illustration of the number five, representing the five subscription business topics for this column, Five-on-Friday

Five on Friday: Hip Hop, Book Clubs and Black Friday Deals

Featuring Netflix, SiriusXM, SoundCloud, Walmart and Target

This week’s Five on Friday focuses on hip hop music, a new blook club and early Black Friday deals. Netflix announces the launch of a book club in November, focusing on books that have been adapted into movies or TV shows, and car subscription services are gaining in popularity again. Also, a new partnership between SiriusXM and SoundCloud has created The Lookout by SoundCloud, a new station for emerging hip hop stars, Spotify opens the waitlist for the “car thing,” and Walmart leads major retailers in announcing early Black Friday deals for holiday shopping!

Netflix to Launch Book Club

Much like a magician pulling rabbits out of a hat, Netflix has yet a new venture – a book club. Yes, a book club, complete with its own website. A book club might sound counterintuitive for a streaming service because reading books takes subscribers away from their screens, but there are synergies here.

Uzo Aduba, star of Netflix’s adaptation of the book, Orange Is The New Black, was a part of the book club’s soft launch. Through the book club, readers will be able to explore an “ever-evolving, curated collection” of newly adapted books, that you will then be able to watch on Netflix soon after. For those that have already watched the movie or TV show, there will be featurettes about the books behind the action. Netflix has already adapted popular books like Bridgerton, To All Boys I’ve Loved Before and The Queen’s Gambit.

Image courtesy of Netflix Book Club

Officially launching on November 16, Starbucks, Netflix and Aduba will also be bringing a new series to the mix: But Have You Read The Book?This will bring stars and storytellers of book adaptations to sit down and discuss both literature and screen over coffee. This makes Netflix’s recent acquisition of Roald Dahl’s works make more sense. The media company is already planning to make a TV adaptation of Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, as well as a musical adaptation ofMatilda.

It seems like Netflix is throwing ideas at the wall to see what sticks. Just this year, Netflix has started trying mobile games, their own merchandising store, and putting their merchandise into Walmart stores. A book club, however, makes the most sense, considering book-to-film adaptations have been creating buzz since book adaptations started hitting theaters and streaming services alike (e.g., Little Fires Everywhere, Mr. Mercedes, The Godfather, Little Women). With reading being extremely popular on social media platforms like TikTok, with “booktok” being a popular community, it will be interesting to see how Netflix’s book club is received with younger viewers. The first selection is Nella Larsen’s Passing, and the film version is set to launch on November 10.

Are Car Subscriptions on the Rise Again?

Auto subscriptions were all the rage a few years ago before going radio silent with some manufacturers revamping their programs and others pulling their subscription programs altogether. It appears that they are on the rise again, with people wanting to lower vehicle costs. The primary appeal for a car subscription service lies in the fact that car subscription fees includes taxes, auto insurance, as well as maintenance for the vehicle. Some automakers have weekly subscription costs, and some have monthly costs. There are also third-party auto subscription companies like the newly launched GO that focus on innovation, variety and low costs.

Toyota is one of the latest automakers to dive into the auto subscription world, JapanTimes reports. The Japan-based auto company is allowing customers to choose from 32 vehicles, including their Lexus models. With their KINTO car subscription service, they require a three-, five-, or seven-year commitment, similar to the commitment you would make if for a car loan or lease. They are currently receiving applications from more than 1,000 people per month.

Stateside, Audi, Lexus, Porsche and Volvo are currently offering auto subscriptions. The auto subscriptions here are more reminiscent of car leasing with no permanent ownership, but with the ability to switch out the car that you are driving. Forbes reports that a lot of these services are few and far between as far as locations go. Volvo reaches the farthest, but you can’t access it in seven states.

In the long run, car subscriptions could end up being cheaper if you factor in the cost of having regular maintenance, which could run in the thousands of dollars. For $1,000 a month, you could include the cost of your car, insurance and maintenance.

Toyota has not announced if or when their subscription service will be coming stateside. Currently, KINTO has Toyota car rentals in the US, but not as a subscription service. There are no membership fees attached, and a customer can rent a car for as little as $6.50 an hour.

GR Yaris ‘Morizo Selection.’ Image courtesy of Toyota.

Pandora Partners with SoundCloud to Promote Hip Hop

SiriusXM-owned Pandora hopes to add more listeners to its ranks. They have partnered up with popular music site SoundCloud to create a new station. The Lookout by Soundcloud is a collaboration between the two music streaming services to help showcase the “hip hop superstars of tomorrow,” reports TechCrunch.

The station will feature artists from the SiriusXM Soundcloud show, and there will be new artists featured weekly. R. Caiaffa, interim head of music at SoundCloud said, “Joining forces with Pandora to expand ‘The Lookout by SoundCloud’ amps up our shared commitment to help the emerging hip-hop artist community to get heard and discovered.”

‘The Lookout’ started as a playlist on SoundCloud in 2019 and has become a popular spot for people to discover the next generation of hip hop artists. Artists like Megan Thee Stallion and Roddy Ricch have come from The Lookout.

This isn’t the first time SIRIUS-XM has moved to help SoundCloud become a part of their business. In January of 2020, SoundCloud received $75 million from the music streaming giant. The investment snagged SiriusXM a minority stake in SoundCloud, as well as two board seats. It won’t be surprising if they make a move to acquire the company. Their acquisition of Pandora in 2018 helped the algorithm-based streaming service soar.

With SiriusXM looking to expand, it appears that they are moving towards marketing to a younger audience. With the rise of TikTok, they launched ‘TikTok Radio’. The channel features viral hits and is hosted by TikTok stars. To rise above popular streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, SiriusXM has to keep evolving and appealing to new audiences. Acquisitions, partnerships and investments is one way to do that.

The Lookout by SoundCloud promotes emerging hip hop artists. Screenshot from SoundCloud.

Spotify Opens Waitlist for “Car Thing”

Speaking of Spotify…the streaming audio service has given subscribers audio devices before, but nothing that was ever really theirs. They gave premium Users a free Google Home mini in 2019, much to users’ delight. Their latest venture, aptly named “Car Thing,” was initially free when it launched in April. Spotify has finally announced that they are going to sell it.

In the April “Car Thing” press release, Spotify touted that Car Thing was a way to bring curated playlists, podcasts and more to your car. It wasn’t intended to compete with in-car infotainment systems. It was was simply a means to help bring Spotify to your car. It allows for voice control, preset buttons and a touch-screen display to see what’s playing. To operate it, a listener just needed a Premium subscription plan and a smartphone with either WiFi or a mobile data connection.

“Our focus remains on becoming the world’s number one audio platform—not on creating hardware—but we developed Car Thing because we saw a need from our users, many of whom were missing out on a seamless and personalized in-car listening experience. No matter the year or model of your vehicle, we feel everyone should have a superior listening experience. With Car Thing, we’ll now be bringing our entire catalogue of music and podcasts to a wider range of users across an even wider range of vehicles,” said Spotify in an April 13, 2021 blog post.

At its initial launch, Spotify made the Car Thing available to users that were on a waitlist, and they’ve finally opened the waitlist! However, the Car Thing is no longer free. The price for the Car Thing is $79.99, plus taxes and fees, and the cost of your Premium subscription per month.

Mashable reports that, on October 14, Spotify opened the waitlist for a wider range of users to get access to their Car Thing. Interestingly, free Spotify users will also be able to join the waitlist for Car Thing, though they will need a Spotify premium subscription to run it.

Some things are better off free. A glorified Spotify remote that you need a premium subscription and a phone to use might be a part of that list. If you have a car with an infotainment system and hands-free technology, or Spotify Car Play, you already have your own “car thing.”

Image courtesy of Spotify

Walmart Kicks Off Black Friday Deals Early

Walmart is kicking off the holiday shopping season early. Traditionally, Black Friday has been the start of the holiday shopping season, with holiday décor showing up as early as Halloween season. However, Walmart has decided to switch the script a little bit this year: they’re starting their Black Friday Deals for Days on November 3.

There’s a kicker to this: Walmart+ members get early access. Since the subscription services’ launch in September of 2020, Walmart has been trying to beat Amazon and Amazon Prime at their own game. It offers subscribers unlimited same-day delivery, discounts on gas and a Scan & Go feature that allows users to shop and check out with a smartphone while in the store. Sound familiar? Wrap in VUDU and the service sounds eerily similar to Amazon Prime.

The retail giant will have three shopping events throughout the month of November, CNET reports. Online sales start November 3, with Walmart+ members getting access to deals from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern, with the second wave happening at the same time the following week, November 10. Walmart+ members will receive access four hours early.

In the first wave of deals, there will be toys, electronics, and even tires for automobiles. In the November 10 sale, consumers will receive access to apparel, home goods, and more. Details on the third sale are currently undisclosed. USA Today reports that the sale will wrap up a month of savings that will bring its biggest, best savings of the season for the most shopping day of the year, Black Friday.

In order to get early access, those interested must be a paying member of the Walmart+ subscription service. Not to be outdone, Target and Amazon have announced their own Black Friday deals, some of which have already started. Let the shopping begin!

Walmart Black Friday Deals. Image courtesy of Walmart.

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