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Lidong Liu’s Data-Powered Designs Catapult Music Creators to Success

Standing out is a challenge in the music world, where melodies are churned out every second, and artists emerge every day. But for those equipped with the right tools, success is not just a dream—it’s a data-driven reality. Lidong Liu is the tech genius behind the revolutionary designs transforming how music creators connect with their audience.

From Passion to Purpose: Harmonizing Music and Data Design 

“Music is an emotion, a feeling. But to ensure it reaches the right ears, we need to understand and cater to the listeners. That’s where data comes in,” says Liu, reflecting on the core philosophy behind his designs.

Originating from China, Liu’s fascination with music started during his early years. “When I was 8, I received my first Apple Shuffle music player. Its user-centric design, which seamlessly integrated data and contemporary technology, left a lasting impression on me,” he recalled. This early encounter fueled his growing curiosity in product design – a harmonious blend of art, design, and technology. Liu furthered this interest academically.

He earned a Bachelor of Engineering degree in Software Engineering with a specialization in digital media, followed by a Master of Science degree in Human-Computer Interactions.

Liu’s foray into the world of design was driven by a desire to comprehend and weave the fabrics of the creative motifs and technological trends to shape the world. But it wasn’t until his passion became a practice that he truly found his calling.

Zuiyan: Connecting Traditional Music to Youngsters via Data Digitization

In 2017, Liu made significant strides in the music and tech industries, blending creativity with data. He designed and developed the Zuiyan app, translating traditional Beijing Opera performances into digital and tangible data formats tailored to young Chinese audiences. According to Liu, “ My grandmother, like many of her generation, was a passionate fan of Beijing Opera, finding joy in watching and singing it. It saddens her that so few young people today share her love for this global cultural treasure. For far too long, this art form has remained obscure to young Chinese and the world at large. I felt compelled to take action, to enhance their appreciation and nurture their curiosity.” Pioneering in its nature, the creation leveraged cartoon arts, audio, and cutting-edge Augmented Reality, bringing Beijing Opera to life, and making it accessible anytime, anywhere. Users can also customize and share the stories in their own way. This innovation clinched the top spot out of 423 teams in a nationwide Mobile Application Innovation Contest, hosted by the Chinese Ministry of Education and Apple. It achieved 20,000 downloads in 2018 and garnered attention from major Chinese media. Recognized for his expertise, Liu was invited as a special guest to the Apple Worldwide Developer Conference in 2018 and was highlighted in Apple’s China CSR report.

Zuiyan’s achievement underscores the infinite potential of the digital revolution to revive traditional art forms. Yet, while reaching broader audiences through digital means is the first step, music creators must also utilize abundant listener data for growth and monetization in this digital era.

To further elevate his commitment to supporting artists, Liu joined Spotify, a global pioneer and leader in digital music. In his pivotal role within Spotify’s design team, Liu’s contributions have ignited a revolution in the music streaming experience, leading to enhanced user engagement and increased platform revenue.

Spotify for Artists: Helping Music Creators Succeed with Data Insights

“Data is like a treasure trove, waiting to be unlocked. And when applied to music through human-centered design, it can reveal insights that can transform an artist’s career,” Liu explained. This philosophy became the foundation for his groundbreaking designs that empower music creators.

Gone are the days when artists blindly set forth their artistry. With “Spotify for Artists,”  a set of marketing tools used by over a million artists like Beyonce and their teams from over 50 countries every day, music promotion metamorphoses into a structured campaign, enriching Spotify’s coffers and bolstering artists in expanding their influence.

Liu led the design of Marquee, Spotify’s core promotional tool and a lens through which artists discern their listeners’ preferences, enabling them to curate music that resonates. As a unique and first-of-its-kind campaign feature for music streaming, it set up an innovative design and business model for artists’ success and audience engagement in the entire design industry.  In Q1 2022 alone, it added one million dollars of revenue to Spotify.

Liu’s fingerprints are also evident in this tool’s innovative redesigns and features. Ensuring security, he championed a 2-step verification, the 4th most requested feature on the Spotify community since 2015, for artists and amplified customer support across Spotify’s vast ecosystem. But his contributions didn’t end there.

One of Spotify’s most potent offerings is the torrent of data it unveils to artists and labels. This intricate web of listener behavior is paramount in sculpting informed business decisions. With his exceptional leadership and design thinking, Liu has rendered this deluge of data into digestible insights.

“Every day, artists and their teams rely on Spotify’s data to gain insights into their performance and harness the support of their fanbase for financial gains. If we fail to deliver valuable stats promptly, it not only disappoints them but also leaves them feeling powerless, ultimately hindering their success as well as ours,” Liu explained.

Liu recently spearheaded a groundbreaking project focusing on enhancing audience and music analytics metrics. Its primary objective was to provide artists and their teams with more precise data metrics and timely insights. Liu collected user feedback from 30+ artists and labels, collaborated with researchers and data scientists, and created design prototypes that influenced future decisions. The results have been nothing short of extraordinary. For instance, with the introduction of the new audience overview in Q2 2023, Liu observed a staggering 500% surge in user traffic, surpassing the initial business goals and expectations. Artists themselves have enthusiastically shared their excitement about these transformations on social media platforms. Additionally, prominent media outlets such as Music Ally and RouteNote have taken note of this update, acknowledging its profound impact on the world of music streaming analytics.

At the design system level, Liu established industry-leading standards and comprehensive guidelines for analytics design within Spotify. His visionary approach served as a beacon, providing crucial guidance to fellow designers involved in analytics projects across various Spotify products. Furthermore, Liu proactively shared his wealth of knowledge and insights with designers throughout the industry, shedding light on the intricacies of analytics design as it pertains to marketing and music streaming. His contributions have had a far-reaching impact, elevating the field of analytics design to new heights.

Mapping Out the Next Steps

Helping music creators succeed has always been Liu’s top goal. “Improving the music data experience is my next breakthrough point,” he shares. With the rise of music streaming platforms and social media, barriers to starting a music career have significantly lowered. Add emerging techniques like cryptocurrency and NFTs, and creators have even more avenues for income.

Liu understands the ongoing digital revolution in music. As the industry becomes more digital, artists need data to understand fandom and generate revenue. Any future trends’ success, whether fan monetization or music promotions, hinges on effective data interpretation.

“Spotify plays a pivotal role in this,” Liu mentions, “As the biggest global music streaming service, it offers a wealth of first-hand user listening data.” This data-driven approach focuses on democratizing music, ensuring artists and fans benefit from accurate and relevant information. Leading the overall analytics navigation experience design of Spotify for Artists is Liu’s next big project, and he hopes it becomes a milestone in bringing digital innovations to music.

The Future of Music

Despite his achievements, Liu remains humble. “It’s not about me. It’s about the music and the artists. I’m just here to provide them with the tools they need to shine,” he shared.

In a world where data is king, Lidong Liu combines passion with expertise. His designs have transformed the music industry and paved the way for a new era of data-driven creativity. He often says, “When music meets data, magic happens.” And indeed, thanks to his contributions, the world of music has witnessed plenty of magic.


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