Spotify unveils inaugural development slate

Spotify is launching a development slate of 12 original music-themed video programs, including a series produced by Russell Simmons (pictured) and a true-crime show.
May 11, 2016

Spotify is developing a slate of 12 original music-themed video programs, including a series produced by Russell Simmons (pictured) and a true-crime show.

The music streaming platform’s slate includes Rush Hour, from hip-hop mogul Simmons’ All Def Digital. The show follows two rappers – one well-known and an up-and-comer – as they travel around Los Angeles in a van during rush hour and remix or mash-up their songs.

The programming is focused on the areas of music performances, music profiles and music culture, and is being developed for a summer/fall launch.

Other unscripted titles include Landmark, about important moments in music history; the animated Drawn & Recorded, featuring narration by T Bone Burnett; the anthology series Life In Short; a docuseries about public performances, Public Spaces; and the music video format Flash Frame.

Spotify, which has 30 million paid subscribers, is also prepping the scripted mockumentary series Ultimate/Ultimate with executive producer Tim Robbins.

The programs will initially be made available to free and paid subscribers in the U.S., the UK, Sweden and Germany on iOS and Android apps.

The news comes a year after Spotify execs announced plans to integrate video and podcasts into its platform. In March the Sweden-based company hired former VH1 president Tom Calderone as global head of content partnerships.

“We are developing original content that is rooted in music, pop culture, and animation that is driven by the passion and sense of humor of our audience,” Calderone said in a statement. “We are working with artists, producers and partners who understand that the Spotify audience has a strong connection to artists and wants to go deeper into their worlds, see their performances and expressions, and hear their stories.”

Spotify’s inaugural video slate is below, with descriptions provided by the company:

Rush Hour: Two hip-hop artists (one who is well-known and one up-and-comer) are picked up in a van during the height of LA rush hour. As they drive to an undisclosed location they must come up with a remix or mashup of one of their well-known tracks. Once done, they arrive at the downtown LA parking lot stage of Russell Simmons’ All Def Digital, where they perform their new collaboration (as well as other songs) before a crowd of super-fans.

Landmark: Comprised of exclusive interviews, archival footage and multimedia elements, each episode brings to life the story of an important moment or movement in music history. Each installment is accompanied by a long-form podcast with in-depth analysis of specific tracks.

Drawn & Recorded: Featuring narration from T-Bone Burnett and animation from Drew Christie, each episode tells an anecdote from music history. The stories will range from introspective to comic, and feature artists from across the music spectrum. From Van Toffler’s digital studio Gunpowder & Sky.

Life in Short: Anthology series celebrating music’s most enigmatic artists. Each 24-episode season covers a single artist and each episode (less than 2 minutes long) uses a different narrative device like animation, documentary or tribute performance to highlight a key aspect of the artist’s life.

Trading Playlists: Two celebrities trade Spotify playlists for a day, in the process discovering new music, learning a bit about each other and highlighting ways music is tied to identity and culture.

Singles: Shot in Spotify’s new music studio in NYC, this series gives viewers fly-on-the-wall access to artists as they record new takes on their most well-known songs with an intimate “low-fi” feel.

Rhymes & Misdemeanors: Each episode of this true-crime series profiles a notorious crime from the music world, including the PCP-fueled cannibalism of rapper Big Lurch to the murder-for-hire plot hatched by the singer of metal band As I Lay Dying.

Ultimate/Ultimate: Mockumentary series from Tim Robbins created and directed by his son, Jack Henry Robbins, who is repped by ICM Partners. The series follows several passionate (but modestly talented) people competing in a competition to become the next great EDM star. From pint-sized phenom DJ Sparkle to frat brothers channeling their inner Daft Punk, the series explores the hilarious, endearing and absurd lengths people will go to to pursue their musical passions.

Generations: Performance series features two generations of hip-hop stars coming together to create new versions of their most notable songs. Each installment will feature a musical performance along with documentary segments about the experience.

Public Spaces: Docu-series about notable performances by artists in public spaces, including Macklemore in Union Square and A$AP Rocky at the Brandenburg Gate. 

Flash Frame: Billed as a “rejuvenation” of the music-video format, monthly series will showcase A-list artist performing at Spotify’s NYC office. Each show will splice in animation, archival footage or other video to build a narrative around the song’s theme.

Focus On…: In this series, Spotify will use usage data to identify a popular band in a key market and have them play an exclusive show. Each five-part installment will include segments profiling the fans and the music culture of that particular locale.

About The Author
Barry Walsh is editor and content director for realscreen, and has served as editor of the publication since 2009. With a career in entertainment media that spans two decades, prior to realscreen, he held the associate editor post for now defunct sister publication Boards, which focused on the advertising and commercial production industries. Before Boards, he served as editor of Canadian Music Network, a weekly music industry trade, and as music editor for As content director, he also oversees the development of content for the brand's market-leading events, the Realscreen Summit and Realscreen West, as well as new content initiatives.