Regular observers will have noted my Anti Spotify feelings and I've also been made more than aware of what supporters think of it. Personally I listened on my other half's account the odd time and wasn't impressed with the sound quality. I was essentially aghast at what the artists were paid and living in a village with a poor internet connection in no way suits streaming, But I don't want to expand on those thoughts as I have said enough in the past.
I also understand the physical media supporters' points of view. People of a certain age have collected music for many years and so they want the latest album to be on a similar format, but sadly those are a dying breed and so everything cannot be released physically due to sales numbers. I have a massive collection but it is dominated by older stuff, but I also can tell you many stories of artists or labels that did limited runs on the promise of people who said they were interested and too many have garages full of unsold copies.
I never sold my Vinyl, but I rarely play it. I have most of those releases on CD now. In the Nineties and early Noughties, Mail Order was a saviour and so too the better Internet companies that followed them, but the cost of US Postage and now Brexit have made buying from abroad impossible. Labels such as Big Stir have found a way around it, but they are very much in a minority. It costs around 17 dollars to post a 10 dollar CD from the States. What we also have to realise is that Music has usually been driven by youth and today's youth would largely baulk at having to listen to music from a disc.
The younger audience are largely uninterested in albums now, preferring playlists or individual songs. They certainly have little interest in charts or Music on TV. There is also so much more competing for their money. Games Machines, online subscriptions for TV and Film etc. It still amazes me that people will pay £25 a month for Sky and watch old repeat channels, a thing they used to complain about in earlier TV years. The internet has been a fantastic thing for meeting fellow music fans and finding music, but you still have to no where to look or follow.
So I decided to try Spotify for a month and test those reasons for, Firstly, I can understand why consumers like it. They can listen to anything they want to free of charge. This may be with Adverts, but many can tolerate that. For those who want the advanced features and no adverts they can subscribe for a tenner a month. But why should music be free or so cheap? If you will pay £50 or £60 for the latest Game, why would you not be willing be a much lesser amount for an album or a song. No one can doubt the convenience of Spotify, but why should an artist receive so little payment and if they should, why are other trades not doing similar and losing money?
Spotify also suffers from something the whole internet does. You have to know what you are looking for to find it. A search engine cannot allow you to discover much new. So if you are looking for Bryan Adams, you will have ease, if you are looking for any new artist, tough!. For years, there have been If you like this, you may like that, but the recommendations have always been really random to the point of ridiculousness. Spotify seems the worst, pointing to other artists seems really weird with choices that have nothing in common with what you have listened to.
After a month's use, I became deeply suspicious of the Spotify algorithms, They seemed to point me in a direction that they want me to go, not what I actually thought that the road would lead me to. You could search by genre, but my experience of genre recommendations is not good. The number of albums that I get sent that are described as Punk or Indie Pop or whatever that sound nothing like that. AOR described as Prog and Indie Guitar Pop and Power Pop described as Punk Pop are my personal examples..
There are playlists compiled by people, but again how do you find these people? Surely a more useful pointer would be to have links to playlists that also contain the song. I know this is too exhaustive for many artists, but to kick off new Indie artists it would be ideal. I know something like Bandcamp is a streaming site, but it only allows a small amount of listens before requesting payment and so is ideal for revealing the album itself and giving the listener the chance of hearing more back catalogue. All Spotify really does is channel the money to a corporation or at best a major label.
There is also the argument that Spotify is like a Radio Station, but you still have to know what you are looking for. How many people go on and buy the album after hearing songs they like or indeed the song? Most just add it to this to their weekly/monthly playlist. We also used to complain about the sound quality of AM Radio, well what about Spotify? It makes great productions sound like they have been recorded in the toilet next to the studio.
My biggest concern though is how people listen. Users will listen to a song for 15 - 30 seconds and then move on, making a decision about the artist's career forever. One short listen defines a lifetime's work. Having said that I know a few reviewers who listen for similar periods. So music just becomes disposable. There is too much choice to make anything matter other than finding a song that hooks you straight away. No more long intros, no more faded up lead ins. I imagine many listen to Boston's More Than A Feeling. How many would discover it now if it was new with that gradual lead in?
Spotify seems to make music background, passive even. No other art is treated like this. Then there are the decline in downloads. When digital kicked in, there was the problem of Piracy, there still is to a lesser extent. Physical Sales were dropping, but downloads could be sold, streaming has killed the download market, particularly with faster internet connections. Downloads were not ideal, but they still built a library, a collection and the artist was paid a reduced amount for their album. That has also largely been removed from the income potential.
A couple of final personal thoughts. We have become a Headphone society so try listening to a streaming site on your I phone with no headphones, it is Radio Luxembourg 1967. Is this what we have become, listening to music on a phone? Music should be heard in the open. How Soulless does it feel on Spotify, it isn't something to take pleasure in. The appearance is like a black hole of doom. It isn't something that is making music pleasurable, more a chore. I understand why people use and like Spotify, it just isn't for me or the artist. Likes do not pay recording costs or bills. I do direct people to Bandcamp if possible in reviews by embedding three songs. That is simply to allow potential purchasers to buy the album.
How I listen to music :
I very rarely stream, a combination of not having a great internet connection, ditto 4G and the sheer lack of enjoyment in it. Plus my hearing is going. I review largely from downloads due to the poor internet connection and that allows me to listen anywhere, including PC and Macbook. I also am on my second Ipod and have been for 13 or so years, maybe more. It is a really convenient way to listen to downloads of full albums. I have a great Hi Fi System that gets switched on far too infrequently, but is still streets ahead of any other listening method. Bar the odd update that has lasted me for the last 30 years or so. The Amp got smashed in a house move in 2006 and so I replaced it with a second hand purchase of the same amp and that is still going strong.
I buy CDs for my own use.