Spotify's Local Editor Steps Down, Leaving Israeli Artists Hungry for Exposure

The road to 'discovery' is now even harder in Israel and the local music industry is missing Spotify's 'algorithmic eavesdropping'

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Noga Erez performs in Israel. Spotify Israel's music editor has quit and the local music industry is worried new artists may pay the price
Noga Erez performs in Israel. Spotify Israel's music editor has quit and the local music industry is worried new artists may pay the priceCredit: Tomer Appelbaum

The local musical editor for Spotify has stepped down from the audio streaming service. With no replacement yet named, his departure could have a serious impact on Israel's local music industry which relies on the platform for distribution and exposure.

Spotify launched its service in Israel in 2018 and since then has become Israel’s most popular music app, with an estimated 1.5 million users as of today (most of them using the free service). Spotify had been proud that its music director for the last three years has been Jonathan Kuttner, the son of Yoav Kutner, one of Israel’s best-known music editors, TV and radio presenters.

Kuttner moved to Berlin when he assumed the post, where he was responsible for adapting the global music app to Israeli tastes, for instance, by creating playlists of Israeli music based on subject and genre. That enables Spotify algorithms to know what and when to recommend to Israeli listeners.

Spotify launched its service In Israel in 2018 and since then has become Israel’s most popular music app. Jonathan Kuttner was named the local music editor, but has since stepped downCredit: ארל'ה הצמצם הבוער

Estimates are that about half of Spotify music is chosen through active searches on the part of the users according to song or artist and the other half through “algorithmic eavesdropping,” in other words listening to music that appears on a playlist or by automatically generated recommendations. The music editor thus plays an important role in introducing users to new Israeli songs.

Kuttner stepped down from the post about two months ago. Neither he nor Spotify would comment on why he left, but the company is not believed to be looking for a replacement. It’s not clear when, or even if, it will name a new music editor.

The absence of a music editor means that Spotify, for now, reflects the tastes of Israeli listeners less than before, a situation that will grow worse and diminish the user experience over time. New songs and albums will continue to be added to the service as in the past, but listeners won’t be exposed to new music through playlists. If this situation continues, it could give an edge to rival Apple Music, the second most popular streaming service in Israel. Apple still has a local music editor, Cholit Blau.

An industry source warned that Israeli artists were also likely to be seriously harmed by getting less exposure de to the fact that new music isn’t appearing automatically on playlists or automated recommendations. “It reduces listening time and as a result takes a toll on artist royalties,” said the source, who asked not to be identified.

With no local editor and as Israel's most popular music app, Israeli artists may struggle to be 'discovered' by fans who have grown accustomed to Spotify's curated playlists Credit: Lucas Jackson/REUTERS

“But the main damage is to artists’ careers: A new, successful song leads to concerts and attracts more listeners and that brings their music to the attention of radio music editors.

"As things stand now, listeners are less aware of new music. It’s as if Galgalatz [army music radio] suddenly stopped playing new music to its playlists and just played oldies,” the source said.

Kuttner said in response to the report that, “In the three years since I joined Spotify Israel, the Israeli music industry has undergone nothing less than a revolution. I’m proud of my contribution to this change in my job at Spotify, in the listening experience I helped give listeners and the support I provided to Israeli artists in Israel itself and around the world.

"I hope that this evolution continues, and I believe that in the coming years we’ll see more Israeli artists use these tools to break out professionally both locally and globally.”

Spotify said in response that it doesn’t comment to the media on internal company matters.