Spotify - the demon of the on line music industry that is killing music and is hated by many, but a few conversations and news items recently have set my mind thinking. I have slagged Spotify off in the past for the miniscule payments they pay per stream of a track, and possibly because of the perception that is created by some of what the impact of the company is.
They have been making headlines for the last few weeks, with record payments to labels, global growth in free users and those with subscriptions, new services and apps, and now with Led Zeppelin included. Although I am mystified that there could be anyone who has been holding out to listen to them until they were available on a free music streaming site?
So why are they hated? Many artists refuse to have their music on the site, and others do but moan about the payment that they receive. Which seems fair, why should an artist have their music streamed and played for nothing while others make money off the back of it?
Genuinely no issue with that, I think artists should get paid, after all if they don't there will be no new music and so on and the industry will get eaten by Simon Cowell and One Direction.
Apart from the fact that I think this argument is flawed completely from a number of different angles. Admittedly my in depth market research is based on talking to people I know and reading the news and blogs etc, but I have to say that Spotify does have a use, and possibly is actually the "new model" that the music industry keeps telling us is needed.
Commercial and BBC Radio is in the main (with notable exceptions) dull and formulaic, and it is very rare to hear new artists and bands now unless you are prepared to put in a bit of legwork yourself. This is actually no different to the way it has ever been, from Peel and The NME when I was younger, and looking at bands supporting the bands you really liked there has always been an element of work and trial and error in finding new music. This is really no different to music blogs, recommendations and going to see bands.
So why in defence of Spotify?
Well, almost everyone I know who uses it either paid or free buys loads of music as well. They use it as a source of checking something out before spending a £10 on an album. If you read a magazine there could well be 20 new albums you are interested in, so what is wrong with listening to a few tracks from each and deciding which 3 or 4 to buy? Seems logical to me really, same as me lending you a CD to listen to in order to see if you like it? I only know two people who have stopped buying music and now use Spotify for all their listening, and they both state they can't afford to buy music at the moment, but they both pay Spotify a subscription.
Spotify is not what original Napster was, it does not give you the music, it loans it to you. You never own it, unless you choose to buy it (or download illegally obviously). This is personally why I think it is flawed, as I want to own music, like books and Kindles, it doesn't really work for me. A book only available electronically I will read on my tablet, but if there is a physical version I would rather pay for that, same as I have always been with music. 99.9% of what I have I own a physical copy of.
Spotify are also paying what is growing into multi-million pounds to record labels, so they are feeding the industry, again, this is not Napster. The fact that the labels are not paying the artists is nothing to do with Spotify, and if the independent artist does not want their music on the site they can remove it. When you start to look a bit deeper it doesn't look as bad does it?
But there are alternatives cry many, and I know there are, Bandcamp & Soundcloud being two, but there is still MySpace and youtube - there is music everywhere to listen to, and loads of internet and independent radio stations and podcasts that stream and play music litter the internet. There is a flaw with many of these on line and digital stations though - they don't pay the artist for playing their music. Yes they may hand over a lot more in royalties if the music is purchased via their site or app, but just for a play, zero pence. Now there is not a lot of difference between 0.004 pence and 0.0 pence, but there is a difference.
The indie alternatives don't pay their artists, and don't charge users to listen - they are actually doing a worse job than the "monstrosity" that is Spotify. Are people who listen to bands on Bandcamp more likely to buy anything than people who use Spotify? In my experience I don't actually think that is the case, but more people use Spotify so there would actually need to be some clear stats on use / plays / listeners / purchasers to see what the real picture is.
I could sit here all day and listen to music for free with no restrictions or adverts on Bandcamp or Soundcloud, never pay a penny for music again as long as I have the internet. And these are sites where artists willingly and freely add their music to get it heard. How is this any different to Spotify?
Is the music snobbery of some fans and those in the industry in danger of missing the understanding and benefit of on line streaming services, subscription based or free?
Is Spotify actually the saviour of new music awareness?
For reference I have a free version of Spotify on my laptop here, I can't remember the last time I used it, mainly as I hate listening to music on my computer. Also, I am not digging out any individual or specific stations here, I know almost all of the people involved do it to get new music heard, but as I have tried to briefly explain, just saying Spotify is "bad" is no longer any argument to me - please let me know if and why you think differently.