Spotify as a social engagement tool for museums


It’s no secret that museums and other arts organizations use social media, almost universally. 

Museums were quick to adopt social media technology. Even Mashable took notice, reporting that social networks evolved from a basic notification system to a powerful engagement tool.

“It’s less about technology and more about what the visitor can bring to the equation,” Brooklyn Museum’s Shelley Bernstein told the New York Times in 2011. “In the end, we want people to feel ownership of this museum. We ask them to tell us what they think. They can give us a bad review; when we make a mistake they can come to our rescue. We want to engage with our community.”

Museums have continued embracing new social media networks. Some are even using Snapchat.

Now add Spotify to the list of social networks that museums are using to engage audiences. In addition to London’s Tate Gallery, Victoria and Albert Museum and Museum of London, others that we’ve found on Spotify include:

We wanted to know more about why museums use Spotify so we reached out to Scott Stulen, the Curator of Audience Experiences and Performance at IMA. He said the museum started using Spotify in September when it created social media accounts for ArtX, the research and development lab at IMA that Stulen leads.

“Music is such a good way to get people to socially interact and it’s a big part of the programming that we’re doing here,” Stulen said. “So it’s kind of natural to be able to use something like this.”


(As you can see, Scott is serious about music. In addition to his day job, he’s also a DJ.)

To give you an idea how IMA uses Spotify, the museum is hosting an event in December called  the Monster Drawing Rally. Stulen said IMA will invite 100 local and regional artists to participate. He said each artist will submit three songs that they normally listen to in their studios that will be added to a playlist for the event. It will play while they create original art in front of an audience. Afterward, the pieces will be sold to support ArtX programming and the playlist will be available on Spotify.

Stulen said another upcoming event in November called Silent Night will feature music that will end up on Spotify. Patrons can listen to music on headphones that will relate to a painting they’re looking at. Among other interactive elements during the event, patrons also will be able to sit one-on-one with a DJ, who will ask them questions to play the perfect song. After playing the song, DJs will give that person instructions to find their song on Spotify.

And in January, IMA will build a sound lounge in its cafe, a sort-of pop-up exhibit, Stulen said. He said patrons will be able to use an iPad to choose songs to listen to from the museums Spotify playlist.

“The end goal in (using Spotify) is finding another way that we can engage our audiences, maybe reach people we wouldn’t normally through some of the other vehicles and find ways that are a little bit more of a two-way street,” he said. “What I’m hoping from this is we get people sharing playlists with us, having conversations with us so it becomes a way of talking about what we’re doing here and kind of extending our reach to that audience.”

IMA also collaborated with Michael Kauffman and Eskenazi Health in Indianapolis to commission original music about the city called Sound Expeditions. Stulen said SoundCloud is a better fit for the project, but he hopes Spotify can accommodate those types of original pieces in the future.

In addition to exposing the existing IMA audience to its music and starting a conversation with them, Stulen said there’s another goal with Spotify.

“The hope is to reach an audience that isn’t just the people in our backyard,” he said. “My hope is, if we’re successful doing this, that people all over the country will want to listen to our feed—that you can reach this audience that isn’t necessarily coming through the front door. I think that’s something for museums that’s been a little slow to kind of come around. Some have been very good at embracing digital and thinking about that as a second audience that isn’t necessarily going to buy a ticket.”

Is your museum on Spotify? Let us know in the comments.

How can your museum be leveraging mobile to deliver more value? We can help answer that! Contact us today.

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