, but as part of the deal Spotify is offering listeners a free week of premium to try it out.
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick and Spotify CEO Daniel Ek are calling the partnership a win-win for their companies, though both declined to provide financial details on the arrangement. Ek said Spotify is looking to Uber as the future of transportation and the answer to how it can integrate streaming music with the daily car ride. Kalanick was equally enthused. "For Uber it’s the first time we’ve personalized the experience inside the car," he said, "and for music lovers that’s nirvana."
What's "nirvana" to riders is likely to be at best a nuisance to their drivers. On the online forum UberPeople.net, drivers are already expressing concern that loud music will be distracting and unsafe, and that their ratings will suffer if they don't have the audio capabilities needed for the partnership. On the other hand, Uber's rating system might help keep customer behavior in check. Riders who blast their tunes obnoxiously could risk getting a low rating from their drivers and hurting their reputation and pickup chances on Uber's platform.
Spotify has more than 50 million active users and said last week that it has paid out more than $2 billion to artists and studios since it began in 2008. Uber operates in more than 200 cities around the world and services millions of riders. Assuming those demographics don't completely overlap already, it's not hard to see how the cross-exposure could benefit both companies. And sure, it seems a little hard to believe that the ability to stream music in your taxi would convince someone to choose Uber over Lyft or Gett or any other on-demand ride. But then again, who knows? In a market where the services are largely indistinguishable, every little perk could matter.