How Spotify’s Open Access Platform Will Change the Market For Audiobooks

Audiobook subscriptions are growing in English-language markets.

Spotify recently announced its Open Access Platform, which is currently partnered with a limited number of large companies, but which hopes to eventually allow audio content producers like authors, podcasters, and musicians the ability to connect their existing membership systems to the Spotify listening experience.

What exactly does this mean for people who sell audiobooks, music, and paid podcast subscriptions, especially those who wish to sell directly to their fans? These creators have long struggled to deliver paid audio experiences in ways that make it easy for the user to listen. Often, paid content exists on a private RSS feed or behind a Patreon paywall, but it’s usually a huge hassle to access the content as most people want to listen to audio on the go, through device apps.

With Spotify, creators will eventually be able to integrate their membership to the Open Access Platform, whether directly through a programmatic integration or through a major third-party that already offers paid subscription-based content. Spotify would handle the delivery of the audio content, allowing listeners to stream through their app. The creator would still handle the payment system, meaning that they control access to their subscriber details.

This is in contrast to other platforms like Apple’s recently announced paid podcast feature, which can also get your paid audio content to listeners easily — but Apple builds the relationship with your subscriber and retains their data.

Spotify will likely eventually take a cut of the profits for companies that integrate with them.

Streaming Audiobook Giant Storytel Partners with Spotify Through Their Open Access Platform

Swedish company Storytel is a popular audiobook streaming app that has seen major growth in Europe and now serves 25 territories. Independent authors can publish their titles with them through distributors like Findaway Voices and Author’s Republic. Storytel is not currently available in most English-language territories like the US, UK, Canada, or Australia, but still has many English-language audiobooks to serve these countries.

Spotify is arguably the best audio search engine in the world and the largest streaming service, with 350 million users total, 150 million paid subscribers, and availability in over 175 countries.

The partnership means that Storytel users could connect accounts and listen to their audiobooks in Spotify for a seamless experience.

More importantly, it means that audiobooks available through Storytel will be listed in Spotify’s search engine, with a link to Storytel for login or signup. This means that the Spotify + Storytel partnership can help independent authors extend their reach with discoverability in the best audio search engine in the world.

Storytel is Among Many Apps That Could Connect to the Open Access Platform

Storytel is not the only company that will partner with Spotify. Spotify’s Global Head of Studios Courtney Holt said, “It is Spotify’s goal to be the singular platform for all audio: music, podcasts, live conversations, and now via this partnership, audiobooks.”

Any company that offers paid subscription content is an ideal partner for Spotify. Some examples that independent authors use include Substack and Patreon. While neither of these companies have announced a partnership, the possibilities for how the Open Access Platform is used to help deliver audiobooks is endless.

Can Independent Authors Make Money Through Subscription Audiobook Services?

Both Spotify and Storytel are subscription services, and Spotify has made major investments toward entering the audiobook space since 2020. Spotify, however, has not been considered a major market force in the publishing industry—but with audiobooks gaining impressive popularity and market share, should it be?

Subscription services are not new to independent authors. It’s a popular business model among both tech companies and consumers. Consumers would like to pay a small monthly fee to access millions of titles, while tech companies would like to build a user base. This is a challenge for creators as they often get paid less per stream or borrow while also losing their direct connection with consumers. The benefit, however, is that they can access the user bases on these major platforms and find new readers.

Because of the market dynamics of the audiobook subscription model along with the costs of producing an audiobook, many authors are unable to get all of their books into audio due to time and ability to recoup costs. But that could change if authors get creative and use Spotify’s Open Access Platform to their advantage.

Spotify’s Open Access Platform May Make it Even Easier to Sell Live-Read or AI-Read Audiobooks

What’s particularly interesting about Spotify’s Open Access Platform is that authors may not even need a distributor to sell their audiobooks to fans. Several companies like Kickstarter, Patreon, and Substack are built on the idea of creators having a direct connection to their fans in addition to using distributors and retailers to earn a living.

For example, if you have a large catalog with many books in the same series or world, you could create a paid podcast feed of all of your audiobooks and sell a one-time bundle for $50-$200, depending on how much content you have. Readers could easily listen through their Shopify account and keep the files forever.

Additionally, when you sell your audiobook direct to fans, you can create whatever you want without retailer and distributor restrictions; for example, you could package AI-read or live-read audiobooks together and sell these directly to fans, who could then listen through their Spotify account. Authors would receive the benefit of search engine discoverability without the restrictions that retailers and distributors currently have in place.

Audiobook Subscriptions are Emerging as the Dominant Business Model

It’s hard to say how readers will access audiobooks in the future and how authors will get paid for them. But if you are creating audiobooks, there is one thing to accept: the subscription model is not going away, so you will likely receive at least some payments from a pool based on your share of readership. And since you don’t want to be left in the dust by being exclusive to any one platform, get distributed and be discoverable everywhere, on all the major audiobook subscriptions in English-language markets — Audible, Kobo, Storytel, and more.

Spotify is one of the major companies that I discuss in my book (permanently free in ebook format) called Get Your Book Selling Wide: Get the Basics of Publishing in Print, Ebook, Audiobook, Translations, Apps, and More (Book Sales Supercharged #1)Grab the book everywhere for a look at the state of the publishing industry.