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 last.fm 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.

Related Posts:

This entry was posted in Personal and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.
  • http://twitter.com/nevstokes Nev Stokes

    As far as my limited understanding of copyright law goes, strictly speaking we’ve never really owned the music anyway but merely a license to listen to it. Your mention of CDs is also something of a straw man — I can’t remember the last time I purchased music on physical media. I really hope that Spotify doesn’t vanish but the Google Video revelations should serve as a warning to all about what can happen when you place your trust in the cloud / a third party.

  • http://twitter.com/nevstokes Nev Stokes

    As far as my limited understanding of copyright law goes, strictly speaking we’ve never really owned the music anyway but merely a license to listen to it. Your mention of CDs is also something of a straw man — I can’t remember the last time I purchased music on physical media. I really hope that Spotify doesn’t vanish but the Google Video revelations should serve as a warning to all about what can happen when you place your trust in the cloud / a third party.

  • http://twitter.com/acotgreave Andy Cotgreave

    This is the post I would have written 2 years ago, if I’d wanted to write a post about Spotify. But now I wouldn’t. And I disagree with you on the need to “own” music. Two years ago I used to feel the same, but then I realised that I didn’t use my CDs any more, I just ripped them to my iPod and used that. From there it was a small leap to paying for Spotify. Now I listen to more new music than I did in the previous 5 years (prior to about 2005, before kids, I was still buying a lot of new music).

    What it made me realise is that I don’t need to own music – I just need to listen to it. Let’s say we both wannt the latest Diamanda Galas album ;-) You buy it, and I download it onto an Offline Spotify playlist. The end result is the same.

    I discovered 3 great new artists on last Friday’s FridayMix alone – that’s 3 new albums I have access to instantly. I think music “ownership” is dying out. And what are you going to do when CD formats become obsolete? Do you own the music then?

  • http://twitter.com/acotgreave Andy Cotgreave

    This is the post I would have written 2 years ago, if I’d wanted to write a post about Spotify. But now I wouldn’t. And I disagree with you on the need to “own” music. Two years ago I used to feel the same, but then I realised that I didn’t use my CDs any more, I just ripped them to my iPod and used that. From there it was a small leap to paying for Spotify. Now I listen to more new music than I did in the previous 5 years (prior to about 2005, before kids, I was still buying a lot of new music).

    What it made me realise is that I don’t need to own music – I just need to listen to it. Let’s say we both wannt the latest Diamanda Galas album ;-) You buy it, and I download it onto an Offline Spotify playlist. The end result is the same.

    I discovered 3 great new artists on last Friday’s FridayMix alone – that’s 3 new albums I have access to instantly. I think music “ownership” is dying out. And what are you going to do when CD formats become obsolete? Do you own the music then?