Streaming From the Merch Table

Artists are using Spotify Codes to give their physical merch a digital upgrade, from stickers to beer coasters.

Artists like Scottish singer-songwriter Nina Nesbitt and alt-country icons Wilco are using Spotify Codes to give their physical merch a digital upgrade.

When Nina Nesbitt’s album Peroxide came out in 2014, the singer-songwriter was celebrated for her precocity and sharp wit. Propelled by lead single “Selfie,” an examination of social media, the album topped download charts in the UK. Three years later, Nesbitt is still writing open, honest music, but she’s got a whole new chart in mind for her 2018 full-length.

“When I put out an album four years ago, most of my fans were downloading it,” she told me recently. “I knew things had changed and wanted a way to bring them along and help them find me.”

Enter Spotify Codes, a handy way to direct fans to any piece of content in the service, including artists, playlists, albums, tracks, and even radio stations. Codes can be found by clicking the “...” icon in the top-right corner of the Spotify app on a mobile device. From there, a code can be saved to your device’s photo library and put to all kinds of uses — printed on posters, clothing, flyers, etc. To scan the code, fans simply click on the camera icon located to the right of the Search bar, and are then directed to the corresponding content. Combine Codes with a bit of creativity, and any number of cool new merch ideas are possible.

For Nesbitt, Codes offered a cool way to direct fans to her Spotify page. The logo for her 2018 album is a lotus flower, so she worked her Code into the design and updated that classic merch table staple, the sticker.

Nina Nesbitt's "Lotus Flower" sticker, featuring a Spotify Code. "I’ve seen a rise in Followers since the stickers went out, and I also hand them out at all my shows for people to share.”
Nina Nesbitt's "Lotus Flower" sticker, featuring a Spotify Code. "I’ve seen a rise in Followers since the stickers went out, and I also hand them out at all my shows for people to share.”

“I printed up stickers and put a call to action on them,” she says, “then sent them to fans in 20 cities around the world. I’ve seen a rise in Followers since the stickers went out, and I also hand them out at all my shows for people to share.”

“Following is under-utilized and under-recognized,” says Jacob Schulman, a product marketing manager at Spotify who has worked on the Codes. “Using the code to get a Follow is a great way to kick off a relationship, and it can help an artist show up on a user’s Release Radar playlist and in concert listings. The codes can be added just about anywhere—posters, shirts, hats—or simply printed and posted near the merch table.”

Crowd at a Nina Nesbitt show, holding up stickers featuring Spotify Codes.
Crowd at a Nina Nesbitt show, holding up stickers featuring Spotify Codes.

UK rockers Tigercub also got creative with their Spotify Codes, putting them on drink coasters. “We wanted to find a more guerilla approach to advertising our EP rather than hammering it on social media constantly,” says lead singer Jamie Hall. “Our label [Alcopop Records] suggested the idea of doing beer mats, and we thought that was wicked. It killed two birds with one stone for us, as we could advertise our tour and the latest single from our EP in the venues we were set to play.” Hall adds that since the beer mats were released, the band has seen a jump in both Followers and plays.

“We wanted to find a more guerilla approach to advertising our EP.” Jamie Hall, lead singer of Tiger Cub.
“We wanted to find a more guerilla approach to advertising our EP.” Jamie Hall, lead singer of Tiger Cub.

Some bands, like Wilco, have discovered even more elaborate uses for Codes. At their Solid Sounds Festival this past summer, the alt-country legends incorporated a Code into a scavenger hunt for fans.

“We created a Spotify playlist that included one song from each of Wilco’s records, and used this as a jumping off point for each clue in the hunt,” says spokeswoman Crystal Myers. The hunt led fans through such locales as the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art. “On the same card that listed the 10 clues, there was a Spotify Code to scan so participants could put in their earbuds and listen while they searched.”

“We created a Spotify playlist that included one song from each of Wilco’s records, and used this as a jumping off point for each clue in the hunt.” Crystal Myers, Wilco's spokesperson.
“We created a Spotify playlist that included one song from each of Wilco’s records, and used this as a jumping off point for each clue in the hunt.” Crystal Myers, Wilco's spokesperson.

Alright, so maybe you’re not ready to get as ambitious as scavenger hunts through greater New England — baby steps are fine! Codes are so easy to incorporate into all kinds of merch that even something as simple as a sticker can be worth a try.

“Maybe I could try a contest to see who can share the most Codes, or generate the most followers,” says Nesbitt. “My goal is to get as many stickers out there as possible and see how many fans interact with them.”

By Cortney Harding

Learn more and download your own Spotify Code at SpotifyCodes.com

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