I’ve been using Spotify for nearly three weeks now, and have managed to convince a lot of other people to give it a try. Everyone who has done so has been very impressed, from techie expert work colleagues who have quoted my blog article on Twitter (thanks Patrick!), via old friends I’ve caught up with online who confess to being addicted (cheers Martine!) through to my dear old dad (a sprightly 66 year-old ‘silver surfer’) who’s quite besotted with his new toy.
However, as media coverage of Spotify increases and more and more people are discovering its benefits (40,000 new subscribers per day in the UK and counting) I’ve noticed several articles and opinion pieces that suggest its widespread popularity is not such good news after all.
It is perhaps unsurprising that some scaremongers and professional pessimists are trying to suggest that Spotify is evil, arguing that it is the noughties equivalent of home taping (which did kill music, obviously!) in the early eighties. This is the UK after all, and we never miss an opportunity to respond to something innovative and useful by shooting it down with a barrage of cynicism.
Apparently many people have reacted to the concept of Spotify’s huge music library being available for free by claiming that they (and by extension everyone they know) will never buy another CD or pay for a download as long as they live.
Why that argument is rubbish
There is plenty of evidence to suggest that the opposite is true, and that Spotify is a catalyst for music lovers buying more CDs than ever. In the online forum debates I’ve monitored (including an interesting one on the Word magazine website) Spotify enthusiasts are openly confessing to having bought a plethora of new CDs because they have discovered new bands or as a direct result of having so many more opportunities to ‘try before you buy’.
I’m sure it’s true for a lot of us that the more we listen to good music (and new music especially), the more we want. I call it the expanding appetite argument, and it’s holding as true for me as I search for more and more new bands on Spotify as it did on holiday in Brittany with regard to fine cheese, fresh baguettes and good wine! I haven’t yet converted my newly researched albums into actual purchases, but it’s only a matter of time, especially with a birthday coming up on Saturday……
I also think people will use Spotify to track down music they’ve lost touch with and then seek to purchase elsewhere. My dad and his best mate have already done this with a couple of obscure 60’s tracks that they couldn’t locate on itunes, and then realised via Spotify that they’d been looking for the right song titles but the wrong artists. The ‘correct’ tracks are now duly downloaded from itunes as required.
Another reason the ‘killing music’ argument is bunk is that a lot of people will always prefer the physical product to a download, even more so to a track they just ‘stream’ whilst online and never actually ‘own’. For the same reason Amazon’s Kindle and the Sony Reader will never replace actual books in the hearts and hands of the world’s readers. I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling oddly dissatisfied when I can’t check the lyrics of an intriguing song because I’ve downloaded the album rather than having a CD booklet.
It’s equally true that it’s far too early to expect Spotify to achieve domination over the music industry, despite its impressive impact so far. For a start, there are still way too many holes in the library at the moment for it to pose a serious threat. Although there are millions of songs available to stream in an instant, that’s not always such a big deal if it doesn’t include the ones you’re looking for. Whilst I have been very impressed to find many new albums available on the day of release, there are still several offerings by fairly high profile artists missing. I’ve been seeking one or two albums I expected to find for well over a week, and eventually my impatience may get the better of me and send me to itunes or Amazon. I’ll then offset such a purchase by settling for keeping another couple of albums on Spotify playlists for the time being.
Having a huge selection of songs to stream to your laptop is brilliant, but it’s actually quite irritating when you’re away from your computer, or without wireless broadband access and the only songs you want to listen to are of course on Spotify rather than your ipod. That happened to me several times whilst on holiday the other week, and it proved to me that I’ll never stop buying music in favour of the streaming alternative.
For all these reasons (and the simple fact that even though many of us have got excited about Spotify, the majority of the British public if asked would still probably think it was an acne treatment) I’m sure that the doom merchants predicting the death of music (again) at the hands of this latest Internet phenomenon are a little premature.
But, watch this space ….
However, this state of affairs may depend on what the creators of Spotify have up their sleeves in terms of new developments and changes to the business model. With rumours that they are developing a Spotify app for the iphone gaining more credence, and Daniel Eck’s assertion that “people will pay for music if packaged correctly and it offers them something special” we may be seeing major changes to this product that will make it considerably more of a threat.