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General Category => Investment Ideas => Topic started by: ajc on January 03, 2019, 05:53:02 AM

Title: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: ajc on January 03, 2019, 05:53:02 AM

Overview

Spotify's now my second largest position after Stitch Fix (http://www.cornerofberkshireandfairfax.ca/forum/investment-ideas/sfix-stitch-fix/). The thesis is relatively straightforward. Right now the bear perspective is the big 3 labels (Sony, Universal, Warner) account for around 85% of Spotify's streaming plays. That gives the labels so much leverage that Spotify will never be able to raise its margins to the level a world-class billion+ user platform would usually be expected to generate. The other part of the bear view is Apple, Alphabet, and Amazon can use music as a loss-leader while Spotify can't. It's argued this free/low-cost distribution from those businesses means Spotify won't be able to charge enough to generate strong margins without bleeding customers to their competitors. As a result, Spotify only trades at a P/S multiple of 3.5 while Facebook sells at 7.3, Tencent at 8.3, and so on. The market's clearly pricing in a future for Spotify where its revenue is less profitable and therefore of the low quality tech variety.


Management

Management owns around 20% of the business. About 9% belongs to CEO Daniel Ek. They also have super-voting shares. Barry McCarthy, Netflix's CFO for 8 years, has been Spotify CFO since 2014. Ek surrounds himself with smart people who understand the dynamics of tech and music. Sean Parker (ex-Napster CEO) was an early investor and important adviser, Mark Zuckerberg is a friend, the list goes on. Their executive hiring has been top notch.

There's a good profile of Ek in the 'recommended reading' section below, but the short version is he taught himself programming very young, ran a highly successful web development business in school while hiring his classmates, made his first million super early. After he got sick of partying and spending money, he looked around for something he was truly passionate about and could dedicate his career to, which is what led to Spotify being founded.

One other thing: Spotify owns a 9% share of Tencent Music after the companies did a swap deal.


The $100B+ question

My thinking is there are a few questions which'll determine whether Spotify can change the leverage equation in its favor and earn a higher multiple together with whatever growth it can achieve over the next decade.

They are:

- Will the big 3 stay on Spotify long enough for Spotify to flip the script on them (say 5 years or more)?
- Will Spotify keep adding enough users for it to get above the billion+ mark and become the dominant music platform?
- Can Spotify take that 85% of all streaming plays number from the big 3 labels down to say somewhere under 50% of all plays?

I'll try explain how they'll likely achieve those and why that changes the leverage equation to being in Spotify's favor.


Keeping the big 3 with Spotify

First thing is, if Spotify's going to transform into a higher margin company it needs to keep the big 3 around long enough for it to be able to execute on changing the platform so that they become a less significant part of the overall product and streaming mix.

I think a few things matter here:

- Old fashioned greed. Streaming is already a game-changer for labels in terms of revenue (https://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/global-recorded-music-industry-revenues-grew-8-1-in-2017-to-reach-17-3bn/) and we're still early in the game. For the labels to turn away those Spotify cash flows, it would take a superhuman effort on their part.

- The artists. Even if the labels could somehow reject Spotify and find some other approach, the pushback from their major artists would be big. Spotify currently puts the world's biggest artists in front of almost 200 million people and is slated to enter India (with around 1 billion+ citizens over the age of 18) sometime in the next 6 months. I find it unlikely the biggest artists in the world would settle for less exposure and money from their labels instead of more.

- The competitive price any one label would have to pay if they decided to leave Spotify. Mark Mulligan wrote about this very well (scroll half way down - https://musicindustryblog.wordpress.com/2018/10/26/spotify-may-already-be-too-big-for-the-labels-to-stop-it-competing-with-them/). Basically, the big 3 face a prisoners' dilemma. If Sony or Warner left, Universal would get more exposure, streaming income, and be more attractive to future major artists as a label. Similarly if Universal left, Sony and Warner could increase their earnings, streaming market share, and reputation. In other words, it makes no sense for any label to leave Spotify. This was summed up nicely in a recent FT interview with outgoing Sony/ATV chief Martin Bandier who said "the music business used to be a relationship business but . . . the power has shifted from the heads of record companies to streaming services. Now it’s important to know Daniel Ek [the CEO of Spotify]" (https://www.ft.com/content/1ba3c9c4-03b0-11e9-99df-6183d3002ee1).

Essentially, between the foregone earnings, artist pushback, and lost reputation, the big 3 labels would have to deal with if they left Spotify while it was still popular and growing, there's no reasonable explanation for why any of them would risk such a move.


Getting to a billion+

YouTube (1.5 billion+ users) is currently the most popular music streaming service in the world followed by Tencent Music (850 million+), NetEase (400 million+), then Spotify (190 million). If Spotify is going to have noticeable leverage in the future, I think it probably needs to get up to the billion user mark in order to make it essential for artists and consumers.

It's worth noting Tencent and NetEase are mainly Chinese. This doesn't mean they can't expand globally (see what TikTok are doing - https://techcrunch.com/2018/11/02/tiktok-surpassed-facebook-instagram-snapchat-youtube-in-downloads-last-month/), but my view tends to be these businesses will mostly serve China, ASEAN, etc. For Spotify, that leaves NAFTA, the EU, S America, Africa, the Middle East, India, and 1 or 2 others. More than enough territories to get over a billion MAU's.

For now I think the traditional 'western-style' music pure play competition is between YouTube and Spotify. In other words, for the majority of people those are the two choices over the coming decade in terms of an app download solely for music and audio purposes. Keep in mind though that YouTube listeners are basically all free accounts and YouTube Music (their paid streaming service) has been kind of a bust so far (see https://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2018/05/28/youtube-music-missing-in-action/ and https://www.engadget.com/2018/08/01/youtube-music-new-features/).

Apple Music doesn't seem like a real worldwide threat (https://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/apple-music-tops-56m-subscribers-up-6m-in-the-past-six-months/) and Amazon can't seem to really match Spotify either (https://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/will-amazon-and-apple-music-catch-spotifys-subscriber-base-by-the-end-of-2018/). Obviously, Spotify can't afford to let up but I think in the race to challenge YouTube they're definitely the best bet given where they are and what their trajectory says. Their upcoming India entry (https://www.forbes.com/sites/richardwindsoreurope/2018/11/27/spotify-in-india-will-be-99-9-free-rather-than-9-99-a-month) and recent deal with Samsung (https://www.theverge.com/2018/8/9/17671162/samsung-spotify-bixby-home-speaker-hardware-devices-galaxy), seem to confirm that.

I think other important factors for getting to one billion users for Spotify will be finding a way to make their service the most economical with data usage. Especially in the developing world, this is crucial. Data tends to cost money and money is scarce. Having a service that chews up less data per song than your competitors will be a big advantage overall. That's clearly an engineering and compression problem, so Spotify would ideally lead the industry in that area. There is some evidence that Spotify might already have an edge here (compare these two articles - https://www.finder.com.au/music-streaming-data-usage and https://www.androidauthority.com/spotify-data-usage-918265/). Those articles compare different territories so I can't be sure, but I feel reasonably confident in saying the Spotify 'low quality' setting is for the developing world and gives it an advantage there (especially over YouTube and its need to stream video that's more data heavy).

Finally, having a clean, intuitive interface that makes sense to the average user and is easy to manage will be a differentiator. In my experience, Spotify is already the best offering on this score but they'll have to keep up their minimalist, easy-to-use reputation in this area in order to keep user friction low.

Generally, I think based on their user growth trajectory, their low data usage offerings, and their clean, functional interface, Spotify is doing all the right things to become a billion+ user platform. I also think there's a very good chance it will take over from YouTube as the most widely used and heavily streamed music platform because it offers a far more targeted market for musicians and a much better overall value proposition for users in the developing world. Furthermore, at least on official artist pages, YouTube does not currently have that many more streams per song than Spotify. Both Post Malone and Drake got more Spotify official streams than YouTube ones this year, so I think the YouTube lead might not be as rock-solid as it appears.


Cutting the big 3 down to size

That's a tongue-in-cheek way to say it, since the big 3 labels are important to Spotify's future (together with their back catalogues). Spotify does however need to limit their influence noticeably over time. There are three main things Spotify is doing to change the dynamics substantially in their favor here.

The first thing is Spotify is offering artists tools and support to bypass the labels completely, upload directly, and manage their image and portfolio. Like YouTube and Soundcloud did, Spotify's making a useful DIY experience for creators (http://routenote.com/blog/the-8-powers-spotify-for-artists-gave-to-creators-in-the-last-year/) and paying them a bigger percentage than the labels (https://www.theverge.com/2018/9/20/17879840/spotify-artist-direct-upload-independent-music).

Take for example the late XXXTentacion, a Soundcloud native, who became one of the world's biggest music stars. He took 5 years to get 16 million YouTube subscribers compared to Drake's 17 million. XXXTentacion also has YouTube views for his top 10 videos that compare very well to Drake's numbers. On Spotify, XXXTentacion is not far behind Drake in total streams for their top 10 tracks and well ahead of the Beatles, Michael Jackson, and Jay-Z.
Outside of music and on the topic of YouTube natives, Pewdiepie has 80 million subscribers and 19 billion total views (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_most-viewed_YouTube_channels). That's ahead of Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Shakira, etc. Pewdiepie only got to his first million subscribers in 2012 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PewDiePie).

That means within about 5 to 7 years Spotify will potentially be at, or right near, the forefront of new artist development and distribution globally. They'd suddenly become the hot new place where musicians make their careers and users discover all the interesting new ones. The equation for labels and existing artists becomes more 'can we afford not to be on the hottest, most creative, distribution platform?'. Add direct artist licensing (https://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2018/09/spotifys-risky-play-direct-artist-licensing.html) and Spotify is laying the necessary groundwork.

The second thing Spotify's doing is bringing in new labels from big territories and diluting the overall stream percentage controlled by the big 3 labels. T-Series is one of India's biggest labels and Spotify has signed them up (https://www.hindustantimes.com/tech/spotify-ties-up-with-t-series-to-launch-in-india-within-next-6-months/story-PA86NGz08ftrfEJoJx1HUN.html). T-Series is also YouTube's most watched channel with 78 million subscribers and 57 billion streams. Agreements like this make the big 3 global labels a smaller piece of the pie and therefore less able to push Spotify around. Spotify can do this in huge markets like Indonesia, Brazil, Pakistan, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Mexico, Ethiopia, etc, over the next decade and lower the overall percentage of streams attributable to Sony, Universal, and Warner.

The final thing Spotify is doing to lessen the role of the big 3 labels is to expand into other audio offerings. For now, Spotify had expanded into podcasts. Other clear choices to my mind are audiobooks, talk radio, regular radio, and live sports commentary. Global recorded music industry revenues in 2017 (including stuff like streaming) were $17B and growing at 8% (https://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/global-recorded-music-industry-revenues-grew-8-1-in-2017-to-reach-17-3bn/). Podcasting advertising revenues are expected to be $1.6B by 2022 growing at 30%, while total revenues for the global radio industry are at a sizeable $45B (https://www.strategy-business.com/article/The-Podcasting-Revenue-Boom-Has-Started?gko=40bef). The global audiobook industry is also a multi-billion dollar market.

To sum up, Spotify is doing what it needs to heavily lessen the influence of Universal, Sony, and Warner, as a percentage of their total streams over the next 5 to 10 years. Firstly they're offering artists tools and deals to work through Spotify directly and bypass the labels. This should bear fruit within 7 years. Spotify's also bringing in major labels from big territories like India to minimize the overall power of Universal, Sony, and Warner. Another decade of expansion into the rest of the world will mean they rely a lot less on the big 3. Finally, Spotify's expansion into podcasts - and hopefully audiobooks or something similar - is also going to have an impact in getting the big 3 down to a manageable size.


Conclusion

Spotify's a sensible long-term investment at these prices and is doing what's necessary to become a, and more likely 'the', pre-eminent global music platform. It's also using an approach designed to minimize the leverage of the big 3 labels to the point where they really will need to be on Spotify in order to be relevant and keep their artists exposed.

Further, if you take the fact that Spotify is making itself the most user-friendly platform for musicians and will, I think, become ground zero for artist creativity, discovery, and promotion, that also implies Amazon and YouTube will eventually become distribution channels more than anything else. Spotify on the other hand will not just have a similarly large distribution, but will couple that with the greatest musical creative hub, artist ecosystem, and discovery platform, on the planet. Being the destination where all hot new acts want to be posted and where all young people want to engage in music discovery will make Spotify the most exclusive and premium brand of its kind, giving it the leverage it needs to charge higher prices, negotiate better margins, and so on.


Recommended reading

How Spotify could become worth $300B from the LT3000 investment blog (scroll down) - https://lt3000.blogspot.com/2018/05/new-valuation-metrics-for-tech.html

Mark Mulligan's music industry blog where he discusses competitive dynamics, trends, etc (scroll down for some Spotify insights) - https://musicindustryblog.wordpress.com/

In-depth Fast Company profile on CEO Daniel Ek - https://www.fastcompany.com/90213545/exclusive-spotify-ceo-daniel-ek-on-apple-facebook-netflix-and-the-future-of-music


Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: Liberty on January 03, 2019, 06:29:31 AM
Thanks for these writeups, you obviously put a lot of work into them and they are a great addition to the board (even when about companies on which I have no opinion).
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: valueinvestor on January 03, 2019, 07:00:04 AM
Thanks for these writeups, you obviously put a lot of work into them and they are a great addition to the board (even when about companies on which I have no opinion).

Couldn't have said it better.
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: KJP on January 03, 2019, 07:21:49 AM
Thanks for these writeups, you obviously put a lot of work into them and they are a great addition to the board (even when about companies on which I have no opinion).

Couldn't have said it better.

+1
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: dwy000 on January 03, 2019, 09:00:28 AM
+1

Greg Maffei had some great comments a while back when talking about the music streaming services and why they hadn't bought in (this was before Pandora purchase).  He basically said they didn't see a long term business model because all of the streaming providers give consumers exactly the same product - the only differentiation was user interface and price so it was basically a race to the bottom and when you're in that race against companies willing to subsidize losses for a very long time without noticing (i.e. Apple, Amazon, Google) it was hard to see where value would be created.

I see this a little like Netflix.  For the longest time it was just a consolidator and distributor of product, ultimately at the mercy of those creating the product.  But when it realized there was no future in moat-less distribution and they needed differentiation to survive long term,  they started to curate their own product.  Much like Sirius has on the radio side.

Basically for this to work you need to either have differentiated product or the lowest cost of production (i.e. music rights).  Not sure where that will fall out for Spotify but there are a ton of competitors with deep pockets willing to use this as a loss leader.  I'd wait until the long term model plays out a bit more to pick a winner.  But that's just me....


Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: Jurgis on January 03, 2019, 11:13:02 AM
+1

Greg Maffei had some great comments a while back when talking about the music streaming services and why they hadn't bought in (this was before Pandora purchase).  He basically said they didn't see a long term business model because all of the streaming providers give consumers exactly the same product - the only differentiation was user interface and price so it was basically a race to the bottom and when you're in that race against companies willing to subsidize losses for a very long time without noticing (i.e. Apple, Amazon, Google) it was hard to see where value would be created.

I see this a little like Netflix.  For the longest time it was just a consolidator and distributor of product, ultimately at the mercy of those creating the product.  But when it realized there was no future in moat-less distribution and they needed differentiation to survive long term,  they started to curate their own product.  Much like Sirius has on the radio side.

Basically for this to work you need to either have differentiated product or the lowest cost of production (i.e. music rights).  Not sure where that will fall out for Spotify but there are a ton of competitors with deep pockets willing to use this as a loss leader.  I'd wait until the long term model plays out a bit more to pick a winner.  But that's just me....

I think I disagree somewhat re: Netflix. I think I posted that I wanted to cancel Netflix because we have Amazon Prime and Amazon Prime has been improving and hosting a lot of similar/same content as Netflix. My wife said "no way". And not because she watches Netflix-exclusive or Netflix-produced content. I think it's mostly based on familiarity, UI, long existing watch list. Maybe somewhat based on content that is known to be on Netflix, but not necessarily exclusive: she knows it's on Netflix and she does not want to search/check if it's on Amazon (or will it ever be on Amazon).

So IMO if service has a huge membership like Netflix has, they may have stickiness and moat based on existing relationship with viewers/subscribers. There is a pain point of moving to another service even if that other service may have some of the same content. And Netflix can even raise price and not lose subscribers like that.

Whether this applies to Spotify, I don't know. I'd say that they need to grow a number of users a lot for this to apply, which is one of the points of OP.
It also may be different for music services if the content overlap is very big: i.e. if every service has everything. In movies, nobody has everything. Netflix doesn't, Amazon doesn't. And the availability changes all the time, which BTW I think psychologically makes people more tied to the service, since there is this thought "if I cancel, I may miss movies/shows that might be there next month".
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: Leverage Capabilities on January 03, 2019, 11:48:20 AM
Great write up. Saw this below article in FT about their successes in LatAm / global expansion plans

https://www.ft.com/content/2b1b317a-f87b-11e8-8b7c-6fa24bd5409c (https://www.ft.com/content/2b1b317a-f87b-11e8-8b7c-6fa24bd5409c) 
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: Leverage Capabilities on January 03, 2019, 12:02:09 PM
+1

Greg Maffei had some great comments a while back when talking about the music streaming services and why they hadn't bought in (this was before Pandora purchase).  He basically said they didn't see a long term business model because all of the streaming providers give consumers exactly the same product - the only differentiation was user interface and price so it was basically a race to the bottom and when you're in that race against companies willing to subsidize losses for a very long time without noticing (i.e. Apple, Amazon, Google) it was hard to see where value would be created.

I see this a little like Netflix.  For the longest time it was just a consolidator and distributor of product, ultimately at the mercy of those creating the product.  But when it realized there was no future in moat-less distribution and they needed differentiation to survive long term,  they started to curate their own product.  Much like Sirius has on the radio side.

Basically for this to work you need to either have differentiated product or the lowest cost of production (i.e. music rights).  Not sure where that will fall out for Spotify but there are a ton of competitors with deep pockets willing to use this as a loss leader.  I'd wait until the long term model plays out a bit more to pick a winner.  But that's just me....

I think I disagree somewhat re: Netflix. I think I posted that I wanted to cancel Netflix because we have Amazon Prime and Amazon Prime has been improving and hosting a lot of similar/same content as Netflix. My wife said "no way". And not because she watches Netflix-exclusive or Netflix-produced content. I think it's mostly based on familiarity, UI, long existing watch list. Maybe somewhat based on content that is known to be on Netflix, but not necessarily exclusive: she knows it's on Netflix and she does not want to search/check if it's on Amazon (or will it ever be on Amazon).

So IMO if service has a huge membership like Netflix has, they may have stickiness and moat based on existing relationship with viewers/subscribers. There is a pain point of moving to another service even if that other service may have some of the same content. And Netflix can even raise price and not lose subscribers like that.

Whether this applies to Spotify, I don't know. I'd say that they need to grow a number of users a lot for this to apply, which is one of the points of OP.
It also may be different for music services if the content overlap is very big: i.e. if every service has everything. In movies, nobody has everything. Netflix doesn't, Amazon doesn't. And the availability changes all the time, which BTW I think psychologically makes people more tied to the service, since there is this thought "if I cancel, I may miss movies/shows that might be there next month".

I think there may be a few good parallels between NFLX / SPOT here for existing users. A year or so, I considered making the switch from Spotify to Apple music but really didn't want to deal with recreating playlists (I don't believe there is a viable way to transfer between platforms) or redownloading songs i had already saved for offline use. Additionally, the Spotify-curated playlists have become widely popular and switching platforms will force users to try and find similar curations all over again. While this stickiness can also apply to Apple / AMZN, given Spotify's current lead in user base, i feel like its much more to their advantage. 

IMO the UI for SPOT is way simpler / cleaner than Apple music and i find it significantly easier to find new songs / artists (I tried out Apple w/ a 1 mo. free trial). I also have heard from a number of my friends that the "radio" feature on Spotify is better, although i have not used it much myself.
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: dwy000 on January 03, 2019, 12:41:09 PM
+1

Greg Maffei had some great comments a while back when talking about the music streaming services and why they hadn't bought in (this was before Pandora purchase).  He basically said they didn't see a long term business model because all of the streaming providers give consumers exactly the same product - the only differentiation was user interface and price so it was basically a race to the bottom and when you're in that race against companies willing to subsidize losses for a very long time without noticing (i.e. Apple, Amazon, Google) it was hard to see where value would be created.

I see this a little like Netflix.  For the longest time it was just a consolidator and distributor of product, ultimately at the mercy of those creating the product.  But when it realized there was no future in moat-less distribution and they needed differentiation to survive long term,  they started to curate their own product.  Much like Sirius has on the radio side.

Basically for this to work you need to either have differentiated product or the lowest cost of production (i.e. music rights).  Not sure where that will fall out for Spotify but there are a ton of competitors with deep pockets willing to use this as a loss leader.  I'd wait until the long term model plays out a bit more to pick a winner.  But that's just me....

I think I disagree somewhat re: Netflix. I think I posted that I wanted to cancel Netflix because we have Amazon Prime and Amazon Prime has been improving and hosting a lot of similar/same content as Netflix. My wife said "no way". And not because she watches Netflix-exclusive or Netflix-produced content. I think it's mostly based on familiarity, UI, long existing watch list. Maybe somewhat based on content that is known to be on Netflix, but not necessarily exclusive: she knows it's on Netflix and she does not want to search/check if it's on Amazon (or will it ever be on Amazon).

So IMO if service has a huge membership like Netflix has, they may have stickiness and moat based on existing relationship with viewers/subscribers. There is a pain point of moving to another service even if that other service may have some of the same content. And Netflix can even raise price and not lose subscribers like that.

Whether this applies to Spotify, I don't know. I'd say that they need to grow a number of users a lot for this to apply, which is one of the points of OP.
It also may be different for music services if the content overlap is very big: i.e. if every service has everything. In movies, nobody has everything. Netflix doesn't, Amazon doesn't. And the availability changes all the time, which BTW I think psychologically makes people more tied to the service, since there is this thought "if I cancel, I may miss movies/shows that might be there next month".

That's a good point.  There's definitely stickiness to anything that isn't "flip a switch" to change.  That being said, there's always a price point that makes it worthwhile and it doesn't apply to new users.  When looking for a moat or differentiation though I'm not sure I'd put too much emphasis on people's laziness (although given how lazy most people are that might be an awesome moat!).
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: chesko182 on January 05, 2019, 09:29:37 AM
Great post thank you. I've been following the music industry for some time and have become even more interested recently.

SPOT was originally an easy "too hard pile" for me as I have a hard time seeing what it will look like in 10 years but after doing further research I've become more convinced that the twin bear thesis (deep pocketed tech competition hurting overall market penetration+big3 labels hurting margins) is more unlikely to play out, as you point out.

Someone already mentioned this, but I think curated playlists are a largely overseen feature when it comes to switching costs. I think SPOT claims over 30% of overall streams come from this playlists and this is also growing. This makes the switching costs huge for the average user, along with all the rest of the typical reasons (downloaded songs, saved albums/playlists, UI easiness, and social networking features).

A question that I have is why is SIRI able to pull in much better gross margins than SPOT? I believe it's something like 60% vs SPOT's 25%... that difference just seems way to high to me and in the long term SPOT should be able to close that somewhat given the leverage they will have over the labels. It should end up somewhere more balanced where both the labels and SPOT have decent margins but right now it seems to me labels are f*cking SPOT as they are eating the biggest share of the pie and providing almost no value-add, while SPOT is left with nothing even though they provide most of the value-add. This will probably change eventually as they reach a certain amount of scale.

I absolutely urge everyone who is interested in the space to read Matthew Ball's REDEF article on the future of the Music industry. He lays out a very insightful view of how this should playout in the very long term.

https://redef.com/original/16-years-late-13b-short-but-optimistic-where-growth-will-take-the-music-biz

Also this guy is a must follow if you're interested in TMT in general (especially Netflix).
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: Spekulatius on January 05, 2019, 09:38:26 AM
AMZN music is a contender in the field too. Pretty good selection and it’s included in Prime. It’s plenty good for me. I do agree that Spotify can carve out a place,  but they really need scale. It’s different than video, where Netflix gained scale before the other players did.
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: SHDL on January 05, 2019, 09:59:05 AM
A question that I have is why is SIRI able to pull in much better gross margins than SPOT?

I guess one big difference is that SiriusXM produces its own unique content.  That differentiates them from the competition (which helps with pricing power) and gives them very nice operating leverage.  They have music channels too, but as far as I know those are not what make them such a profitable enterprise.
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: chesko182 on January 05, 2019, 10:35:37 AM
A question that I have is why is SIRI able to pull in much better gross margins than SPOT?

I guess one big difference is that SiriusXM produces its own unique content.  That differentiates them from the competition (which helps with pricing power) and gives them very nice operating leverage.  They have music channels too, but as far as I know those are not what make them such a profitable enterprise.

Thanks, I also speculate the agreements for radio plays are very different than streaming.

The labels will see expanding margins as streaming keeps growing and that extra revenue should go straight to their bottom line, while SPOT's will probably stay around breakeven. At some point when they come back to the negotiating table and SPOT has such a massive size they will have to agree to better terms that equitable for both sides. The labels need SPOT as much as SPOT needs the labels, but as time goes on, I see this turning around in SPOT's favor. Very little chance in my mind any major label even threatens to pull-out their content, it's way too much money coming in for them and they have shareholders to respond to as well as a PE sponsor with high leverage (in the case of Warner). 
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: chesko182 on January 05, 2019, 02:14:31 PM
One more thing, to me it is a little crazy that SIRI has a bigger market cap than SPOT.....I doubt this will be the case 10 years from now.
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: dwy000 on January 05, 2019, 03:21:38 PM
One more thing, to me it is a little crazy that SIRI has a bigger market cap than SPOT.....I doubt this will be the case 10 years from now.


Why would that be surprising?  SIRI generates about $1.3bn per year in free cash flow.  SPOT is largely breakeven.
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: Leverage Capabilities on January 07, 2019, 08:46:42 AM
Great post thank you. I've been following the music industry for some time and have become even more interested recently.

SPOT was originally an easy "too hard pile" for me as I have a hard time seeing what it will look like in 10 years but after doing further research I've become more convinced that the twin bear thesis (deep pocketed tech competition hurting overall market penetration+big3 labels hurting margins) is more unlikely to play out, as you point out.

Someone already mentioned this, but I think curated playlists are a largely overseen feature when it comes to switching costs. I think SPOT claims over 30% of overall streams come from this playlists and this is also growing. This makes the switching costs huge for the average user, along with all the rest of the typical reasons (downloaded songs, saved albums/playlists, UI easiness, and social networking features).

A question that I have is why is SIRI able to pull in much better gross margins than SPOT? I believe it's something like 60% vs SPOT's 25%... that difference just seems way to high to me and in the long term SPOT should be able to close that somewhat given the leverage they will have over the labels. It should end up somewhere more balanced where both the labels and SPOT have decent margins but right now it seems to me labels are f*cking SPOT as they are eating the biggest share of the pie and providing almost no value-add, while SPOT is left with nothing even though they provide most of the value-add. This will probably change eventually as they reach a certain amount of scale.

I absolutely urge everyone who is interested in the space to read Matthew Ball's REDEF article on the future of the Music industry. He lays out a very insightful view of how this should playout in the very long term.

https://redef.com/original/16-years-late-13b-short-but-optimistic-where-growth-will-take-the-music-biz

Also this guy is a must follow if you're interested in TMT in general (especially Netflix).

His write-up series' on Netfilx / HBO are phenomenal reads as well
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: chesko182 on January 07, 2019, 01:41:33 PM
Very interesting piece of history...  Sean Parker emails Daniel Ek in 2009

https://www.scribd.com/doc/67465758/Sean-Parker-s-Email-to-Spotify-s-Daniel-Ek?irgwc=1&content=10079&campaign=Skimbit%2C%20Ltd.&ad_group=35871X943606X7c75052d48c2c5e91672d1cdb54ab22f&keyword=ft750noi&source=impactradius&medium=affiliate
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: IanBezek on January 08, 2019, 12:09:42 PM
One more thing, to me it is a little crazy that SIRI has a bigger market cap than SPOT.....I doubt this will be the case 10 years from now.


Why would that be surprising?  SIRI generates about $1.3bn per year in free cash flow.  SPOT is largely breakeven.

Yes, however Spotify is the global streaming brand known by most 18-29 year olds across the world (even here in emerging market LatAm where I live). It comes preloaded on phones and gets preferential data treatment from many mobile carriers. Sirius is (as far as I understand it) mostly in the U.S., and mostly aimed at an older demographic that wants an alternative to radio. 10 years from now, Spotify's brand and users will be more desirable and Sirius probably won't be.
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: dwy000 on January 08, 2019, 03:04:57 PM
One more thing, to me it is a little crazy that SIRI has a bigger market cap than SPOT.....I doubt this will be the case 10 years from now.


Why would that be surprising?  SIRI generates about $1.3bn per year in free cash flow.  SPOT is largely breakeven.

Yes, however Spotify is the global streaming brand known by most 18-29 year olds across the world (even here in emerging market LatAm where I live). It comes preloaded on phones and gets preferential data treatment from many mobile carriers. Sirius is (as far as I understand it) mostly in the U.S., and mostly aimed at an older demographic that wants an alternative to radio. 10 years from now, Spotify's brand and users will be more desirable and Sirius probably won't be.

Couldn't you argue that the hope of that brand and user growth is what is already reflected in the $21Bn valuation?  The economics don't and there's a major question as to whether they can monetize those assets.  As both have expanded over the past few years so have losses.  The article from Chesko's post above (thanks! great article) certainly argues that because of the economics of their royalties, user growth doesn't mean profits.  If you lose money on every user, it's tough to make that up with volume.
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: IanBezek on January 09, 2019, 07:24:30 AM
Sure, the economics aren't there yet. I haven't bought any SPOT yet either. I'm bullish on the business model but the valuation isn't compelling yet. Drop it to $80 or $90 per share and I'll probably start buying. Ultimately the labels need SPOT more than SPOT needs them. The other services are dead on arrival outside the U.S. and so if a label tries to leave SPOT, they're saying goodbye to revenues from most of the world. SPOT will ultimately get enough margin to make a profit, albeit probably a small one. Over time, they'll figure out other ways to monetize their data though, beating Ticketmaster, selling merch, independent artists, whatnot. Once it crosses into accounting + EPS territory, the stock should fly a la Twitter a couple years ago.
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: rogermunibond on January 09, 2019, 11:48:23 AM
I wasn't a believer in SPOT until I started using it.  I pay $10 month for the service now.  Curation plus depth of catalog for what I'm seeking - mostly dance music.

Works much better than Amazon Music, Apple, or Pandora.
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: Ahab on January 09, 2019, 12:29:49 PM
Ditto on really enjoying Spotify. I've paid for it for 5 years running, my oldest digital subscription, haha.
On an investment basis, the question remains if Spotify can overcome the likes of Apple Music and Youtube (and their giant backers). The economics aren't great now, but if Spotify maintains share, it should benefit from larger shifts in the music industry and eventually improve its margin profile.
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: rogermunibond on January 09, 2019, 12:36:13 PM
Honestly I don't think their economics improve.  Mostly because their competitors are giants and have money to throw at investing in subs and services.  And their suppliers are a tight oligopoly of basically 3-4 giants and then a bunch of independents.

Spotify is trying to discover/produce their own artists.  So too for Apple Music, but I think that's a tougher game than for video content, which is/was Netflix's strategy.
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: Ahab on January 09, 2019, 12:42:03 PM
I totally agree it's a tougher game than Netflix. I think the bull case has to rely on Spotify becoming an aggregator in the long run and achieving more favorable revenue sharing arrangements as opposed to the status quo.
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: chesko182 on January 12, 2019, 01:57:42 PM
I thought this was a very well-thought-out comment from the SPOT VIC post, full credits to user WinBrun:

(he's responding to a Reply that says: Thoughts on this? https://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/spotify-is-on-a-road-to-collision-with-the-record-industry-heres-why/ )

"What is the real alternative to the labels working constructively with Spotify over the long-term to maximize the value of their catalogs by driving global adoption of streaming? It seems to me that the alternatives are potentially worse---i.e. risk concentrating market power in the hands of Apple (and the other two companies that could have a global presence-Amazon-Google should not make them more comfortable). There is always tension in supplier-retailer relationships-----particularly when it is new----but over time, most suppliers benefit from maximum distribution---and the retailer that builds the most scale will offer maximum distribution. It seems like Spot has a good chance to be the largest retailer of streaming music services, or one of the scale companies, due to its head-start, brand, technology, and focus. Because this market is going to be enormous and will grow for a long-time, that is a good place to be.

It seems unlikely that the labels are going to be able to puppeteer an industry structure that is most hospitable to their needs and economics by playing hardball with Spotify because they think Spot has a better valuation than they do or can afford to make margin concessions. I guess its possible that this industry structure could evolve into one with a lot of supplier power, such as Nike versus the retailers--but that assumes that retail distribution of streaming audio services is effectively a commodity that is easily substitutable. That seems to be the essential issue here: if you believe that streaming music services are effectively a commodity because they basically all have the same content--then over time----that is probably not good for Spot. Of course, if you take that outcome to its logical conclusion, then the low-cost retailer is going to enjoy the most market power--and this could become a Wal-Mart/CPG model with Amazon or Apple playing the role of Wal-Mart (the services will just get bundled with other products from one of the tech giants). That is arguably worse for the labels than a healthy and profitable spotify serving as a check on the tech giants who are only interested in music as means to monetize other larger businesses (consumer products/Amazon Prime).

On the other hand, if you believe that the merchandising, presentation, and distribution of an audio service can meaningfully differentiate the quality of the consumer experience and can engender consumer loyalty over time--then the labels are going to be forced to do business with the best retailer on terms that suit that retailer. My feeling is that streaming is not going to be a commodity service--and that people are going to increasingly value the quality of the curation, discovery, and social sharing components of music in a way that is going to separate spot from its competitors. On something that is as personal as music that people are deeply passionate about--I believe there will be a huge base of customers that choose the best service for their needs--not the service that comes bundled with a smart home device or the service that is a few dollars cheaper."
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: ajc on January 19, 2019, 05:58:23 AM

Spotify is making a big push for the in-car market, plus they inadvertently revealed their India launch might happen as soon as the end of this month.

https://www.musicbusinessworldwide.com/spotify-is-making-voice-controlled-hardware-for-the-car-and-could-launch-in-india-on-january-31/


Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: Spekulatius on January 30, 2019, 07:23:30 PM
Malone’s  XM Sirius now ventures into the streaming music space by taking out Pandora:
https://finance.yahoo.com/news/pandora-stockholders-approve-transaction-siriusxm-210500114.html (https://finance.yahoo.com/news/pandora-stockholders-approve-transaction-siriusxm-210500114.html)
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: chesko182 on February 02, 2019, 03:47:17 PM
Another move closer into content creation, straight from the Netflix playbook...

https://www.fastcompany.com/90301291/spotify-in-talks-to-buy-podcasting-giant-gimlet-media

Wonder what they will do with that content knowing they own the most valuable music platform real estate? ???

Interesting that the company also produces video
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: Leverage Capabilities on February 04, 2019, 08:41:15 AM
Another move closer into content creation, straight from the Netflix playbook...

https://www.fastcompany.com/90301291/spotify-in-talks-to-buy-podcasting-giant-gimlet-media

Wonder what they will do with that content knowing they own the most valuable music platform real estate? ???

Interesting that the company also produces video

I think a separate podcasting app probably makes the most sense. It's obviously a give / take between keeping the existing music platform as-is and being able to integrate / push a higher margin product. I'm sure they could set it up where you "swap" into the Spotify Podcasts app from the music app, similar to how the Facebook app will automatically open messenger.

Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: ajc on February 06, 2019, 03:50:20 AM

Q4 highlights:


- OI, NI, FCF all simultaneously positive for 1st time in company history
- Total MAUs up 29% YoY
- Premium subscribers up 36% YoY
- Total revenue up 30% YoY
- Gross margin up to 26.7%
- Net cash flows from operating activities up 58% YoY
- 1.8B euros in cash and short-term investments


https://s22.q4cdn.com/540910603/files/doc_financials/quarterly/2018/q4/Shareholder-Letter-Q4-2018.pdf


Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: ajc on February 06, 2019, 04:46:22 AM


Q4 highlights:


- OI, NI, FCF all simultaneously positive for 1st time in company history
- Total MAUs up 29% YoY
- Premium subscribers up 36% YoY
- Total revenue up 30% YoY
- Gross margin up to 26.7%
- Net cash flows from operating activities up 58% YoY
- 1.8B euros in cash and short-term investments


https://s22.q4cdn.com/540910603/files/doc_financials/quarterly/2018/q4/Shareholder-Letter-Q4-2018.pdf




Also, Ek's post on the Gimlet and Anchor podcast acquisitions is a good read.
Contains interesting insights about user behavior and how Spotify views the overall industry.

https://newsroom.spotify.com/2019-02-06/audio-first/


Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: Spekulatius on February 06, 2019, 07:37:22 AM
WHO is EK? I get the idea that SPOT could become a nice business some day, but ~$25B is a lot to pay for ”could”. I get the idea to buy FB and GOOG for 20 x earnings. I’d rather deal with crappy headlines than crappy financials. SPOT is parked on my watch list right now.
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: glorysk87 on February 06, 2019, 10:39:05 AM
WHO is EK?

Can't tell if you're serious or not, but it's Daniel Ek the co-founder and CEO of Spotify
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: Spekulatius on February 06, 2019, 04:00:02 PM
WHO is EK?

Can't tell if you're serious or not, but it's Daniel Ek the co-founder and CEO of Spotify
‍‍‍
Ouch, thanks I missed that. Thought EK is a shorthand for something, but of course it’s a Swedish name.
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: Liberty on February 07, 2019, 08:34:35 AM
https://stratechery.com/2019/spotifys-podcast-aggregation-play/
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: chesko182 on February 07, 2019, 09:04:52 AM
A great post, as usual.

A not-so-crazy-idea now (pure speculating): Spotify buys a meditation-app (or develops its own...).

Fits the audio company strategy, fixed-cost structure, lowers churn, increases LTV etc.

Anyone seen anything related to reactions of the labels to this new strategy?
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: Jurgis on February 07, 2019, 12:03:40 PM
I guess $1M questions are:

- How big is the podcast market going forward? Ek said going to 20%+ of Spotify listening. Is that reasonable and achievable?
- What is the probability of Spotify capturing that ??% of total podcasting that would map to 20%+ of Spotify listening?
- Assuming they get to 20%+ of Spotify listening. Is that enough to drive monetization/profits assuming no improvement on music side?
- Assuming they get to 20%+ of Spotify listening, will that improve Spotify's position vs music labels/artists and music side of business overall?

Let me throw out a simple silly model: assume current annual revenue $7B, podcasting adding 20% revenue ($1.4B), all that flowing to income/CF at 100% margin, you have $1.4B income/CF at $25B market cap - looks cheapish. Especially since regular revenue may grow double digits itself. The optimistic parts of this model are 20% rev addition and 100% margin though. Assuming 50% margin, the valuation becomes less attractive.

With 207M MAUs, it's possibly somewhat realistic to add 20-40M MAUs if they can grab a large podcast slice?
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: Jurgis on February 20, 2019, 12:18:57 PM
Mostly questions: https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/five-things-spotify-needs-to-fix-in-2019-794853/
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: voyager on February 22, 2019, 08:51:16 AM
I have a little bit of knowledge here in the podcasting space and can offer a few thoughts.

1) For info on the industry check out Edison's Share of Ear report.  They also do podcast specific research as well.  It's very good and used by the industry.  Long story short, podcasting is growing fast, albeit the industry is still small ~$300 million doesn't monetize super well yet, and is a big opportunity for Spotify.
2) What Spotify is really good at is discovery... This is a skill that is much needed with podcasts.  They think one way to do it is to have exclusive content, although one should expect them to have outside content as well. 
3) The unit economics are probably better than music for podcasting since there are less middle men.
4) Strategically, it's a way for them to have an edge over Apple, who is their big competitor.  Additionally, people don't use streaming very much when in the car.  Podcasts are really catching on in the car and if Spotify can leverage that to get more people to use their app in the car - even by a couple percent - that's a huge value to them. 

The Stratechery article is great as well. 
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: ajc on February 27, 2019, 05:10:55 AM

Spotify has launched in India (https://techcrunch.com/2019/02/26/spotify-launches-in-india/).

Won't help their ARPU numbers, but in all likelihood will provide a strong boost to their MAU stats judging from the response on Twitter India yesterday.
Anyway I think they're focused on the right thing for now, which is user scale over revenue.

Back to Twitter India... people seemed unanimously crazy about the launch news as I saw it develop, and a few were openly dissing Apple, JioSaavn, and Gaana, saying they couldn't wait to delete those accounts.

Clearly it's too early to tell what market share Spotify will grab, but I think it's safe to say the early signs look relatively promising.


Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: ajc on February 28, 2019, 06:34:16 AM

Spotify CFO, Barry McCarthy, took part in a fireside chat at the Morgan Stanley Tech, Media, and Telecom Conference on February 26th, 2019.
He discussed their potential total addressable market, India, current/future margin structure, and their relationship with the labels, as well as many other things.
The conversation contains numerous insights around how Spotify views their own business, and also how they see the overall audio industry.

https://investors.spotify.com/events/events-calendar/event-details/2019/Morgan-Stanley-TMT-Conference-2019/default.aspx


Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: Liberty on March 15, 2019, 01:30:46 AM
Apple response to Spotify:

https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2019/03/addressing-spotifys-claims/
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: Spekulatius on March 15, 2019, 04:08:20 AM
Apple response to Spotify:

https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2019/03/addressing-spotifys-claims/

So a market place for a paid subscription service accuses the other market place of charging for access. Makes sense. :o
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: rogermunibond on March 15, 2019, 07:20:39 AM
Spotify is partnering with Hulu to give Premium subscribers a free Hulu ad-supported plan as part of their package.  Interesting idea.  Billing is still through Spotify but now Hulu gets a bump up in subs.

It seems like decent idea to pair music with video content in a bundle.
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: Jurgis on March 15, 2019, 07:52:53 AM
Apple response to Spotify:

https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2019/03/addressing-spotifys-claims/ (https://www.apple.com/newsroom/2019/03/addressing-spotifys-claims/)

So a market place for a paid subscription service accuses the other market place of charging for access. Makes sense. :o

Yo homies, how 'bout battle rap this out.
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: Spekulatius on April 16, 2019, 04:44:15 PM
Freakonomics podcast about Spotify, the music industry with the founder Daniel Ek:
http://freakonomics.com/podcast/spotify/ (http://freakonomics.com/podcast/spotify/)

I don’t own this, but I am impressed by the founder. Very much focused on user experience and very down to earth. Listening to the podcast is time well spent if you are interested in SPOT or any other company in this sector.
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: Liberty on May 14, 2019, 07:26:56 AM
New writeup about SIRI and SPOT by Scuttleblurb (subscription required):

https://www.scuttleblurb.com/sirius-pandora-siri-spotify-spot-long-term-relevance-long-term-dominance/
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: chesko182 on May 15, 2019, 05:36:25 AM
would anyone care two share the two cents on Scuttleblurb's post?
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: ajc on May 21, 2019, 02:28:29 PM

Sold my stake for a small gain a week or two back (after buying in at $119), though I still think management is very good, the product and brand are strong, and this will likely be a worthwhile investment over the next decade.

However, in my original analysis I believe I underestimated how competitive the global space would be for the next few years. My guess is it'll take longer than I initially figured for the industry winners and losers to shake out, so for a reasonable while I imagine the returns will be steady rather than turbo charged.

Holding Stitch Fix, Facebook, and Uber, together with bucket loads of cash, instead.


Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: chesko182 on June 28, 2019, 05:13:20 AM
A recent article, presentation and twitter thread on SPOT

Investing in the Podcast Ecosystem in 2019 - Andressen Howowitz
https://a16z.com/2019/05/23/podcast-ecosystem-investing-2019/

ValueX Vail Presentation - DA Davidson
https://valuexvail.com/presentations/#Spotify-Technology-SA-SPOT

Bluegrass Capital highlighting Scuttleblurb's article on SPOT (found this the most insightful)
https://twitter.com/BluegrassCap/status/1144314122508668929
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: Liberty on July 11, 2019, 07:36:30 AM
https://traviswiedower.com/2019/07/11/spotifys-moats-management-and-unit-economics/
Title: Re: SPOT - Spotify
Post by: chesko182 on August 06, 2019, 03:43:34 AM
this is problably good for the industry as it may generate more cooperation between the labels and streaming platforms (Tencent owns 58% of Tencent music, which in turn did an equity swap with SPOT where they each own ~10% of each other) There's a lot of headlines around labels seeing distributors as their enemies but I don't think that's actually the case.

It may bring more discipline to the industry and I think it makes sense for them to do this.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/tencent-in-talks-to-buy-stake-in-universal-music-group-11565078272?mod=hp_lead_pos5