BertozziBytesize : Communicate/Adage MENA – Audio goes everywhere.

Marco Bertozzi, Vice President, EMEA Sales & Multi-market Global Sales at Spotify, tells  Communicate what users were listening to while social distancing was in effect around the globe and in the region.  

Original post HERE

What were the significant consumption trends by users on Spotify during the lockdown period? 

Audio plays a very important role in people’s lives, because of its flexibility in being able to follow users wherever they go. When people’s daily lifestyle was [disrupted] by the impact of Covid-19, many had to stay at home, to help prevent the spread. As the listening followed user’s into their homes, it also branched on to a variety of new platforms. So the two [components] that we really focused on were – what kind of content people were listening to and how they were listening to it?

What people were listening to People were looking for comfort during these challenging times. At Spotify, we’re able to measure behavior based on users’ [search queries] and playlists. We were able to see the users’ behavior reflected on the playlists that they were listening to. One of the most prominent trends around the globe was the increase in nostalgia. We saw a 54% increase in listeners making nostalgic-themed playlists, as well as an uptick in the share of listening to music from the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s. Within the UAE and KSA, there was a spike in ’90s music as well as gaming playlists.

During the initial stages of the lockdown, “Covid” and “Corona” were some of the fastest-growing search terms for podcasts around the globe. As time passed by, these search trends dropped in favor of fun and educational topics.

We’ve also seen an increase in the sharing of playlists as well as the listening of collaborative playlists between users. To give a bit of context, people are able to share Spotify playlists through a link with their friends and family via email, Whatsapp, etc. However, in a collaborative playlist, people can connect over shared music and have virtual jam sessions together. These trends were bringing people closer to one another and became a point of focus, especially for users with a family.

For family members, there was a noticeable shift from personal listening on earphones to group listening via a connected speaker. Even the content transitioned to family-oriented themes, such as kids and comedy podcasts, to keep everyone entertained. These themes were popular for group listening while news and information themed podcasts were less front and center.

During April – May, as people continued to spend most of their time indoors, they were creating playlists to keep themselves entertained, while attending to household chores. There was a 40% increase in the creation of cleaning-themed playlists, and a 65% increase in the streaming of those playlists. These playlists were popular among users in the UAE and KSA.

How they were listening At Spotify, we have always talked about a ubiquity strategy, which means being able to be with the listener wherever you want.  Think about all the different places you can listen to audio today – Mobile, tablets, desktop, connected speakers, cars, connected televisions, gaming consoles and heck there are some lucky people who even got it in their fridge. There’s no limit to the possibilities. And on top of that, it provides visibility for audio, especially from an advertising perspective.

Regardless of the circumstances, advertisers are able to follow the user wherever they go. We spoke about this [aspect] even during normal times, where advertisers were able to reach customers while they go for a run, commute to work, etc. But during the lockdown, we saw a rise in listening through other platforms such as connected speakers.

However, gaming was the platform that stood out above all others and the MENA region ranked on top in this category. Gamers are able to stream Spotify through their console while playing, and during the lockdown, we began to see a surge. Our research found a 41% increase in streaming of Spotify’s curated video game playlists across the entire platform. Digging in a little deeper, we found that the top three countries that listen to Spotify-curated video game playlists globally are in the MENA region – Tunisia, Oman, and Saudi Arabia.

As many people were working from home, desktop listening on Spotify experienced a surge as well. According to our data, between April 17th – May 17th, WFH themed playlists increased by 1400% compared to the first ten days in March.

 How were marketers leveraging the trends and communicating with consumers? Our communication with advertisers has always been around creating messages, that are contextual and relevant to what the user is doing on the platform. The lockdown period amplified that very same notion. Initially, there was a rush for advertisers to try and be empathetic with consumers about what was going on. They were quite good at responding in that manner. Slowly, a shift began towards more utility messaging, where brands have decided to not only come out and recognize the situation but also provide services that would be beneficial to the consumer.

What tips did you provide to advertisers to make sure they don’t appear like trying to profiteer from the situation? We mainly advised advertisers to use context while reaching out to users on the platform and keep the format in mind. Spotify’s streaming intelligence can identify when the screen is in view and when the audio is the star of the show. For example, an ad with a direct call-to-action is a great fit for when the screen is in view while listening on desktop, tablet, or smartphone. For screen-less moments like cooking or working out, use the power of audio to tell a story and create a memorable impression for the listener.

Since it was a sensitive period, we advised advertisers to be considerate of the cultural moment. The streaming generation is especially critical right now, as brands are rushing in to weigh in on the current moment. Being culturally relevant doesn’t just mean addressing the cultural zeitgeist. It’s about tailoring the message to [address] personal as well as cultural moments, that we can identify through audio. We cautioned brands to be careful around using explicit references to COVID-19 including words and phrases such as, “it’s going viral” or “in these uncertain times.”

People were leaning towards audio while social distancing to help fill very specific needs such as, to stay informed, grounded, and occasionally entertained. Brands can play a role in filling those needs by focusing on brand-building messages that capture emotion and nuance. They can bring these messages/stories to life on audio across multiple formats like video, audio, and display. But regardless, they have to be mindful about not adding to the overwhelming news cycle with yet another piece of brand commentary on Covid-19.

My answers on getting a job, interviewing for school leavers and students.

I was lucky enough to take part in a Speakers4schools virtual talk and Q&A. I was blown away by the attendance, 1100 kids and 300 questions asked. Lock down or not I could not manage all 300 so I answered 18 that were sent as follow ups. If you are a school leaver or student, thinking about getting a job, work experience or how to prepare for interviews then I hope there are some useful tips!

1. What is your morning routine? Well I think my morning routine can be described as a pre and post Covid situation. Before COVID I would aim to be in the office for 830 so everything works back from there. Normally I will try and grab a few minutes with my son as he prepares to go to school, but after that quickly down to the station, so unfortunately not a good example as I don’t eat breakfast! I will try and grab something before I get to work, or when I arrive if I have time. The one rule I do have is that I don’t look at my email until I consider that work has started. As I have American bosses, I normally have a lot of emails landing in my inbox overnight, I consider the start of work to be when I am ready. It was a piece of advice I once received that if you roll over and check your email while still waking up and you see some bad news, it can spike adrenaline that is bad for the mind and body, just like sprinting before you have warmed up. The train is basically the start of my work so I’ll grab myself a coffee at the station and sit down and start to go through what has arrived through the night, I think about the day ahead, check my calendar and see what meetings I have planned, and hope I am ready for them. And that’s my routine.

2. At what age would you say was a good age to start at you first Saturday or holiday job? I don’t think there’s any rules around how young you start your first job. All work is work so if you’re helping your parents clean the car, or helping out around the house that is the start of life‘s work ethic. I think if you want to have lots of experience on your CV by the time you’re getting ready to leave Secondary School then you should have attempted to do some simple jobs we discussed; paper rounds, working in a shop perhaps some basic office work. Work experience is not always so much about the actual act of work but it’s what it says about you as a person and what you are learning to do. So when you’re thinking about your CV and you are thinking about what to do you should be thinking about what someone reading your CV would read into it. I gave the example of a paper round. The fact one has to do it every day, has to get up early before school shows a lot of commitment and energy and strength that tells someone about you. In the long run if you are thinking of working in an office then try and get experience in an office environment, but working in bars, restaurants is all important. What does working in a restaurant teach you? It teaches you customer Service, teaches you how to deal with people, it’s all life skills.

3. What is the hardest part of applying for a job and what was the atmosphere like when you first entered the interview? The hardest part about applying for jobs is the actual work you have to put into it, it is very tempting to write one letter, send it to 100 people, one email, send to hundred people, and hope that some of them will stick. Getting your first job is one of the most important things you will do in your life, so you have to treat it like that, and you have to put the work in to do it successfully. My suggestion is to start narrow and work out, so pick your top 10/20 companies that you want to work for and really do your research on them. Then and only then, should you send an email because that email should be full of insights and highlights you’ve understood from your research. Don’t take this work lightly, it’s a job in itself but if you do it well you are more likely to succeed. As far as research is concerned, follow the Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram accounts and read through them, as you will understand what is on their minds and what’s important to these companies in real time. Make sure you know when their internship program starts, make sure you understand if they have have work placements, do all the suitable research you can and then, finally, don’t be afraid to track a few people down, it is absolutely fine to contact someone directly on LinkedIn with a well written note and express your interest. It’s important that you start with that kind of communication.

4. What are good interview tips? and what can you do to stop yourself sounding nervous in an interview? Those are two very big questions! I’ll start with the interview tips, they’re not going to sound very interesting because some are very basic, but I can assure you a lot of people get them wrong. If indeed you do get them right you will put yourself in the top 30% of all the people who interview. So first of all make sure you do the basics; turn up well before the interview time, don’t take chances, don’t plan for 15 minutes before because that can be eaten up very quickly with delays. Turn up an hour before, and go and have a coffee, then you stake the place out and you’re ready to go. Secondly, it’s important to dress smartly – now a jacket and tie may seem an overkill nowadays, and probably is, but it is a sign that you care and that you really want the job, I personally don’t believe it will be taken as a negative, I think it shows that you’re trying to be as smart as you can which can never be a bad thing. That said if it’s not a shirt and tie I think it’s fine to have more casual clothing, just be smart smart casual and well turned out.

Lastly, and most importantly, do your research, don’t be afraid to ask who is interviewing, try and get the name of the person because perhaps you can search them online. My favourite is if they have presented at an event and it is on Youtube, you really get a feeling for them. Maybe they put stuff on LinkedIn etc, this is a window for you to understand something about the interviewer, and what happens is when you enter the interview you feel like you know them a little bit better and you will naturally feel relaxed. Don’t over use the information; I suggest not repeating back to them things are set on Twitter or on LinkedIn, just use it as background information and try to combine with your answers so it sounds a bit more organic. Lastly, do your research on the company as we said before in terms of writing the letter don’t answer obvious questions with obvious answer if Sam says ‘Why do you want to work at Spotify’ don’t say because you ‘love music’, say it’s because you’ve been reading about the sustainability policy, and that is something you care about deeply and you only want work for companies that have that kind of policy. Make sure you know everything about the job you’re doing as much as you can. I would also suggest trying to find out if there are people you know in the industry that you’re trying to get into, that could be distant relatives friends or friends of friends, ask around, because a single conversation could give some tips and insight into what actually happens in these companies, and it will make you sound much better than the candidate who hasn’t been able to get that inside information.

The question about nervousness is a really really good one, there are good tips and techniques about this, but without sounding repetitive one of the best things that will make you feel less nervous if you are well prepared. If you know your topic, if you’re prepared, if you’ve written notes, if you thought about it, I promise you you’re going to feel more confident when you walk into that room. Always make sure that you have prepared for the easiest questions, what I often see and hear when people are practising for interviews is, take a question like ‘why should I hire you’ for instance and in your head you may have a really great plan for that answer, yeah I know I’m gonna talk about this I’m gonna talk about that. This is where nerves kick in and if you have not practiced, you can fluff your lines! Make sure to have a proper answer to why should I hire you and why do you want to work at this company, that needs just as much effort as working at the balance sheet of a company or whatever else you might prepare for. The other small tip for the interview is people often ask you about your life, tell me about the things you’ve done, tell me about the job you’ve done, what you don’t need to do is go through those jobs one by one and explain each one of them. Have a story ready, in business they often talk about the elevator pitch; it basically means how could you describe yourself or your company in 2 minutes, so what you have to do is script an overall story that people can follow, that will describe your journey and highlight the most important aspects that say the most about you.

5. How does good communication skills play a role in an interview? There are two things to take into account in an interview; good communication and good knowledge, we talked a lot about good knowledge so I won’t go over that again, so good communication becomes the next biggest thing. Body language is an incredibly important aspect, it may sound a little bit daunting but in actual fact people judge you very quickly in the first 10 seconds so you have the potential to lose an interview. As you wait to be seen, dont slouch around on a couch staring at your phone. Be upright and attentive, always be polite to receptionists, look around you, read any materials lying around about the company. When you’re being welcomed stand up straight and confident, be confident and don’t be afraid to ask questions about how they are, shake their hands firmly (if we are still shaking hands), and don’t have too much clutter, bags and jackets, keep it simple, keep it clean. When you come into the room if they ask if you want a coffee, my suggestion is to probably say no, I am just always one for keeping it simple, you can sit down at the same time, and get on with the meeting. In the interview, sit up straight, lean into the conversation, that is then giving signals that you’re keen and enthusiastic and you want the job. My last piece of advice on this that I was given, which I wish I had remembered back in the day, if halfway through or at the start of an interview you don’t like the feel of the person or you don’t like the sound of the job keep going like it’s the most important job you’re ever going to get. What happens is because there is an interviewer will pick up on your disinterest and write you off but maybe by the end of the interview, you change your mind and have warmed into the sound of the role, but by then it will be too late. You only should only worry about whether you want the job or not when it’s offered to you, before then you have to impress. My final tip on the interviews is that you may be interviewing in three or four different categories of industries like finance, advertising and travel. Treat every interview as if it is the only job you have ever wanted. It is totally fine to be interviewing with different companies within finance but an interviewer does not want to hear you say you would happily work in travel or finance or whatever – that shows indecisiveness and not enough desire, so keep that to yourself!

6. On a scale from 1-10 how determined do you think you were in getting the job you applied for? It is funny you should ask that question because my very first boss will tell you, and this is very old sounding, that the fax machine was ringing non stop on their desk with me repetitively sending my application letter. I didn’t actually do that to pester them, I just wasn’t sure if it was getting through so I kept sending it! If I see that person now today 25 years later they still remember it and I still still talk about it, so I think it’s fair to say that I was pretty determined and then I think if you really want the job it’s the only way to be

7. What advice would you give to current year 12s who are writing their personal statements who as a result of Covid-19 restrictions are unable to fulfil their work experience? That is a really good question, and I know it is incredibly difficult for people today in this situation. The only thing I can say is always be honest, honesty will always come first, but start to think about how you could frame your experience. Think in terms of what you wanted to achieve or perhaps what you missed out on doing, but at least set out what your plans were during this period of time with complete honesty. I would say don’t waste time when you come out of the situation start to think about what you can do in advance and, depending on your age, perhaps it’s something you can do now to volunteer through this difficult times, which I know would always look make future employers look favourably upon your work ethic and show how you care about the community around you.

8. How can you write a CV if you have not had a job or work experience before? I think for your early CV, if you don’t have work experience, focus on your school career, perhaps think about anything that you have contributed during your school career. If you haven’t done that, then think creatively about what you could say your interests have been, what your interests are and so on. I will say though that not having work experience is something that you should probably start to sort out.

9. Do you normally have to rely on a person’s CV to know about his/her skills? The later into your career you go, the less we rely on the CV, whether it is Linkedin or contacts in the industry, or just searching the industry news, we can find out a lot. LinkedIn will tell them a lot about where you’ve worked how long you’ve worked there and so on. As you start your career I think yes the CV is an important starting point. I would suggest that you consider how to make it is as good as possible because we will go there first. Perhaps you have been in the local newspaper or had some kind of recognition so please make sure to mention in cover note. Your cover note is very important, it tells the story of your CV, it allows you to shine outside of just the CV.

11. What would you recommend for those of us who do not have the opportunity for work experience? (I live in a rural area with few local jobs) Obviously I can’t suggest without knowing exactly where you live or what is this happening there but I would check to make sure that you’re not being too picky about what jobs are available. Would you wash up in a pub, would you deliver newspapers, what would you do or not do because if you are being selective about what you would do, you are making life tough for yourself. If none of those things work then perhaps you can find a way to be a little entrepreneurial and create your own little business, perhaps a car washing enterprise, perhaps you can help people in the community, perhaps you can volunteer, volunteering is incredibly important and we have not touched on that; if you don’t have work experience, volunteering is the perfect way to show that you care both about the community around you, that you’ve got a work ethic and a drive to do something even in your local area for free, especially in a period like now.

12. What is the difference between the access to jobs in your time and now? I can only talk about my industry, but I would say that what we have seen over the last few years a big increase in realisation that we have to not be fishing in the same ponds. So in the white collar marketplace the default has always been to hire graduates. Now there is a much greater need for diversity and inclusion, which is incredibly important in the workplace and people are looking to scholarships and work placements and internships that are more inclusive than ever before. There is a much greater focus on the creation of opportunities that don’t rely on graduate degrees, and a willingness to see beyond the obvious set of benchmarks. So I’m encouraged that opportunities have opened up for school leavers and others which has to be a good thing. That said, it is a slow process and the BAME community is still not represented well because of hiring as much as anything, it has to accelerate.

13. Did you think that you would be in your current position when you were Young? I always like to put that question back into context of if I was 18 and you offered me my current job role and company at this age, I would absolutely take it now. I would never have imagined that I could have ended up being at such a great company in a really interesting job at 48! At school, I would have been described as an average student for the type of school it was, yet here I am. So I didn’t think back then that I would be in any specific job, the only thing that I would say, I had self confidence and determination to keep working hard. I mentioned on the Q&A that my parents are an inspiration for hard work and determination and I definitely had that built in, and always felt that if I kept pushing, kept trying and didn’t let defeats set me back that I could achieve something.

14. What sort of things does your job entail? And what experience did you have before you joined the company? My role is about leadership, now there are lots of definitions, but the way I would describe leadership is you have to be a good communicator, both in the company and externally, you have to set a direction and a goal for people to be able to get behind and understand. Everyone likes to know where they are heading and why they’re heading there. It is also a role that is not always pleasant, you have to make tough decisions about people and structures. You don’t do it lightly, but if you have a plan and you understand what the end benefits of this will be it is important to stick to your plan. Although this job was very different from previous roles, there were some needs that required what we called transferable skills. That means that some things you do are very specific, others can carry from one job to another in a different industry, leadership skills are very much an example. That is why it is important to understand your skills and grow them in any role you may be in, because you don’t know what the next job may be.

15. Have u been through challenges? How did you overcome them? Great question! Careers are long, careers often have ups and downs, the part of it where things go great and accelerate very quickly, but there are points where your career may plateau slightly and become a bit uneventful. The key to your career is to recognise the different stages and when to make the right decisions. I was fortunate enough to make a couple of decisions in my career that took me into parts of my industry when they were very early on and most people were not interested in them, but then turned out to be huge. That put me in growth sectors and exciting times. That always takes a little bit of stubbornness, and not listening to everyone around you. But as I say careers are long and you have to not panic when you do have a difficult patch. Equally if you are happy at work, my advice is hang on to it, careers are long and it is important to try and be happy at work. I had a period of my career in a company that I really didn’t enjoy and ultimately I had to take leave from that company and I was out of work for a few months. During that time I never once thought that I wouldn’t get back to where I wanted to be, in fact the 18 months experience taught me exactly what I did not want out of a job and after I wrote my tick list I worked hard and I chased companies that fitted my ideal job. The next seven years of my career were possibly some of the happiest and most successful, it just shows, a set back does not have to be the end. Just dig in and keep trying.

16. Do you need to be able to work well with other people to work for Spotify? and is there any way in which disabled people can get employed by big companies? I think any company has a requirement to work well with other people, how we communicate with each other, collaborate with each other, and work with often quite complex matrix of teams to deliver on projects is all part of working office life. So yes, I would assume that that has to be part of the equation for my industry. Every industry is different however and of course there are more jobs that are more insular and don’t require a lot of team interaction. There is absolutely no reason why a disabled person should not be able to find employment and whether it’s Spotify or elsewhere, it’s an area that is Incredibly important, There is so much further to go in terms of making that a reality at scale though. But I know there’s a lot of good people and a lot of great companies that want to make sure that they create opportunities for everyone in an equal and fair way.

17. Do you think music can change someone’s life who has Cerebral palsy? That is such an interesting question, I don’t have a specific response to that but I do know that we have worked with Parkinsons as an example, and we teamed up with a Parkinson‘s charity where they studied how the repetitive beat of certain music could help people judge the steps as they walk and time the steps with the music. So I absolutely think music is important. It’s also important to mental health as well as physical and wellness issues. It’s one of the reasons why I love working in the Music industry, and work at a company like Spotify because we have various examples of where we have used music to help others and it is incredibly inspiring.

18. What is the best way to make your music stand out on Spotify i.e be selected for Editorial playlists? We talk a lot about this topic and I think everyone wishes there was a magic wand that you could wave to achieve that. The truth of it is that everyone who wants to be registered on the scene has to get out and has to play and has to do the hard yards to be able to get noticed. In effect playlists are a combination of data and human editors, but data is actually probably one of the most important factors early on where we can see if artists are popping. Those spikes in listening often come from an artist being out on the road and growing their fan base. There have never been more ways for an artist to be seen and heard. All the social media channels can be used to grow an artists visibility, then they get listened to, streams grow on the platform and then perhaps you get noticed by our editors. It is s complex business but as with everything we have said in this Q&A, hard work first!

Corona Virus Log. I miss meetings.

Running a team in this climate is very hard right? I am navigating my way through these weeks, one day at a time, and i know that most of you out there feel the same. Since starting at Spotify my focus has been on trying to make sure I have been visible across the region, visiting markets, keeping regular management meetings going, and being out with clients wherever I have visited. I cant do any of that right now.  I have never seen the value more of face to face. I would defend an offsite all day long now.

I have always observed that sales is a business that over indexes on momentum, energy, determination and a strong dose of inter-personal skills. My view has been that one person can change everything in a sales team as a leader, much more so than in an agency, just a different dynamic, a different mentality. So what happens when you take that away. Well for me, I feel like it is really hard to understand and get your arms around whats happening. You cant judge the mood, you don’t read between the lines, the Hangouts with multiple people, stuttering, difficult calls where it is hard to reveal the true emotions of people, I feel like I cant connect. I hope they are coping, I hope we are saying and doing the right things, but it is hard to know.

Ignore the fucking Work from home articles: I have studiously ignored the articles on how to work at home, not because there are not some smart tips, but because every person is living their own challenge. So often in businesses we are forced to come up with guide lines, guard rails, suggestions and or rules, but I feel that right now they are all useless. We all want different things, we are all living a very private life. If we do an all hands, there are people in big houses, with big gardens and country side, through to people sharing a small flat with 4+ others, we are at various stages of lock down and length of shut downs, the rules don’t work. The only rule is let people work it out, let them adjust.

In defence of meetings: I know things will change, we will challenge a lot of what we have done before, the obese list of trade magazine events that we have all inflated will have to decline as we realise that we have lived happily without them as an example. That said I don’t agree with a lot of other stuff. There are some very vociferous attackers of meetings, I have come to miss meetings, I now wish I could sit in a room and discuss a plan with someone without the video glitching or wifi issues – it is SD vs HD. Its like emails, when people say that after they have done their emails, they can get on with their work..I am sorry but many of my emails are work, and many meetings help me achieve a lot and by god I miss them now.

Pros and cons of Lock down: I read a fascinating letter from someone in Italy who was predicting our future and the one thing that really struck me was the apathy, the lethargy, this view that we can do so much with our time, but in reality, life is being sucked out of us, one day at a time. It is being replaced on the positive side by some small wins, personally for me, that is spending more time with my family, as someone who travels relentlessly this is a bonus. I have never been at home with my son, outside of holidays ever, this bit is special. As I said above, we all have to do our own thing, I feel better doing constructive things either work related or home that have a clear start and finish, something I can tick off to drive progress.

In support of hearing from others: In the last few days I have reached out to clients from across the spectrum, I did not have anything to sell, I just wanted to hear from someone else, I wanted to learn what was happening in other industries, learn from others. I am so glad I did, it has been a good day today – thanks to those who spoke with me, I learned stuff and felt like I had moved on. It will be something I continue to do, I hope there are many more people I talk to over coming months – your shit is very interesting to me.

We are busier than ever: I have saved a commute of about an hour each way, thats two hours plus a day saved, and yet..I feel like I am constantly checking my watch, every day we attempt to do so much. Well being, work, home schooling, walking kid/dog, play with kid, work more, be mindful. Its a tread mill, I am now grappling with my agenda to get back on top of meetings and calls, I think we have to shift our days, we have to find a new way – I feel like we are trying to do everything, everyday?

What do I miss?

  • A relaxed chat with someone without straining for sound or vision
  • Being able to draw on a wall and brainstorm
  • Walk into a bar or restaurant and hug some friends
  • Some friendly laughing and joking at work
  • Getting on a flight to anywhere in the world and seeing people you know
  • Varied menus!
  • Seeing my son play with all his mates at football or just messing around
  • Seeing all the kids pour into school, all chattering away

I did not write this for any end goal, more a stream of consciousness. This blog has been going for 10+ years, it is a diary of my last decade plus and somehow it felt right to log a journal of this crazy time we are all living through. A friend of mine once said as we hit a tough part of a long run, ‘just put one foot in front of the other’ that seemed sensible at the time and right now, that is the best we can all do. Big hugs to everyone out there and best of luck with whatever way you choose to put one foot in front of the other.

 

How audio is changing lives for the better.

This post was originally posted on http://www.spotifyforbrands.com

At Spotify, we understand the power of audio. Music and podcasts bring joy to millions all over the world, and we see audio taking center stage as a result of our day-to-day screen burnout. And at this year’s CES in Las Vegas, we saw more clearly than ever how audio is changing people’s lives for the better. 

There is nowhere better than CES to see where technology is headed. Spotify was there all week, seeing the many — and sometimes surprising — ways technology is being used in every aspect of our life. This central role of technology is leading towards a big macro trend known as the “quantified self.” This trend is all about how we are using technology to understand ourselves better as humans — and how we are diagnosing, reporting, and creating tools to enhance people’s lives. 

One key trend of the “quantified self” is the number of applications that have audio as central to the solution. Audio is now helping people live a better life, supporting when screens are not relevant or indeed, individuals can’t see the screens because of visual impairment. I wanted to highlight four of the interesting solutions we saw, some incredibly sophisticated and life-changing, some more for fun!

Take OrCam’s MyEye 2 — a wonderful piece of technology for visually impaired or blind individuals that scans full-page texts, money notes, people and more, then reads it back to the visually impaired person through a small device worn on the ear. If there is a product in a shop, the person can scan the barcode and the product details will be read back to them, translating the visual world into speech. 

In a similar vein, there is Addison Care, a virtual caregiver who monitors in the home, making sure the individual’s vital signs are strong, while assessing their movement to look for signs of trouble. The system calls out reminders to take medicine and is mainly voice activated, something that is more intuitive to many older people. It is yet another exciting use of audio and technology that is changing lives for the better.

Not everything is serious and life-changing. We saw a lot about how voice assistants are being incorporated into every device imaginable. One of particular note was built into showerheads, giving you the chance to catch up on the day ahead, the weather, commute and traffic as you shower and of course, call out your favorite Spotify playlist or podcast! As a marketer, thinking how to connect in a world of screenless devices and screenless moments is going to be vital — how could you take advantage of Alexa in the shower if you knew that’s where someone was streaming?

Finally, we saw how voice will play a prominent role in the future of the auto industry. Auto brands announced massive screens for the driverless cars of tomorrow, and more cars announced integrations with voice assistants. Per Axios’ Sara Fischer, “one of the big themes at CES this year has been the race to own the media experience when cars go driverless.” Fischer noted that Lamborghini’s Huracán EVO will be adding Amazon’s Alexa voice assistant this year, while Amazon and Exxon also announced a deal to allow voice-enabled gas purchases. Meanwhile, Anker and JBL both revealed new Google Assistant-equipped devices that can plug into cars new and old. It’s clearer than ever that our voices will be the remote controls of the car — ultimately shaping the future of how we listen.

Thanks to continuous innovation happening with earbuds, connected speakers, cars and more, audio already surrounds our daily lives. Even still, all of these developments at CES showed just how much the role of audio will grow in our daily lives in the future. Of course, as we at Spotify aspire to become the world’s largest audio network, I’ll be keeping my ears open as more new devices, gadgets, and integrations are launched in 2020. And exploring and executing creative ways to bring brands along the journey. Here’s to another year of listening!

Is kids mental health being left behind?

I sent a tweet last week that seemed to hit a chord. It started with a chat in the office about school homework with Sam Hicks and the pressure that builds around doing it, who does it, tuition etc. It is something that is a regular conversation with all parents of kids at a certain age. Parents will pretty much universally agree that as kids they did not have to do as much at a certain age, around 9ish. No one remembers the same level of activity, homework, after school activities, weekend stuff, it’s frenetic for a nine year old. The most important thing for me, it’s seven days a week.

The thing is, it coincides with the sea changes going on in society and in the work places. Just look at the ‘interruption’ to BGT the other night? At our work place and many others over the world companies are working hard to support people who may be suffering with mental health. There are very visible initiatives like Mediacom with Josh pushing the agenda very hard, at Spotify we have Heart and Soul at its core with lots of opportunities for support and to talk openly which some of our team have been doing. It’s all so important that these issues are discussed.

Beyond ‘corporate’ acknowledgement there are smaller initiatives. My leadership team have agreed that we should not be emailing the teams after working hours, at weekends and not have fifty emails waiting for them at 6am Monday. We have been really working on this over time, when my directs are on holiday I have a hard rule that says they go on holiday and switch off. It sends shivers when people say ‘yeah I am off but will be on email.’ Don’t do it, don’t do a poor job of your holiday and a poor job of working and at the end or it all, not properly relax. That’s no use to me. All my directs know how I feel on this and I encourage them to do the same. A break is vital.

So all good, we are on it as adults. We know however that education moves slower than industry, schools can get stuck in old fashioned ruts, they do not adapt fast enough. So here is the thing. Why is it good for us to switch off when the kids are getting homework on Fridays for the weekend, why is it ok for kids to come home and work when we get to take a break in the main, why is it ok for kids to have to work through holidays when we don’t. Have we forgotten that their minds are more fragile than ours, we are setting behaviours, we add to that stress with arguments about how hard they are trying or how well they are doing? Pressure, lack of rest, lack of relax, arguments and more. If we were to set this as our approach to the work environment we would not hold on to a single employee.

The worst of this is that it’s tough to say here is what we do about it..stop doing homework gets reprimand at school and depending on schools will leave kids behind. So it’s open ended but feel like we should keep talking about it and asking schools what they intend to do. Certainly my next parents evening, it will be my first question.

Recipe for a successful conference

Back after a few days at my Sales Academy in Evian and have been reflecting on what makes a great sales conference. My team and I had been working so hard to make a success of this event and I feel like we made amazing progress. Of course nothing it’s perfect but 2019 has been the best yet and I started to think about how and why that was the case.

1. The first thing for me is a purpose. Following our high performing teams training we settled on our purpose as a management team being ‘Setting The Stage for Success’ what did we mean by that? Simply put, our job is to be the roadies for the team. Put everything in place to help them to succeed. This is what we carried through to the Academy as the theme. Too often leaders are the front men, the ones on stage, our view is that our teams should be up there.

2. Inclusion. This year we really involved a whole range of teams, individual sales teams from every market and division to create ‘Adbreaks’ – 5 minute case studies through out the few days, amazing opp for teams to present best work to a big crowd. We involved speakers from diverse backgrounds, a long list of amazing female talent in the business and both internal and external. All briefed to talk Setting the Stage for Success.

3. Safe space. As the team has grown and collaborated over the years, we have created a very safe culture – led by my wonderful directs with all team members happy to ask questions even to the most senior of Execs who we asked to come over, including our Global CFO and Head of Free Business, as well as the founder of Gimlet. The level of trust in the group has been amazing.

4. Fun.  Not too much, not too little. This year we were in a relatively controlled environment and so bed times were not too late. Lots and lots of fun but not too late and that has a lot of benefits. People were sharper the next day which meant they added more and interacted more. Tiredness leads to stress which can build when you are pulled away from your day job, even for the best content. Hangovers are so 2018.

5.Environment. We chose a venue that was calm, beautiful views and partially isolated and it was wonderful. Our meeting space was light and airy with views over lakes. We had lots of space and we built in time to breathe. Longer breaks, longer lunch, time at end of day to unwind and catch up, all meant people could concentrate and put phones and laptops down. The engagement was amazing.

6. Time to think. Often the goal of these events is based on packing as much in as possible ‘since we have everyone here.’ We have tried this and it does not work. If you want to drive attention during the sessions then making sure people have time to work and relax is vital. So longer breaks, time to unwind at the end of the day before any evening activities are all vital to a good mindset through the week. I was blown away by the attention of the teams this year because we engineered better timings. We also made sure that we ended on a Thursday and not a Friday so there was a working day left.

7. Prepare to be gone. A small additional note to this, prepare for absence well in advance and give air cover. If a business can’t operate with out irate clients for two and half days then we have an issue. Warn clients that you are having a massively beneficial team / learning experience, you won’t be around as normal and anything else should be managed around the event. I would also hope our clients would show consideration, lets face it, everyone does it at some point during the year.

I could not be happier, it takes work, it takes a small army of people to pull it off but the results will show. Don’t start with revenue as the goal, start with behaviours and your people and the rest will follow. I am so proud of the leads we have across EMEA, they bond, they get on, they work independently and as teams. We are in such a good place and the people are everything.

My Presentation at Dmexco about Spotify Culture Next Global Trends Report

Just back from Dmexco and a pretty hectic few days as usual. Spotify was in demand this year and we were lucky enough to hit the stage a few times through the two days. I was asked to present our Culture Next Gen Z global trends on the Debate stage which you can see below.

Exciting trends amongst this audience and Spotify sits right in the heart of what they care about, music and podcasting are huge for them and so our work with Culture Coop combined with our first party streaming intelligence has really helped create some clear insights.

Diversity is more than just Gender.

How can we adjust how we think about diversity? Diversity is currently dominated by gender, and there is so much going on in that space, which is fantastic, long may it continue, but there is a much wider issue we have to face together.  It has been some time that I have been going into schools and talking to students and seeing just how different our working environments are from all of these back grounds.

It is an area that for me is important we begin to focus on more, we pay lip service to it right now, so here are some thoughts about where we can all start to adjust and plan for the future. We should ask ourselves the difficult questions about what we all stand for and whether we really want to drive change.

As a group of companies we need to set some new rules of engagement for the industry if we are going to initiate change. Some of the scenarios that would be fantastic to see change are the following:

  1. Hiring has to come from outside of Grads, every business should be creating plans to hire a number of school leavers every year and from non white middle class backgrounds, and definitely not related to the boss.
  2. Every organisation should think about the make up of what they are doing, my latest observation of MediaWeek judges all being white middle class people is an example, I am certain that someone ticked the gender diversity box but nothing else.
  3. Think about the sub sets of organisations – if you are promoting female diversity and there is a room full of 500 white middle class people, we should not be content with that, we should be supporting diversity within gender.
  4. If you are creating a List of important people then it should not be the same old, same old, there are talented people out there, we have to find them and create inspiration.
  5. If we look at panels, events etc all you see is the gender discussion – we need to think outside of that, we need to think about how the panels are made up to represent the world outside.
  6. Kill two birds with one stone – if you focus on helping under privileged schools rather than the usual grad schemes, you will naturally drive diversity of thinking and people.

It is at the grass roots we are failing – we are not bringing in enough talent early on, when we do it is really fulfilling. Our work placement programme is in its infancy but it only pulls from state schools to make sure we are creating opportunities. It is something I am hopeful we can continue to grow, I would encourage everyone to start these opportunities if you have not already.

Whether it is mentoring, helping organisations that are trying to do this, the industry press, the Twitter commentators, can we all start asking our self the question of whether what we are doing is either bringing in diverse talent, or inspiring it through highlighting the talent we already have in the business. This is not a rant, it is not a preach, it is a gentle call to arms. After my last blog and twitter engagements on mentoring, I know there is so much appetite to do better on this, but it feels on the fringe, so hoping mainstream industry can lead the charge. I am excited to try and do more after engaging with some of the organisations that contacted me earlier in the month, hopefully we all can do our bit.

Mentoring: How can I help?

One really important factor that I have discovered since moving from agency to sales is the ability to do more, more easily at my level. The array of things that get categorised under ‘more’ is significant, but on the whole they all have one thing in common, a request for money. I am not exactly sure why, but generally speaking, sales companies find budget to support a whole range of causes. We are asked by charities, by clients, by industry bodies, by trade titles and so on. It is brilliant to be able to do so much to help out and at Spotify we really support a range of different organisations. I have enjoyed that so much for the last two years, it has been very fulfilling.

Thing is, I also feel like we jump around and try to do too much / everything and although that is admirable, it is also perhaps skin deep at times. As a company we can do this to a point, but as an individual it becomes even harder. One person, especially someone who is travelling a lot and has all the usual time pressures cant do everything so more recently I have been considering what is most important to me, and what have I really enjoyed.

A number of years ago I started Speakers4schools presentations, and I have consistently been doing them ever since. I am pleased to say that we then moved from just presenting to working with an extension of Speakers4schools, NextGen who encourage their speakers to create work placements in their businesses. I am hugely grateful to my HR team who have allowed me to do this, and all the band members across the business that supported with their time and expertise. More recently I have been thinking about how to focus my energies and try to do more with less time and what is it that I really enjoy and adds value. Mentoring has always been fun, not the deep, lets meet every two weeks for years type mentoring, but the shorter, more specifics advice that when given could make a difference to someone, and even get them a job, they would otherwise of not had the chance to get.

As I reflect on our industry with a real focus now on gender diversity and indeed wider diversity, I still feel as if we are talking to the same types of groups, we still have not truly  moved the agenda. My personal goal and where I can, hopefully with support of Spotify, is to try and help under privileged young adults who are not getting access to the expertise that some schools or areas do. Speakers4schools has introduced that to me, and I feel it is great in its own right, but would also serve to bring more diversity into our industry and so I wanted to explore how I could help. I need opportunities that can mould around a busy schedule so advice, mentoring, speed mentoring etc is interesting. Today I was amazed at the response to a simple tweet I sent this morning.

4B640E87-3E14-40CA-B542-921ACD6BC908

The response was fantastic not a ‘likes’ count, but people passionately responding and making suggestions, and it served to highlight how many amazing things are happening, and so I thought it would be great to list out all those responses so everyone has a chance to identify opportunities that they may like to get involved in.

Female mentoring with BloomUK http://www.bloom.org/the-exchange

Brixton Finishing School for underprivileged young adults http://www.hoxtonunited.com/

Media Trust http://www.mediatrust.org

IAA Speed Mentoring sessions http://www.iaauk.london/events/iaa-mentoring

DevelopHer – Elevating women through community based opps http://www.eepurl.com/bJAKKL

Creative Mentor Network http://www.creativementornetwork.org

Mediatel Speed mentoring http://www.mediatel.co.uk/newsline/2019/05/02/sign-up-for-free-speed-mentoring-2/

There are others no doubt, so add in the comments if you want to keep it all in this article. Bottom line, there is the chance to give your time, and there are different routes you can take, but for me it is time to focus and I am excited to explore how I can help!