Pay to play?

Spotify’s announcement last week has sent shockwaves throughout the network of people using the service. You can’t really use the term “customers” when people don’t pay for things can you? A similar subscriber-related announcement from a few months ago was met with comparable ire.

Some people contend that Spotify’s revenue model has been to deploy adverts so annoying that people will happily pony up the cash to not have to hear them. The adverts have led to the development of software like Smutefy to automatically mute the audio stream.

The Day Pass was a brilliant concept for parties: 99 pence for 24 hours of unlimited music. Why this option was scrapped is beyond me.

I doubt I’ll become a paying Spotify customer. Steve Jobs has it correct, for me at least: I don’t want to rent my music — I want to own my music. Will artists and labels ever come to think of online, lower quality music streaming services as loss leaders and accept them as additional routes that will introduce people to their music to drive both music sales and swell concert attendances? As this pertinent infographic portrays they certainly won’t be able to make a living on the income from these services by themselves.

The problem remains also that, despite offering “unlimited music”, Spotify doesn’t have all the music I’d like to listen to. Quite a lot of notable tracks and artists are conspicuous by their absence and will continue to be so as long as they see themselves as being stiffed. Also the music may be “unlimited” but these days my bandwidth and 3G allowance most certainly aren’t.

That said, I love Spotify even though I only use it on one afternoon a week. I love using Spotify for Friday Mix alone. For the uninitiated, this is a collaborative playlist devised around a theme voted for and discussed on Twitter. Participants are limited to two tracks each.

I’ve discovered so much brilliant new music this way1 that I’ve then gone on to purchase. It’s certainly a better way of finding new music than any of the myriad automated systems. I’m not that dedicated a muso who frequents independent music stores often enough to get to know the staff in order to get personal recommendations but Record Store Day sounds like a great idea.

What the new Spotify limits mean for the future viability of Friday Mix remains to be seen. The YouTube-based b00mbox has been mooted as an alternative but I don’t think that this an option. The hourly limit should allow for a couple of afternoons worth of music and chat per month which, to be honest, suits me just fine.

Update: Looks like the Spotify changes could be to do with pressure from the record labels and not a novel way to solve any scaling issues they may have been having after all.

1 Equally, I’ve encountered music I never want to hear again and wish I’d not heard in the first place.