The Gig Review

Why I hate, but pay for, Spotify

Blog Simon Caine November 9, 2011

I joined Spotify shortly after I heard about it just over a year ago. At the time my pocket was without an iPhone and I was getting bored of illegally downloading tracks and the length of time it took to transfer them to my Sony Ericsson. I enjoyed the service almost immediately. Instantly streaming tracks on my computer from a seemingly never-ending back catalogue was awesome. But much like most things you love too much, you can see its faults.

In February I got my first iPhone and was disappointed to see I’d have to pay for the privilege of having my play lists with me wherever I go. Then I saw the demo video… the service caught my attention and my wallet. I was an early paid subscriber.

Recently the service has come under some negative press. It reportedly paid Lady Gaga $167 for 1 million plays of her songs. According to my Last.fm profile I account for a few hundred of those plays.

In the traditional music model I would have had to buy the album for £10. So would the other couple of thousand other people who listened to her and dozens of other artists for a budget £10 per month. She should have made thousands.

This low payment might be the reason why Coldplay and Adele recently announced they wouldn’t be putting their latest records on Spotify.

Yet, I still pay for it. Every month a direct debit comes from my account and I think it’s great value. Why? For people who purchase CDs it’s a great way of “previewing” lots of albums before you commit to purchasing. I hate it when the only good track on a CD is the single and I know I am not alone.

But I’ve still only purchased one album and one single in my life. For me this service is my only link to the music industry. As a plus point it has stopped me illegally downloading any music. If it’s not on my Mac or in Spotify’s catalogue I don’t need it.

In this respect I see the service more as a marketing tool. It gets your new album out to x number of people and the artist gets a modicum of payment for their content. Artists and record labels will have to make money at the live shows, which more people will go to now they’ve not wasted money on CDs and know what they’re paying to listen to before they go to the concert.

When you think of Spotify as a marketing tool the critics of low royalty amounts to artists’ flies out the window. They should be happy with any money – maybe that’s a step too far. But you see Spotify is providing them with a platform to get their music to the widest possible audience.

About a week ago I read the Google Music would be “launching shortly” in the UK. Now I’ve not really heard much about this service since April (just before it launched exclusively over the pond). This might be because it’s only available in the US, but as the service only lets you upload your own music and stream it to devices. I really don’t see this having a major impact in Spotify’s increasing market share in Europe.

iTunes is still living in the dark ages with its 30-second preview of tracks and 79p flat fee cost structure. Unsure how sustainable that’ll be as more and more people hear that they can rent the tracks they love for less than £10 per month.

So far this has read like an advertorial for Spotify and as the title says, I really have issues with the service as a customer…

Firstly, why can’t we have a simple navigation system on the mobile app? The play lists are useful, but I would like to be able to browse by artist / album just like in iTunes.

Spotify have missed a trick in my opinion. They allow you to sync your plays with Last.fm but don’t have a custom “What’s new” screen which could show you the releases you’re actually interest in. I’ve checked the API… this is not only possible, but very easy to do.

When in the app, I sometimes want to read more about the artist I’ve discovered. Not sure why this isn’t possible on the iPhone app. If the argument is because it is not relevant data and they want to keep it simple, surely the artists that are similar to the one you’re listening would be both useful and vital information. But again this is only available on the desktop app.

Although I love how easy it is to “send” tracks to my friends, it would be great if I could rate individual tracks so my friends would know what I think of them. You could use this data to recommend tracks that are similarly rated that my friends have listened to.

I guess Spotify does one thing and it does it well: let’s you stream music. If you’re after anything else it’ll cost you.

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