Late to the Spotify party

So I finally got a Spotify account.

I’ve been spending ages asking everyone I know: where are people finding new music these days? What’s the place everyone goes to? Is it still radio – does radio mean anything anymore?

And the response has generally been: ‘well, for me it’s mostly Spotify’.

And I’ve said: yeah yeah, but apart from that. Apart from Spotify… I mean I know people use it. I know streaming is supposed to be the future of music, but is it really? Are people really using it, like they used to listen to CDs or vinyl? Is it really a substitute for actually owning the tracks? Isn’t it all messy and incoherent? Is the listening experience actually any good?

Well, it’s taken years of people saying to me ‘well I like it’ for me actually to get around to checking it out.

And you know what? I think it’s the future of music. Or to be accurate, because I’m so late to this particular party, it’s the present of music. And it has been for a while now.

And that’s something coming from me, because I was ambivalent at best about the streaming revolution. In a blog post a few years ago I wrote about how I couldn’t see how a business model that gave music consumers whatever they wanted and music producers almost nothing could actually last. And then I read and blogged about Amanda Palmer’s business model, which she developed herself but many others have independently discovered too: you give your music away for free, but you really focus on making music for the people who love it most, and you ask for donations via a platform like Patreon. She gave the example of a radio station that provides free content all year around, but on one day they do a 24 hour fundraising drive, and that raises the money for the following year. I also learnt the lesson from Taylor Swift… that you shouldn’t automatically give away all your music for free, just because everyone else is. You might want to follow a business model in which you give some older stuff away for free, but still encourage fans to pay for the new stuff. There are all sorts of ways to do it now.

Now my feeling is that there is still some way to go before streaming services really provide as much value for musicians as they take from musicians (without music, obviously, there’s no Spotify). But I do get a sense how that could potentially happen.

As a very recent consumer, though, I am very impressed. I got a free account, because I already have way way too many monthly subscriptions.

I find the interface easy to use. I’ve found pretty much everything I look for is on there. And I also think there’s a good balance of information: enough to be helpful, but not enough to baffle you. I haven’t tried Apple Music yet, but that’s at least in part because iTunes is, in my opinion, still something of a car crash from a software point of view: desperately confusing and incoherent. Spotify feels clear, well organised, minimal without being unhelpful. And I think they handle the adverts pretty well. Normally I hate all kinds of adverts ever, but I’m using the free service so adverts are fair enough as far as I’m concerned. And a lot of them are for other music, which I really appreciate: trying to sell me things that relate to the platform that I’m on. Instead of just sunglasses and erections. ( << Killer album title for you there by the way, indie kids…)

But the main thing that I found was that I very quickly got into new music. This month’s recommendation of Laura Marling, for example, I would not have made at all if I hadn’t had the ability to easily listen to that album over and over again wherever I am. I did always find the original wheelie iPods well-designed and convenient, but Spotify has taken that convenience further, and it does seem to make a difference when it comes to me actually listening to albums in my (now digital) album pile. And I haven’t even begun to stock up on the shitloads of jazz and classical music that I’ve never had the money to justify.

And I just find it an enjoyable place to be. Which… can’t be said for everywhere on the internet. I find I’m spending less and less time on Facebook, and particularly Twitter. I might change my tune on that, but the fun seems to have gone out of it, I think. I kind of shrink whenever I see their logos. I was expecting Spotify to have a lot more bullshit, but it seems to have the opposite effect. I look forward to using it.

And one more thing: it’s white text on black (or dark grey) background!

That is a mortal sin in the world of Appleification*, but I’ve always preferred that sort of layout when listening to music. It makes me feel I’m always listening at night through headphones, and getting lost in the nocturnal wonder of it. (* Note: I am still an Apple whore and love all things Apple. Except iTunes, which is a fucking iSore.)

Anyway, I’ve created a Spotify playlist of the tunes that I’ve recommended so for on this website. Hopefully many more to be added. Enjoy!