# A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

Miscellaneous - The Spotify Phenomenon

  by Jon Rogers

published: 24 / 9 / 2009

Miscellaneous - The Spotify Phenomenon


...while in the second part he examines the issue of free, legal music websites such as Spotify and we7

Free, legal music websites like Spotify and we7.com might very well be changing the whole business model of the music industry and the way people listen to music but these sites still need to broaden their musical horizons. In the music industry’s Brave New World the way people effectively “consume” music has radically changed. Moving from what was effectively a pay-as-you-go model – in buying a record/CD/MP3 download you paid for what you wanted, effectively cherry-picking the songs that interested you. But things are radically changing with the industry moving in an attempt to make money out of online sites like Spotify and we7.com, where you can stream music for free over the internet but the listener has to put up with the odd advert every three or four songs. The system is an ad-funded business model similar to the ones used by commercial TV broadcasters like ITV and Channel 5. The owners of the music make money by taking a slice of the revenue gained by the site selling advertising space. And furthering the TV analogy, you can also, apparently, get a premiere service by using a subscription model, a bit like BSkyB. With Spotify you can pay £9.99 a month and avoid the ads and get previews of some songs before they are released to the public at large. But are what these sites offer any good for the listener? Admittedly these sites are still in their infancy and the Spotify site is still maturing. You even get ads asking the listener to phone in and tell them of ways to improve – which is no bad thing. Any business has to give the customer what they want or otherwise go bust. If you hear a song you like on the radio or a friend recommends a new band to you, these sites are a great way of hearing more. Simply log on to the site, call up the artist and away you go. Effectively you can preview the music before buying the album. They allow you to try before you buy. You don’t have to buy an album on a wing and a prayer, hoping that the rest of the album is just as good as the single some DJ played the other day. And it’s a great way of hearing particular songs you like but wouldn’t really want to go out and spend money on. Synth pop from the 1980s is hardly what gets me moving but I do have a soft spot for OMD’s single ‘Enola Gay’. As a guilty pleasure I’d never admit to actually owning a copy of the song (which I don’t - honest) but using sites like we7.com I can get a fix without anyone else being the wiser. But are these sites really providing the new business model for the record industry, giving it a much needed shake up? There are the very obvious physical limitations of these sites. Go out of range of your wi-fi connection and the problem is self-evident. Okay, you can be one of these annoying idiots who take up acres of space in coffee shops pretending to be oh-so-important that they simply can’t even have a coffee break without having to do some work (when let’s face it they’re just messing around on Facebook), but why lug a laptop around when you can bring your MP3 player? And even if you could lug your laptop around, ever tried getting an internet connection on the tube? So you’re still going to need to download music for when you’re travelling. And I rarely go anywhere without my iPod. It cocoons me in my own little world, just me and whoever happens to be playing, blocking out the hurly-burly of the noise of London. And just how well stocked are these sites? On a superficial level they may seem pretty comprehensive. Search for a few of your favourite artists and you can pretty much guarantee you’ll find something. But look closer and often you’ll just find a smattering of songs. I looked for those German avant-garde pioneers CAN on Spotify. Along with their debut album there was just two songs from 'Ege Bamyasi' and four from the highly acclaimed 'Tago Mago', widely considered to be their masterpiece. What happened to the rest? Why only bits of albums? It was a similar tale with The Fall. Surely with such a band with a track record like Mark E Smith’s then something like Spotify should be well stocked? No. Only one song from their latest album 'Imperial Wax Solvent' and elsewhere it was equally thin on the ground. At best there were a handful of songs from 'The Frenz Experiment' (hardly the band’s finest hour) and 'Grotesque' and the odd song from other albums peppered around the place. So perhaps CAN and The Fall are hardly populist and are not really going to attract the vast majority of listeners. So a quick scan for Girls Aloud reveals that, yes, fans of the girl band are better served. Not really surprising that - but still there are gaps. Why only two songs from 'Sound of the Underground'? What happened to the rest of the album? Fans of Cheryl Cole and co are far better served on we7.com. And forget about digging out that obscure single. Want to hear that rare Stereolab single put out on Clawfist? Forget it. At best you get what you would expect, there’s nothing there that is of great interest. With most artists you, invariably, get the most recent albums and a smattering of singles. All very fine but it’s a selection that is hardly going to draw in the dedicated fan hoping to dig out some obscure remix that is no longer available. And forget about finding anything too obscure. It’s unlikely it’s there. Similarly try finding anything by particularly unknown 60s group the Beatles. And Bob Dylan’s nowhere to be found either. But don’t let it be said that these websites don’t have a sense of humour. Searching for US noisemakers A Place to Bury Strangers on we7.com may only drag up one single but just look at other bands it recommends I might like. Along with extremely loud feedback and distortion I might like to also listen to... Kelly Clarkson and Robbie Williams. But oddly no mention of the Jesus and Mary Chain. Some omissions are, presumably, not down to the owners of these sites but more to do with the artist refusing permission. You could stream Dylan’s back catalogue on Spotify until recently, but his songs have since been removed. But if these sites want to make a lasting impression then they are going to have to fill in those gaps – and in some cases these are pretty big gaping holes – in what it can offer. At the moment these sites may be a good place to start and act as an introduction to previously unknown musicians. They provide a good shop window for an artist where you can sample to your heart’s content but once you venture inside you’ll discover that the stockroom needs filling up.

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