By Sergio del Amo and Álvaro García Montoliu Last week, the social networks were on fire. Spotify had just announced a cut in their service that will affect everyone without a Premium account, reducing the amount of time a user can listen to music free of charge from 20 to 10 hours a month, and limiting users to five listens of any particular song, which of course has free users incensed. So we decided to set up a debate about all things Spotify, and the service cuts in particular. On one side we have Sergio Del Amo, who openly confesses that he loves listening to Boney M while they’re broadcasting a Burger King ad. On the other side is Álvaro García Montoliu, who is genuinely angry because he can’t find artists who will be playing at Sónar on Spotify and is starting to think they don’t actually exist. The credibility and future of the Swedish platform is at stake.
Very much in favour
1.Virgins of the clenched fist
Between £4.99 and £9.99, that’s the price we’ll have to pay if we wish to hear a tune more than five times or disturb our neighbours during more than ten hours per month, starting from 1st May. It always hurts when one has to pay for something that until now worked perfectly for free. But we have to understand that the Swedish platform’s business model and their jump to the United States (along with the licenses) doesn’t leave them any other options. Accustomed to guile and massive illegal downloading, many people’s skin crawls at the thought of giving their bank account number to a company. However, isn’t a sad gin & tonic on the weekend much worse than that? Why would you not want to pay such a small fee, when a simple CD already costs the same? To have such an extensive catalogue at your disposal at all times is well worth a bank note.
2. We complain because we like to
The news about the service cuts reminded us of the moment when, as a teenager, we ended up in the nets of the tobacco companies. They offer you a cigarette and at first it’s horrible, but shortly after, the uncontrollable addiction leads to you being a walking ashtray. Over the past few years, millions of users have turned Spotify into their pet and soundtrack to their daily routine. Now, the moment has come to show just how important the service has become in our lives. Although really only the Spotify junkies will have to decide to go Premium or not. This debate will probably not affect those who aren’t all that interested in music and who use the service every once in a while. The real fans will probably pay happily. 3. Do you stop listening to the radio because of the ads?
An easy argument against Spotify: “I’m fed up with the ads”. Right, you and everybody else. But hearing a few ads every 20 minutes is not going to end your life. Do you complain when you turn on the radio? You could always use the pause to empty the dishwasher. Granted, nobody can deny that the sometimes terrible Spotify ads have made us laugh out loud on occasion. The Spanish ad for Burger King’s Angry Whopper, making fun of the whole Spotify ad thing, is now part of our collective history.
4. While you’re at it, enjoy it on your mobile phone
Bear in mind that the Premium service (almost £10) allows you, at least, if you have an iPhone or Android, to use Spotify wherever you go in its mobile version, enabling you to listen to your playlists without having to be connected to the Internet. In other words: thanks to Spotify you can get rid of your mp3 player without exhausting your phone memory. Many people haven’t commented on this, but it is obviously one of the big selling points Spotify uses on its investors. 5. Free buffet
On how many occasions have we gone through the Spotify database just to kill some time? In spite of alternative services such as Deezer and Grooveshark, for yours truly, Spotify has been synonymous of a jukebox (I owe you one, Boney M) with ads. The best invention after YouTube is, and will be, a free buffet of light music, a sample dish that determined the future acquisition of records. Certainly, Soundcloud is the best way to know the main musical novelties beforehand, but with its interface and user-friendliness, Spotify is, in spite of the gaps in its catalogue and the sparse representation of some genres, the new radio. Very much against 1. It’s absurd to listen to albums via streaming when you can download practically every record and take the music anywhere, and iTunes is getting better and better.
We never understood how Spotify could have 10 million users when it’s easier to just download an album from some blog. Not only that, but there are iPhone and other smartphone apps as well. What do the people want, that when they’re on the tube suddenly the music’s gone? Legal or illegal, there are millions of better options before using this kind of service. iTunes’ catalogue is growing steadily and sometimes has incredibly interesting exclusives. Not to mention illegal downloading, which can save you months of waiting in some cases, something that makes no sense whatsoever these days. 2. The ads suck, but paying for a service like Spotify is no solution, either.
At first, Spotify had less ads and they were adapted to the kind of music you were listening to. We could live with that. But nowadays, every three songs you get a horrible ad that has nothing to do with your interests. And now the summer is coming. It’s going to horrible, listening to Joanna Newsom and being interrupted by some terrible ad with shitty beach music. If the solution is to pay £10 a month, well, turn the thing of and let’s go. This project started with some beautiful ideals, but once again the tyrant laws of market economy have taken over. The platform started as one of the few coherent and in-tune with the times initiatives to fight piracy. In fact, many people said they weren’t illegally downloading so many albums anymore, but now all their illusions have vanished with this terrible service cut. 3. These cuts will only make people go somewhere else.
Starting from the viewpoint that Spotify isn’t worth £10 a month because there are cheaper and better alternatives (illegal downloads), or more expensive but with better sound and more music on offer (iTunes), the limitations that will come into force on 1st May will only make people go somewhere else. What’s all this about only letting us listen to a song five times? Something like “if you like it so much, buy it”? Bad idea, Spotify. And that ten hours a month thing is absolutely ridiculous. They only give you 20 minutes per day, or four or five tracks. Really, why not directly force people to go Premium? See what happens then. 4. They say everything is there, that their catalogue is virtually endless, but nothing is further from the truth, people with a certain taste in music are not going to find anything they like.
Let’s put ourselves in the position of the average Sónar attendee, who might not know half of what the festival has on offer. “Hey, these guys oOoOO look interesting and the artwork of their EP is ace. Let’s check them out on Spotify.” Sorry son, they only have three songs. “Okay, well, let’s try their label mates then, How To Dress Well, they should be on it.” Same answer, my friend, you only get “Ready For The World” and its remix by Twin Sister. “Right. Well surely Pearson Sound’s Fabric CD will be available, people say it’s one of the best DJ mix CDs of this moment.” Error. And that’s only electronic music – there are some key indie records, like Grizzly Bear’s “Veckatimest”, that aren’t on Spotify, either. 5. Spotify isn’t very fast picking up on new records, everything is on SoundCloud and the blogs before it’s on Spotify.
Granted, some records appear a few days before their official release if you’re a Premium user (again, those who pay rule, the other mortals have to make do with the crumbs). But is it worth paying for if you can enjoy a record one week before the rest of the world? Well, no. And what about the singles, remixes and rarities? Let’s see what happens after Record Store Day, how many of all those special releases are going to be uploaded to Spotify. My guess is, not too many. It’s more useful to look on blogs and even band and label pages on SoundCloud. Spotify takes too long to upload new things and in these times of fast consumption, that’s a terrible business strategy. The imminent service cuts on the Swedish music platform Spotify have the editors of PlayGround in uproar, and here we present you with the opposing viewpoints of two of our staff. Spotify: cool stuff or deficient product? Read and give us your opinion.