If you are a new emerging artist in the music industry, you may be experiencing a difficult time getting your music discovered or even getting onto that mainstream playlist that you wanted. To solve for this, our team designed a music distribution service called 'Spotify Distribute,' which improved the experience of emerging artists releasing their music onto mainstream streaming platforms.
For this project, I took part in and contributed to each phase of the UX design process (Research, Synthesis, Ideation, Implementation).
While I was apart of making key visual design decisions for our platform, I also played a big role in ensuring that our project had structure, and that all of our research findings and information were in line and made sense to meet our end goal.
Design Studio Sketches
Usability Test Usability Report
the UX Design Process
Research & Synthesis
Identifying A Problem Space
We were tasked with identifying an opportunity within a problem space and selecting an appropriate platform to design a solution, as well as a potential partner whose mission aligns with our idea.
As a team of UX designers, we decided we wanted to explore how individuals who upload music across more than one streaming platform engage with those platforms.
We created a screener survey to help us identify and connect with potential users that we could later interview. The qualifying criteria we looked for were users who uploaded music frequently within the past year.
We identified and interviewed five different emerging artists about how they engaged with music streaming platforms.
This is what we asked them:
Out of the platforms
you've listed, which do you use the most to upload your music files?
We wanted to know which platform was most commonly used amongst our users.
Can you walk me through the process of uploading and sharing music on
We wanted to know our users' every step in their process of uploading and sharing their music.
Tell me about any positive or negative experiences you’ve had with any of
We wanted to identify which areas of engaging with these platforms should be highlighted, and which areas needed to be improved upon.
Discovering the Music Distribution Service
We learned a lot from our interviews about the process of uploading music to mainstream streaming platforms. One most importantly being that it wasn’t anything like we had imagined, and there was a middle man between artists uploading their music and mainstream streaming platforms.
We discovered that artists who wanted to get their music onto mainstream streaming platforms had to go through a music distribution service first, by law.
Artist's Music File
Music Streaming Platform
In other words, it was illegal for artist to upload/release their music directly onto mainstream streaming platforms.
Gathering Key Insights Into A Persona
We analyzed and synthesized our research data by using an affinity map to find common trends across all of our users as far as their observations, quotes, and insights when it came to their experiences engaging with mainstream streaming platforms.
Using the research data we synthesized, we developed a persona to represent our users.
I do everything I can to be discovered on mainstream streaming platforms.
Wants his music to be discovered, wants his music to
be on a mainstream playlist, and wants to network.
Needs to be paid for his music, needs financial transparency, and needs comprehensive analytics.
Dislikes the robotic feel of the distribution process and finds self-promotion to be difficult.
Uses a distributor to post his music across multiple streaming platforms, and does all the promotion himself.
After developing our persona, we realized we couldn’t move on to our problem statement because we weren’t sure what the biggest problem was for our users. It was clear that the needs, goals, pain points, and behaviors of Jinx seemed to span across both the music distribution service and music streaming platforms.
We created a journey map to pinpoint our biggest area of opportunity between engaging with the distributor and the music streaming platforms.
"I got the release
date I wanted."
"I don't really know what I'm
doing, or who to talk to about it."
"Self-promotion is painful."
"I got onto a good playlist!"
"I do all of the
"Oh wow, a new follower!"
Choose a release date
Complete required items
Receive presave link
Send out presave link
Promote on social media
Send out blog to editors
Check for updated analytics
Upload for Distribution
Release date analytics
Provide reliable, live customer support
Provide financial transparency
Take artist out of the equation
Combine distribution and promotion
Give more detailed analytics
We found great opportunities within Jinx’s journey during his ‘Upload for Distribution’ phase, and his ‘Promotion’ phase. Due to timing and limited resources, we decided that the ‘Promotion’ stage was too huge of a realm for us to solve for at the time.
We decided to focus on the opportunities we found in Jinx's 'Upload for Distribution' phase.
Empathizing With Our Users
Now that we knew our biggest area of opportunity within Jinx’s journey, we pulled key quotes from our user interviews that were associated with uploading for Distribution.
customer support during the uploading process
"It’s really important to pay attention to the uploading process. Otherwise, you’re on your own."
"You need to take a lot into account, like text conventions, your song bio...they’re strict with conventions and won’t let you go forward if you don’t . . . do everything right."
financial transparency with their music
"I would like to see more transparency with payment. I also need help understanding financial statements and my royalties . . . I don’t know how much a spin is worth."
"Financial equivalence is . . . one of the murkier elements across the board of the process."
a human experience,
and less of a robotic feel to the distribution process
"I’ve never spoken to someone... It was super automated"
"It’s the Netflix of distribution; there’s no sense of personal connection."
How might we help Jinx get specialized support to get discovered on mainstream streaming platforms?
Emerging artists do not get individualized support from their distribution services. As an emerging artist, Jinx wants more individualized support from his distribution service.
Ideation & Implementation
Designing A Proper Solution
Considering our problem statement, we knew that our proposed platform was going to be a music distribution service.
To help us check out the landscape of the music distribution industry, we placed our competitors onto a competitive landscape matrix to see where our proposed platform would land. (We chose competitors that were mentioned by users in our interviews)
Lack of Customer Support
No Promotional Services
Reliable Customer Support
We determined our greatest potential as a music distribution service would be to improve our users’ experience when they upload and release their music directly with us.
We conducted a competitive feature analysis chart to identify which features our proposed platform must have.
With the help of our MoSCoW map, we were able to prioritize features that would provide value to both the business as well as the user.
View financial statements
Live chat for client support
Digital distribution to Spotify
Guides & FAQs
News & Events
Schedule client support
Music licensing tool
Settlement Reporting tool
Song analytics reporting
Digital distribution to other streaming platforms
We chose these features based on our users' needs for customer support, financial transparency, and a human experience discovered from our user interviews, and common practices that we uncovered in our competitive landscape research of the music distribution industry.
With the amount of data we collected, we determined as a team that we wanted to partner with Spotify to develop a distribution service that will allow users to upload their music directly to Spotify’s mainstream streaming platform.
users said they consider
Spotify’s criteria and deadlines when deciding on a release date for their music
users said they consider Spotify’s playlists to be crucial to their success as an artist
users said their
top priority is be discovered
by more listeners, namely
Conducting Design Studios
Certain that we wanted to partner with Spotify as a music distribution service, it was time to sketch out some of our ideas into low-fidelity sketches.
Since we decided to partner with Spotify for our proposal, we pulled a lot of our design inspiration from their website and from their branding guidelines. With this in mind, we conducted two different design studios to brainstorm how we wanted to implement better customer support, financial transparency, and a human experience for our users.
Designing for 'Customer Support'
We wanted our users to feel confident and supported during their process of uploading their music. To help with this we included several forms of customer support.
It’s really important to pay attention to the uploading process. Otherwise, you’re on your own.
while the artist fills out the track forum, they can see the track they uploaded earlier loading in the background
we wanted our users to feel confident about filling out the forum on their own so we included clarity and tips next to each field
in the event our users have a question at any time, they can open up the live 'Questions?' chat to talk to someone directly
users were able to complete task and upload and locate the ‘Questions?’ button to ask for help from customer support.
Designing for 'Financial Transparency'
We wanted our users to feel confident that they had a full and clear understanding of what their financial statements are as well as their royalties. To help with this, we broke down the information to be easier to understand.
I would like to see more transparency with payment. I also need help understanding financial statements and my royalties . . . I don’t know how much a spin is worth.
our users are able to see how much and instantly withdraw their earnings whenever they desire
users can now get a quick, easy, and better way of understanding their earnings per song/album
users were able to complete the task and navigate to the ‘Royalties’ page to check the royalties on the album ‘Head in the Hills'
Designing for a 'Human Experience'
We wanted our users to have a personal experience with the distribution service rather than them feeling like it is a "robotic process." To help with this we included a real person for our users to speak with.
It’s the Netflix of distribution; there’s no sense of personal connection.
we included an assigned personal account manager to really give that sense of a personal human experience. users can now get help at any time on any question or concerns they may have, especially throughout the distribution process
users were able to complete the task and schedule a call with the Account Manager
Key Takeaways and Next Steps
We learned a lot from this proposal. While the music industry can be a very competitive field to compete in at times, it makes it even harder to compete in as an emerging artist when you aren't being discovered. Artists need active customer support so they feel confident and are reassured when filling out complicated forums for their music. The earnings of an emerging artist are important to their career and should be clear to follow and keep track of. In a digital world that is steadily growing, there are still individuals who want and needed the support they can get from a real person.
For the next steps, we want to come together again to flush out more detailed designs of the desktop site, including pages that we haven't designed. Figure out how the account managers would be assigned their artists (whether that be by area or genre). As well as test out our high-fidelity prototype with more music artists.