MTV's partnership with Spotify seems symbolic. Sure, it's more of a marketing move (and a way to boost Spotify subscriptions), but it feels like a sign of the times. After all, before it became known for shows like Jersey Shore and Teen Mom, MTV was a real tastemaker, a groundbreaking force in music discovery. Now Viacom seems to be acknowledging Spotify as the next frontier.

But is it?

Spotify isn't winning the music discovery war. That's why Beats Music exists, that's why Google bought Songza, and that's why Pandora is still leading streaming by a mile. It's why 244 million Americans still listen to radio every week. On-demand services like Spotify and Rdio put vast amounts of music at our fingertips, but we don't know what to do with it. Spotify's impressive catalog is only part of what users want in a music service, and with Google, Amazon, Apple, and other heavyweights throwing their hats in the ring, catalog size won't be the real differentiator.

The new frontier isn't access to music, it's what gets surfaced. As is true with so many other types of media today, context—not just content—is king. This philosophy has been a blessing for Pandora, as they can maintain a significantly smaller library (around 1 million songs to Spotify's 20 million) while still offering listeners relevant content. Spotify has to work with labels and rights holders to secure music that may never even get played (see: Forgotify)—and spend more money on royalties in the process.

As much as it pains me to admit, most people aren't scouring Pitchfork to find music. (Not even people who went to Pitchfork Music Festival, apparently.) A Nielsen survey from late June found that most Americans are passive listeners, turning radio on in the car or playing songs in the background at work. Billboard says:

"Convenience-Seeking Traditionalists, 17 percent of the population, prefer broadcast radio and listen in the car. Background Driving Defaulters, 14 percent of the population, listen to car radio in the background. The Music-Loving Personalizers, 23 percent of the population, play music in the background and prefer free services.

That leaves a small group of audio aficionados willing to pay for music and hunt down individual artists. Most Americans aren't lovingly crafting playlists the way they used to make mixtapes—they want curated content like what will be coming to Spotify from MTV, VH1, and CMT.

So: has Spotify killed the video star? Not by a long shot. While on-air MTV may have shifted more to the 'television' part of Music Television, this partnership with the streaming service doesn't mean that other listening options are going the way of the Walkman. After all, two of the biggest music outlets today are terrestrial radio and... Youtube. What the Viacom partnership means is that Spotify is beefing up programming and working harder to get skin in the music discovery game.

Photo: Garret Keough / Flickr