So, this is an interesting video and one that provokes a lot of discussion. I really like it, but it also makes me want to once again pick apart the status of Spotify in the industry. I’m sure I’ve written a piece like this before, but Spotify has become so prominent recently I think that it’s important to really examine what it has to offer and what it means for the development of the music industry over both the short and long term. After all, they are supposed to be the saviors of the industry, right? There’s been some bad press about Spotify lately and people are seeing the defection of Adele and Taylor Swift as a sign that maybe the streaming giant isn’t quite as impervious as well all thought it was. As far as I can tell though it isn’t the case – Spotify remains dominant and quite frankly, kind of scary. I’d like to look at how this impacts the music industry, for better and for worse.
In both the short and long term there are a lot of arguments as to why Spotify is a fundamentally good thing for the music industry. Right now we see the company losing money, investing tons of cash in new start ups in order to refine their product and generally pushing to create a better tomorrow. Spotify has been making big strides with the goal of proving to us that they legitimately care about the music industry. I feel like they really do to – there isn’t an obviously evil scheme behind Spotify – they give a ridiculous amount of their profits to the labels and have a staff of music experts who apparently really care about the playlists they curate. I mean – that is objectively a cool thing. Right now Spotify seems to be doing their best to make sure that while yes, artists aren’t making as much as they were, at least now they are making something which has to be a good thing right? From the womb of pirates, (Their CEO was formerly the CEO of uTorrent) comes hope for the future.
On the long term Spotify also seems to have some cool ideas. As they transform into the full stack juggernaut they are so clearly on pace to be (With the recent incorporation of videos and podcasts among other things) soon we will be at a point where we can enjoy all of our music and related art in one easy to access place without downloading anything. That’s strangely reassuring and shows us the simplicity that modern life was supposed to bring. It’s nice when things are stripped down and we need fewer apps. Beyond that – it’s been pretty clear all along that Spotify has been building towards being able to pay artists more – something that is going to happen as they incorporate more services and consequently get more paid subscribers, the folks who really make money for the artists. So, it should seem like Spotify is the hopeful future of the industry right?
It’s not that simple unfortunately. In the short term – Spotify is still not paying their artists enough, incorporating what feels like more ads than ever and watching most of their competitors die fast, ignoble deaths. Spotify is unstoppable and it’s leading to a stunning lack of choice in the streaming market. More immediate than that though is the simple fact that Spotify has consistently showed that they refuse to engage in alternative models for album releases, like making new records only accessible to paying users, or making it accessible to users only a certain amount of time after release The music streaming service has its rules and it refuses to bend them, it knows that most people frankly don’t have a choice anymore. Beyond that, the GUI hasn’t been updated in a while and users are starting to get frustrated with more and more of Spotify’s additional features .Sure they do cool playlists, but why is it so hard to sort playlists and find your most played tracks? This leads to the real problem Spotify has been pushing towards: monopoly.
Spotify is in many ways one of the scariest things to happen to the music industry. While I understand and agree with the argument that the music industry has always gone through technological changes, they were never totally dominated by one company as they are right now. Even the vinyl records first being printed by Thomas Edison’s company ended up being fairly easy to produce and led to the rise of record companies. As is though the product is a stream, it’s not tangible, it’s now a service and Spotify have no real competition. I mean really, they have about 140 million users. Their next biggest competitor, Apple Music has around 11 million. If that’s not a scary level of control then I don’t know what is. We are at a point in music’s history where all access to recorded music is pretty much going to be through one company. Sure there will probably always be some form of physical media but that’s not going to ever be a major part of the market. We are beholden to Spotify.
Admittedly – as I write this I’m listening to the Baha Men on, you guessed it, Spotify. I think right now the best case scenario we are looking at is a Google like situation with a policy of, “Don’t be evil.” Of course the music industry is known for being kind of evil and I think this could be a serious issue going forward. As is though, Spotify kind of saved the music industry and we need to honor that, but also try to figure out how to give them some real competition. No one can fight them directly as we have seen with countless bands trying to pull out of Spotify and rival streaming services all fail. I’m not sure what to do other than to embrace it as is and buckle in for a hell of a ride!