6 Questions (and Answers) with Michael Krause, Managing Director, Spotify Central Europe

One of the most-streamed podcasts on Spotify isn’t a daily news update or a true crime saga. It’s Fest & Flauschig, a current-events comedy show hosted by two German radio hosts—in German. The show came to Spotify in its current iteration in May 2016 and is now one of several German podcasts high on Spotify’s global streaming charts.  

On the heels of the release of Spotify Exclusive popular podcasts Herrengedeck and Gemischtes Hack, we sat down with Managing Director, Spotify Central Europe, Michael Krause, to get his thoughts on why German listeners connect with podcasting like no one else.

Earlier this year, we announced our audio-first strategy. Within your market, what would you say are the most exciting or interesting trends that you’re seeing?

Germany was a diverse audio market from the very beginning, with our users listening to both music and audiobooks. That began to pave the way for an audio strategy or an audio focus for us even before it was the global direction.

Now in Germany, there’s a new original podcast episode being released every day. So there has been a lot of habit-forming, or ritualizing. People like to listen at a certain time or while doing a specific chore. Daily podcasts, like what Parcast is doing in the U.S. with Horoscope Today and Today in True Crime, could be very interesting here because podcast listening is such a part of the everyday routine.

We’re also seeing really big talents moving into the medium. And it’s not limited to people who can express themselves visually like streaming stars or TV hosts—it’s also great for authors, for example, who now have a new channel for their creative output.

Finally, I’m excited to see popular podcasts from other markets, like Sandra, be adapted for our German audience. It demonstrates that we can leverage global synergies in the podcast space.

Over the summer you spoke at the Publisher Business Conference in Hamburg, focusing on Spotify as a marketplace for podcast creators. What advantages do you see that we can offer creators that other companies aren’t able to?

We always hear from podcast creators that all the data and insights we give them are very, very helpful. On many other platforms, they don’t know how many streams they have, or at what point people stopped listening during the episodes. We have all the analytical tools for partners. Our creator team was very fast in making Spotify for Podcasters because we learned from Spotify for Artists.

Unlike in the music industry, there is no big podcast community that meets on a regular basis in Germany. This is why we’ve held various master classes and industry events that connect people in the podcasting field. For us, it’s very important that we bring the industry together and provide thought leadership and inspiration for our creator partners. 

What do you think it is about podcasts that makes them so popular among users in Germany?

Many Germans actually grow up listening to audiobooks and audio plays. I peeked a bit into the history, and because the theaters had been bombed after World War II, people had no access to entertainment. Radio then picked up audio plays. Those were very successful, and later they were released on cassettes and CDs. Today, children grow up listening to hours and hours of audio content. Even adults are listening to these audio plays on Spotify to relax, enjoy sweet childhood memories, or fall asleep.

I also think podcasts are successful here because they’re very authentic and truly personal, like Paardiologie with Charlotte Roche for example. I think it touches people in a way that’s more than just watching a video clip or other news formats. So it’s definitely something that is working very well because it feels like you’re part of something intimate and interesting.

What do you view as the primary or key headwinds that you and the market face?

I’d say mobile network connections. It might sound a bit odd because Germany is an industrialized country. But in terms of mobile data, we’re like a developing country. We don’t have mobile data coverage in many parts of the country. And the price for data is also very high.

We’ve spoken a lot about podcasts—what are some surprising music trends in your market?

In the German market, physical music still makes up 35% of revenues, which means people are still buying CDs in Germany. It’s a bit like Japan—we are late-bloomer markets. It’s only been in the last one or two years that we have achieved this level of change from physical to digital music consumption, and only this year that streaming has become the largest source of income for the industry.

Unsurprisingly, German hip-hop is a very important part of the culture, but we are now focusing on more diverse electronic pop and alternative rock genres. That’s why we have also launched a new flagship playlist called OFF POP. But Modus Mio (the equivalent of RapCaviar) is still going very strong, and in fact we’re putting Modus Mio live onstage for the second time with a big event on December 14 in Dortmund.

If we took a look at your recently played list, what would we find right now?

In my commute this morning from Hamburg to Berlin, I listened to the latest episode of Ja Ja Nee Nee, which is one of our newest Spotify Original Podcasts. It has this German author (think a German Nick Hornby) who’s speaking to a younger actor, and they talk about everyday life. They approach their topics in a very philosophical but fun way. So even things like office supply products can become magical topics when discussed by our very special anchors. 

Take a listen to OFF POP, Spotify’s latest flagship focusing on great music outside the mainstream, to get a feel for the current flavor of Central Europe.