Zebralution is a leading digital distributor of audio content, fiercely independent and ardently supportive of independent labels and publishers. We earned our stripes in the music industry and, in 2010, used our reputation and expertise to develop a new market for publishers by optimising audiobooks for music streaming services, exposing a new form of audio content to a whole new world of voracious listeners.
Our aspiration is to help publishers distribute their audiobooks to as wide a network as possible, so we now distribute audio content for over 150 publishers to audiobook shops like Storytel, Overdrive, Scribd and Apple Books, plus additional reach to music streaming services like Napster, Deezer, YouTube Music and Spotify.
Our roots in music are what make us unique, so let’s talk about the most popular music streaming service, Spotify. Owning 36% of the worldwide streaming market, Spotify has an audio-hungry audience of 381m+ listeners, 172 million of whom have a Premium subscription (we’ll explain why that’s important later).
From our own data, we know that 52% of UK listeners are under the age of 35, 56% of whom are Gen Z (known as the ‘audio generation’), and most importantly, that they actively engage with audiobooks when we bring the content directly to them.
The most significant pain point cited by book publishers for getting audiobook content on to music streaming platforms has been around fair remuneration, as Spotify’s pay-per-track model doesn’t suit long-form audio content. So, we created a solution: an auto-cutting tool that allows us to optimise audiobooks for music streaming platforms.
Essentially, we treat each audiobook like a music product, cutting it into hundreds of 3-minute tracks that playback seamlessly in an ‘album’. This means optimal monetisation of audiobook content and perfect sound quality.
How do listeners find books on Spotify?
The first route is through our free app, lismio, the audiobook search engine for Spotify: with 150,000 registered users, and 42,000 audiobooks to choose from, listeners can sort by genre, author and rating. Users can curate their own ‘to-listen’ pile and playlists, and the in-app player means that they can listen to audiobooks all in one place.
A second route is through the Spotify app: listeners can find curated audiobook playlists through our Spotify profile lismio. At the top of every playlist they’ll find a short recorded ‘how-to’ on how to optimise their listening experience. The album is the whole audiobook and will play seamlessly if the listener has a Spotify Premium account. (Without a Spotify Premium account, the tracks won’t play in chronological order.)
How do publishers market books on Spotify?
Use the lismio app
Our lismio app increases the discoverability of audiobooks on Spotify and enhances the listener experience, which is an extremely valuable tool for our publishers. The app has 700,000 downloads and B2C marketing features like Audiobook of the Week and themed playlists where we can highlight key titles. When testing our marketing tools on a few key titles, we found that streams grew by one third.
Create Spotify playlists
Our in-house editorial team creates every playlist with listeners in mind, from Crime Fiction to Children’s, Non-fiction to Classics. We have over 700,000 profiles and playlist followers, and to support our in-house marketing efforts, publishers can also create playlists and link them to their artist profile.
Build artist profiles and followers
Publishers and authors can use the Spotify for Artists tool to share their story, create an author bio, add book launches and event dates, links to social media channels, and create their own playlists. All of this helps to build followers and therefore listeners, and get publishers featured in their personalised sections of the Spotify app. Building a profile is the first step to growing a fan base on Spotify.
Overall, the result of placing audiobook content on music-streaming services has been significant for our publishers. In Germany, we have doubled non-physical overall revenue of key publishers, reporting seven-figure revenues in 2021. When rolling this model out for our other territories, our publishers saw exciting and significant year-on-year growth in Spotify revenue in 2021: 47% in North America, 26% in UK, 30% in Nordics, and 66% in Benelux.
Most importantly, the revenue reported is in addition to revenue generated from traditional audiobook sales platforms. By providing publishers with access to music-streaming services, we’re offering them additional reach, to an additional audience, and therefore additional revenue.
For publishers who want to tap into a younger, audio-obsessed audience, music-streaming services like Spotify really are a rewarding opportunity. It’s an exciting time to be publishing in audio.
Rebecca Souster is Senior Audiobook Development Manager at Zebralution.