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Spotify is gaining leverage over record labels (techcrunch.com)
184 points by prostoalex 102 days ago | hide | past | web | 155 comments | favorite

Spotify is the one service I'm happy to pay for. Their weekly mixes keep blowing my mind because it's such a great way to discover new music tailored to my taste. Plus, Spotify connect is a genius way to play music on loudspeakers. It works incredibly well with my Bose speakers. My impression is that they will continue to innovate in all kinds of areas so I think they have a good chance of winning. I needed to write this because just yesterday I thought how happy I am with Spotify. In case it sounds too fanboy-ish.

While i have discovered a couple good songs in Spotify's Discover Weekly playlist, i do find it a common occurrence nowadays that songs which i have listened to in the past are included. Does anyone else have that experience? Perhaps Spotify is just having a really hard time finding music related to my tastes?

Discover weekly is the reason that I pay for Spotify. I'm an old guy that prefers vinyl to mp3s, misses the local record store terribly and hates radio, so modern music distribution sucks for me.

I first tried Spotify many years ago, back when playlists were quite new. At the time, I was living in the UK and a big user of last.fm but, out of curiosity, I spent an afternoon building one playlist out of the few tracks they had that I liked.

I was/am into house and techno but the tracks were not yet available on Spotify back then - but the originals which were heavily sampled sure were. So I ended up with a playlist of funk, disco, blues, hip-hop and jazz that was kinda familiar, lotta fun.

Fast-forward several years and I'm living in Australia, where last.fm is a paid service that had stagnated, so back to check out Spotify again...

It had millions more tracks.

It had learned from my playlist. Discover weekly is soooo good.

It had my attention and my credit card.

To the parent poster, I suggest you treat Spotify like a friendly muso willing to lend you her near infinite collection. I've you've ever wondered about $GENRE, go and play. I have no relationship with Spotify except as a very happy customer.

Funnily enough, Discover Weekly almost never works for me. I like the overall service Spotify provides, but the discovery features don't really cut it for me.

As an example, I usually don't really like most music that goes into the house, techno, electronica or even dubstep directions. Most songs I find to be horribly repetitive and lacking in good buildup/melodies. However, there are exceptions I can enjoy very well (say the Soundtrack to Tron Legacy[1] or a few tracks from Overwerk).

But after listening to stuff like this, Spotify keeps recommending the other kind to me, which I just find tiresome.

I've got the same problems with other music directions (Tool and Rishloo vs. countless rather dull prog rock tracks, or black metal recommendations after listening to In Flames/Dark Tranquility).

The whole artist radio does the same for me. If I start it up, it's because I'm interested in more similarities than "well, it's ordered in in the same genre somewhere"...

[1]: Yes, I'm aware that has pretty much nothing to do with what Daft Punk usually do, but that's frankly the reason I like it.


An interesting thing, come to think of it, is that Spotify never recommends classical music to me in their "Discover Weekly" list, although I do listen quite a bit to such recordings. I wonder if this is because they realized that "Classical Music" as a genre is mostly not good at all (I don't know how many people who like Vivaldi's music would also like Arvo Pärt's works as much, but I doubt that they're in different internal genres in the Spotify database).

Other explanations could also be that such recordings don't make enough "buzz" or that the attribuition to specific composers is more difficult (since the performing musician/orchestra is usually included as "artist").

Im a bit opposite in that I love much of the "house, techno, electronica or even dubstep directions" (though much less dubstep these days) and Discover Weekly/Radio usually delivers some great stuff and is probably 95% of my new finds.

Im more inclined towards progressive trance/psy trance type stuff which I think aligns more with Classical music you mention (since I usually listen while I work). I love electronica remixes of Vivaldi and other classical pieces, for instance. I enjoy Tool as well, A Perfect Circle, and Puscifer and have a much more difficult time discovering in that direction, but I listen to them less frequently as well. I also listen to a lot of rap, and intermittently some other types (almost anything but country).

Im always finding good new electronica of the types I like and rap, but their algorithms definitely could use some improving. I would particularly like an unlike/thumbs down feature like Pandora had and may still have. Id like that so that it a) never show me that song again, and b)could potentially be used to further tailor the results.

You can right-click on any playlist and select "Create Similar Playlist" to generate a new playlist with similar tracks.

I suspect this uses the same underlying algorithms as Discovery Weekly, except that DW uses the songs you've listened to as the basis.

Discover Weekly does suffer from a pollution problem — listen to one style of music for a while, and the entire tone of your DW playlist will change. Fortunately, the above trick works.

There's also the Release Radar [1] playlist, which seems to be an undocumented feature. It gives you new tracks by artists you follow, as well as related artists based on some mysterious metric.

DW explicitly excludes classical music and also jazz, for some reason. I think I've had Arvo Pärt come up, probably because he's a contemporary artist; same with folks like Max Richter and Jóhann Jóhannsson.

[1] https://open.spotify.com/user/spotify/playlist/37i9dQZEVXbtE...

I agree. I don't know the magic that goes into programming Discover Weekly but any time I try another service, it is what brings me back to Spotify.

> I was/am into house and techno but the tracks were not yet available on Spotify back then

That's a very common problem - a lot of tracks are unavailable anywhere except Beatport and Juno, and even more are on vinyl-only releases.

I have actually subscribed to Apple Music just a few hours ago, after spending couple of hours trying to give Spotify money from a non-supported country with no avail. And, of course, the music selection is... limited, for a lack of a better word.

Is Spotify better in that regard?

It used to be great for me for about 1/2 a year, now it's not I hardly find anything new I like in the mix.

I allways skipped most of the songs, but if it manages to give me 1-2 new tracks I like and never heard before this is a big big win for me.

Back when pirate music blogs where still popular I used to skip through tracks of about 70 different artists a day, download 5 albums of these, and than keep maybe 2 albums a week, buying it when I returned to them more often too. Spotify was really a huge leap forward, being able to skip thorugh albums legally and "aquiring" as many as I whish.

I've noticed they added "daily mixes", these are on the Home tab, these are playlist made up of songs within your collection, grouped by genre, then they add new songs, based on that, that they anticipate you will like.

Also I noticed if you're listening to a playlist when it ends it will automatically start a Radio based on the songs within that playlist.

I love the Alexa and Google Home Integrations.

> Also I noticed if you're listening to a playlist when it ends it will automatically start a Radio based on the songs within that playlist.

My phone has started doing that recently, which has left me puzzled a few times. I like listening to music at work, and while I'm concentrating on something, I don't really realize the playlist has run out until I get a track that really makes me wonder how I ended up listening to it.

Same for me. It almost never finds anything I like (and no service does), so I suspect I'm just very particular about what I like?

I tend to listen to Spotify's Discover Weekly anyway, though, as the very first song it ever recommended to me was this amazing gem:


Ólafur Arnalds is great. Make sure you also check out his fellow Icelander Jóhann Jóhannsson.

Thank you, I'll listen to everything!

I subscribe to Apple Music and have the same experience there. Their personalized recommendations are almost exclusively albums I've recently listened to.

Don't forget about Release Radar [1], their apparently secret feature that tracks new releases by artists you follow and also by related artists that they think you want to track.

It replaces the new-release light bulb dropdown menu that they removed some time ago. Apparently you can still get emails for new releases, if you go into your notification settings.

[1] https://open.spotify.com/user/spotify/playlist/37i9dQZEVXbtE...

Spotify is the only content provider i pay for gladly, due to their Family accounts and Discover Weekly.

I listen to music 5-6h a day now, all for dirt cheap (less than $2/month/person). I wish somebody would do the same for video content. Right now you have to subscribe to many different providers to get all the good content. So pirating is still more convenient and i still download rather than just pay a small, fixed amount.

Well, maybe music is just cheaper to make and easier to sell as a bundle.

I really hope the music industry isn't going that way as well...

I wonder what Apple, Google, and Amazon Music can do to compete. They have advantages that Spotify cannot duplicate (large war chests, existing device/platform control, etc.) and one of them (Apple) is really strong when it comes to playlists. Apple is also doing a fair number of exclusive deals with music publishers and artists, although Billboard says the industry is moving away from this trend (1) although that could be wishful thinking on Spotify's part.

Another issue that's worth bringing up: Artists are getting screwed by these models as well as YouTube (2, 3). Only the largest stars can hope to make a lot of money on scale or exclusives. Everyone else gets scraps. While platforms struggle for dominance, we as consumers benefit from low-cost subscriptions or "free" music but I feel the bands and musicians who make the music we love are getting seriously short-changed. It's not right.

1. http://www.billboard.com/articles/business/7625650/are-album...

2. http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/7408970/taylor-swift-...

3. http://www.digitalmusicnews.com/2015/01/28/songs-got-151781-...

As a user of Apple Music and Spotify, I tell you, Apple is absolutely not strong when it comes to playlists. Just the fact that in Spotify you can have user created and shared playlists makes Spotify much stronger, for all the playlists their users have. Also, in Apple Music most of the playlists for genres other than Hip-hop and Pop are yearly "Hits" compilations.

I think that Apple is much worse than Spotify in this particular point.

I was thinking of Apple vs. Amazon Music, whose playlists are sometimes laughably bad. Amazon is trying hard to be a contender in this space with low-cost plans but if they don't figure out playlists it will be an uphill battle against Spotify, Apple and other services that do better.

It's all about the data.

The only game in consumer tech is (assuming supply) being able to predict, more accurately than your rivals, what users want. As soon as Spotify are no longer cut off from supply, then the organization with the best data and best machine learning will win.

If anyone thinks Spotify has leverage over record labels, I would challenge you to compare Spotify's operating losses year over year VS. Apple Music's operating losses year over year.

Can you elaborate on that? What are their losses?

And what is Apple music's operating losses?

Spotify has always talked about losses being expected, they want user growth at any cost.


It is certainly normal for startups to expect losses and only want to gain users, but it's not a sign of strength in themselves or their business model.

If you're trying to gain users at any cost then other businesses will take advantage of that desperation.

And meanwhile there's SiriusXM with $745 million in net income, up nearly 50% over 2015.

I would rather pay slightly more per month (let's say $12 USD rather than the current $10) than pay the artists less, even if the effect is relatively small due to the labels taking so much cut out of the payout.

But in any case, I do believe that the way Spotify will be able to have real leverage is for it to start being their own label, not just getting exclusive content. I feel like it would be cheaper to just bring on either independent artists or artists that are kind of not "into" traditional labels but are popular, rather than pay for exclusive content since it is probably less work but more expensive to do the latter, while the former would take a by of work but cheaper in the long run. It's subscriber base being so large may be a bargaining chip but I would guess that a lot of its current subscribers would move to other services were it to shut down, so it can't be that big? Sheer volume in a market with competitors that would be basically the same but with a different UI and maybe some different content can't count for that much can it?

Yes. They should buy Soundcloud and set up a semi-automated publishing system for that pipeline. That's a new generation of artists that the corporate labels have no way of reaching, generally. Some of that IP will be enormously valuable, like seed equity.

I'm not a Spotify user, so I will assume they don't already have what I'm going to propose. But I think it would be in Spotify's interest if it started focusing more in indie artists, and maybe even offer a special plan for "indie music", which would promote indie music, and may even give those artists more money because there would be much less indie music to listen to, and because there would be no corporate labels to take their large cuts.

The more indies Spotify gets, the more it can tell labels to go screw themselves if they don't want to take a deal, in the future.

Alternatively, Spotify could also try to do what Netflix is doing with shows and movies and start funding indies through their own label.

Their contracts with major labels could preclude them being a label themselves.

Can't justify Spotify as I'm paying for YouTube Red/Google Play Music as I can stand YouTube ads less than the difference between Spotify and Google Play Music.

I bet that'll come up more and more.

One important differentiator might be to get the Japanese record labels a bit more aligned, all streaming providers have been faring terribly on that front.

I'm in the same boat. I actually even have a gpm/ytr subscription paid through 2019 already (I bought a ton of $5/mo coupons and redeemed them all).

Despite that, I'm thinking about getting a spotify sub anyway. The music discovery and especially the user playlists I find to be far superior. GPM is really lacking hard on the social front.

You can do all that with a free account. In fact, just get Stamp to move your Google content to spotify and you can use it all free without even playing songs in Spotify. Its a little less perfect, but it gets the job done.

Google clearly have the best offer on the table here, it's incredible how little effort they've put into making it available worldwide though. Still not in the UK...

Since I started using Spotify regularly I stopped using Pandora, but during the time I did it had a really large selection of Japanese music. It had songs and artists that don't exist on other platforms. Maybe it's due to the fact that Pandora is basically customized radio? On the flip side, Spotify has a ton of Korean music, so I'm happy.

Same here.

Lack of an API and no real social aspect are the two big pressure points for me to move to Spotify.

What does YouTube Red do better than uBlock Origin?

Supports content creators instead of making them work w/o compensation

YouTube Music app, no ads on YouTube for the whole family and exclusive content beyond just YouTube Red Original Series (which I don't care much about)

It's nice not having to think about it across mobile, Chromecast, gamestation, and computer.

It's also not cheating creators.

As a paying Spotify member, practices like these only make me want to switch to DRM-free music more. Blackmailing artists with "we won't promote you if you don't lower your prices" and wasting half a million on 2 weeks of exclusivity. That's not what I'm paying them for; I pay them because I want to compensate artists.

If you want to compensate artists, buy their albums on Bandcamp. If they're not on Bandcamp, tell them to get on :)

It doesn't scale to seek them all out individually. I've tried this in the past but it just doesn't work. Usually they don't even have a proper contact method other than through the label or a public channel like Twitter.

If enough fans ask for it you can be sure that someone in their entourage will pick up the signals (and either act on or ignore them). For smaller acts you can usually find a direct way to contact them somewhere on their website.

People don't buy albums anymore, worldwide, they never have (most of it were pirated albums in the rest of the world).

> I pay them because I want to compensate artists.

You're paying the wrong people then. If you want to help artists buy their music instead of renting it from streaming services, which may lose access to it at any time.

Labels take most of that as well. Spotify isn't the problem - the labels are.

Yeah I've thought about this. Grooveshark tried to cut out that middle-man and they got sued to hell by the labels.

If artists keep signing with labels, their problem. You don't need a label to be on Spotify.

> Grooveshark tried to cut out that middle-man and they got sued to hell by the labels.

Let's call it what it was: Plain piracy. Grooveshark had no rights and licensing in place for the content they streamed.

Does Youtube? Grooveshark complied with DMCA; the only thing they really shouldn't have done is upload music illegally as a policy (by the company itself). But I'm sure there are people who now work at Youtube that also uploaded music there in the past, it's just not official.

So yeah it's a bit more piratey than other upload sites, but that could have been solved with a policy change to not upload music illegally from corporate accounts. For artists they were much more accessible than Spotify currently is, but they hated labels for taking a huge cut and didn't make deals up front. I can't say I disagree with them. I still miss Grooveshark.

> but they hated labels for taking a huge cut and didn't make deals up front. I can't say I disagree with them.

I really think you're misguided here. Sure, evil labels are a welcome narrative for Grooveshark's very illegitimate service. I'm sure you're already familiar with these stories, but to get a taste of how Grooveshark used to deal with artists read this: https://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2011/dec/12/groo...

Youtube on the other hand is actually used by artists as a promotional tool. And if it isn't their takedown process actually works. Almost too good judging by the stories about false positives in their ContentID system.

I'm very tired of this myth. When I see these arguments they usually only cover major labels that operate in big budget, mainstream releases that might indeed be unfavorable to the artist.

However the fact that labels come in all forms and colors is often ignored. There are truly caring small, independent and successful labels that serve as curator rather than expensive middleman. Artists can absolutely have fair deals with a label.

Furthermore for music enthusiast seeing new releases on a favorite label is a strong indicator for quality. That is a valuable service.

Spotify is a problem if it's not sustainable - and it doesn't seem to be for the company and artist alike.

Aren't the labels basically the VCs that enabled the artists to reach you in the first place?

In the old days where you needed to print lots of CDs and distribute them, maybe. These days, I'm not sure they're really necessary. But then I'm not an artist so I can't really say.

> If you want to help artists buy their music instead of renting it from streaming services

I'd be paying twice: the artists themselves and the streaming service (which gives part to the artist again).

From my all-time favorites I did try buying directly, but they usually don't even have a contact method other than through the label or on a public channel like Twitter. And if I manage to send an email, they don't bother with individuals and just ignore it. Only a few artists have online shops where you can buy directly.

What if some artists demand to be compensated more than everyone else?

It's a zero sum game after all.

I don't understand what you mean by that. I'm talking about promoting artists by pushing their numbers into people's auto-generated playlists (the weekly discovery list and the top charts), not being on Spotify at all.

Pretty remarkable how bad the writing is in this article.

Now if only they'd bring back the ability to pause, play, skip, and go back when right-clicking the icon after the program is hidden from the start bar, like we could back in 0.9.7... and bring back the extension API...

Spotify, Pandora, slacker, and all the rest will all get the same deal from the copyright holders. Google, Apple, Amazon will be the long term winners because they have ancillary revenues and music is a loss leader.

I prefer DRM-free stores and musicians who release there.

I prefer the convenience of having access to an effectively unlimited music library, on demand, for a flat cost per month.

I can see how it would be a fun hobby to curate your own collection, but for me it's really hard to beat services like Spotify, Steam, Netflix - DRM or not.

I buy in stores like Bandcamp which sell FLAC, and then encode in Opus for playback. Also, prospects of your collection evaporating because DRMed service could suddenly close down tomorrow don't sound good. Convenience or not, I prefer to back up what I paid for.

> DRMed service could suddenly close down tomorrow don't sound good

I'm not worried about that - it's not my collection, it's Spotify's. I'm merely paying for the unlimited consumption of their collection on demand, not to purchase the songs and have them for life.

It'd be a different story if I expected the songs I listen to on Spotify to be available forever, but I don't, and that's not what I'm paying for.

You don't expect to be able to listen to the songs forever? Fair enough; I mean, you can always take another subscription service if Spotify would go out of business.

But I've been there.

When Grooveshark quit -- I was a paying member and had no up-front notice -- I lost my complete library. I've looked into making a back-up before and figured out some technical requirements for that (e.g. I cracked the "encrypted" cached files) but never really got around to it. A list of which songs were in my library and playlists would have been all I needed, but I had no such thing.

Spotify doesn't offer this either. Like with Grooveshark, you can find technical ways of getting around it, but they're not jumping at the opportunity to provide a JSON export that you can import into another music service.

The other side of the coin is that not all music is available. Even now on Spotify, if you enable "show unplayable songs" there are a lot that turn unavailable every month. I don't want to think of which part will not be available at a competitor's.

For all these reasons, I agree with the person you're replying to. But I made the same decision as you -- i.e. I use and pay for Spotify -- because those indie stores just don't have enough music by a long shot to make it worth the trouble. Ideally it would be that way, though.

There is actually a straightforward way to export data from your Spotify account, try this:


Tell that to my mother. I'm serious here: it's easy for you and me -- heck, I'd just collect it via DBus, reverse Spotify's local storage or scrape it from the web player. But that takes effort and expertise, something very few people on this planet are both capable of and willing to do, unless it's clear that the service is going out of business soon. Furthermore, hacky exports like this will not be importable on other services either.

So make a service that emails people their saved albums. Send monthly incremental updates. Their backup storage will be their inbox, and restoring the data to a new service will be a couple hours manual clicking and typing.

The hard part is explaining to our mothers that their music app might become unavailable, that they should care about this, and that they should take action to mitigate the effects.

But on the other hand, consumers get locked in all the time, and civilization hasn't collapsed yet.

I'm fine with buying a service for conveniently listening to music by a list of artists I like. If Spotify goes bust, it's not like that music disappears: it will be available on other services (and in theory as traditional records, too).

Only thing is that composing that playlist again would be a major hassle. I have a list of bands and artists, I guess I could spend a weekend going through discography lists by Wikipedia and other sources.

Yeah, it's is highly unlikely there will be no one that you can buy a similar service from in future, if Spotify goes away.

Point is, you'll have to pay again. I prefer to pay once, and then have it in my collection.

Yeah fair enough, I think even if I didn't value their discovery the way I listen to music now it would cost too much to buy it all individually. I would probably just end up having to use youtube to sample things, the way I do with Spotify currently.

Many albums on Bandcamp are available fully (or at least partially), so you can easily sample and discover them. If I like something, I buy it.

Some albums I bought recently:

* https://dbfiechter.bandcamp.com/album/scotland

* https://jonathangeer.bandcamp.com/album/owlboy-ost

* https://danielamosboots.bandcamp.com/album/neverhood-songs-d...

And you are right. Stuff often ends up on Youtube, which is great for discovery too. And again, if I like something, I'll gladly buy it (as long as it's accessible in DRM-free stores).

If I have a digital collection I'll be paying storage costs on an ongoing basis for backups so it seems like a wash compared to Spotify and similar services.

Storage is cheap today and it will only get cheaper.

Where can you pay a low one-time fee for such a vast amount of mainstream / popular music that you get to keep forever?


But what you pay for, you can't keep. So you are back to square one. And who said you are supposed to pay scraps for good music?

This is a non-issue to most people though. I don't care if I keep it. I'm renting it and that's fine for me because it's a lot cheaper to rent music than to buy it one album or song at a time. If Spotify kicks the bucket, oh well I'll switch to Google, Apple, Amazon, etc. Music.

Why should I rent digital goods? It's quite nonsensical, because copying doesn't cost anything. I prefer to keep what I paid for.

They aren't saying you should. They're saying most people (incl. themselves) don't care to own the product. They'd rather pay to rent access to Spotify's collection than to be required to buy all the music they wish to listen to.

We need to make at least one assumption: Spotify will have the music you want to listen to when it is released (not always the case - and for myself - it is never the case.)

If you spend more than $120/yr on music it could make financial sense to "rent music" from Spotify with a premium subscription instead. If you aren't particularly attached to music you listened to last year, or five years ago, or a decade ago, then it doesn't make sense to want to own the music to begin with. If there is a particular artist you're attached to, that doesn't prevent you from also purchasing that album. You can also use Spotify to check out a band you just heard about [0]. I don't even use Spotify but recognize why others would instead of purchasing music.

[0] Remember the assumption we made.

> If you aren't particularly attached to music you listened to last year, or five years ago, or a decade ago, then it doesn't make sense to want to own the music to begin with.

I guess so, but it's clearly not my case. I can listen to music in my collection, no matter when it was added. Otherwise it wouldn't end up there :)

Talk about the freedoms you care about as much as you want, but at the end of the day the people who care about those things are such a small minority it has virtually no effect on the greater market.

Yah there's enough of you to support some niche stores, but it's great this works for you, but it doesn't matter for most consumers.

Small or not, Bandcamp noted gradual growth. Enough people care about it to make it work.

I do the same but at the same time I upload to Google Play so I have access to my library wherever I go. Its quality is good enough and it accepts FLAC uploads, which then they convert, so I don't have to encode it again.

> I prefer the convenience of having access to an effectively unlimited music library, on demand, for a flat cost per month.

This is what I do. I use Spotify as an on-demand radio. If I like an artist or album, I buy it in physical form. (Usually on record because why not? And it often comes with a download code.)

I like Netflix and Spotify, but dislike Steam.

I just find it different to rent me content transparently, eg Netflix and Spotify, versus rent-by-pretending-to-sell, eg Steam.

If you sell me something, I should be able to use and transfer it at my discretion without your permission. Steam, instead, leases you something on no fixed term and presumably without any guaranteed lifetime.

Yeah I prefer the GOG model, if something ever happened to my Steam library I'd probably revert back to curating my own DRM free library.

I'd be inconsolable for a few days though.

Interesting. For me Netflix and Steam are completely acceptable(ish), but Spotify is right out.

With Netflix the backlog situation (region blocks, limited catalogue) is pretty dismal, but with Netflix at least I know that a good part of my money goes to creating content.

With Steam most of the money ends up with the developers, again supporting content creation. I do buy games if, and only if, I find the price is right for playing the game once (or for a couple of weeks, depending on the type of game). If my Steam library is still accessible in ten years time than that is an added bonus. I do admit that a lot of the games I buy come with a Steam key, but are purchased from DRM-free stores (e.g., Humble Store).

But music is a completely different beast. If I like a song or an album, then there is a good chance that I will listen to it periodically for a good deal of my life. I buy music for keeps. With Spotify my money doesn't end with the content creators themselves for the most part, and I don't get to keep the music. It just doesn't work for me.

By the time Steam goes out of business, several things might have happened:

* I'll have stopped gaming

* Most games need emulating because they won't run on our hardware in the future

* The games are dirt cheap to buy on GOG

* Someone will release a pirated collection most of them

So I'm not too worried about my personal Steam collection. Preservation, that's a different story...

Steam has also promised that they have emergency de-DRM code they can execute if the company ever goes bust.

I don't see why music should be different than games in regards to DRM-free.

The parent doesn't seem to say that they should be different, just that they don't want DRM in "buy" models.

I get that, but I think that convenience comes with a price: Missin gout on great music. Now or in the future.

While I consider myself an enthusiast, I understand that people have different priorities and for many music may not be that important, but Spotify's library is anything but unlimited - there's just too much music not available on any streaming service. And more importantly you can lose access to music at any time - licensing deals end, labels and artists change their mind and suddenly your favorite album is gone. Netflix knows a thing or two about that.

Renting music is not an option for me. While I use Spotify as a preview platform and for minor discovery (though it's mediocre for that), I prefer to buy and own my music losslessly.

I used to care about this, but I've come to believe music is somewhat fungible for many people. If you're really into music you probably disagree, but in the 5 years I've paid for Spotify, the fact that some artists/albums have been missing hasn't really been a big deal for me. The fact that lots of people listen(ed) to the radio is further evidence of this.

Sure, I understand that. Spotify is an excellent and criminally cheap solution for most people. I don't think it's good for artists, but that's another discussion.

I just wanted to describe my point of view and as passionate music lover and collector Spotify alone wouldn't work at all for me. It's just too much music missing there, but that includes hard to find, rare stuff, vinyl-only releases and niche genres.

They're great value, but I'm not really convinced that they're bad from a total revenue perspective for artists: http://www.recode.net/2014/3/18/11624668/the-price-of-music

And digital has much lower distribution costs than CDs; you don't need to pay for physical CDs to be made, you don't need to pay for shipping, you don't need to deal with retail's huge markup. And on top of that Spotify's paying customers are paying 2-3x what average CD buyers were paying.

There might be issues with the split of revenue between artists and studios or super popular artists vs long tail artists, but the actual revenue going to music license holders seems to be very healthy.

Thanks. You might have a point there. I have to admit that I'm surprised to see such low figures for the average yearly spending on purchased music.

That's would be great and all if Spotify had decent coverage of underground music scenes... but they don't. Still better to collect oneself.

There's still a lot of stuff you can find on Beatport that you can't find on Spotify, for example, and most of the hipsters wouldn't even call Beatport "underground"

So do I, but the ones on Spotify sound a lot better. Unfortunately, I'd bet most people favor listening to the music they want over supporting the digital freedoms they endorse.

"Better" is pretty subjective here.

DRM aside, one thing that Spotify seems to have done quite well is to integrate its service in to many other devices and services: Much like what Netflix has done for video. For many people, having their music collection readily available is quite valuable.

I'd say the opposite - you described the benefits of DRM-free media. You don't need to worry about OSes, devices and etc. Standard formats are accessible everywhere. And if you are using some really quirky system, you can always transcode it into supported format (that's why it's always better to buy lossless music). DRMed ones on the other hand, are tied to officially supported systems only, therefore it always will have less reach.

I think he's pointing out for example that you can discover a new song you love in spotify, add it to your playlist, have that sync with your phone automatically or if you login at work whether using the pc app or website it'll be there for you as well. Pretty much add to playlist once, play anywhere.

I'm not sure what would be involved to be able to access my music through a web browser at multiple locations that syncronises with multiple devices every time I add a song to a playlist but I don't think 'effortless' would describe it.

That's one way music availability on spotify is better, the other thing is that I honestly don't even remember what music discovery was like before spotify, I think it was mostly youtube videos...

My tastes in music aren't mass market by far and I don't buy it in huge quantities. May be it makes it easier for me, but I don't mind managing my music collection myself.

And if we are talking convenience, it's really not related to DRM. I.e. nothing stops DRM free store from offering you a sync service or anything of that sort (GOG do it with Galaxy for instance). If anything, DRM always reduces potential usability as above.

> My tastes in music aren't mass market by far

Neither are mine, I intentionally avoid pop, rap or rnb and other soft mainstream music.

> May be it makes it easier for me

Certainly would, there's no way I could manage this:


> nothing stops DRM free store to offer you a sync service or anything of that sort

Except the insane amount of effort and cost involved in running such a system:


I'm sure someone could setup a drm free store that sync'd to phones etc but then I'm limited in music discovery, I don't have the sort of money to swing around at albums and songs that may or may not sound good to me.

If I have to purchase a song before I can hear it I'm reluctant to, so i'll then go to youtube and that immediately invalidates the whole point of DRM.

What would be nice is DRM free streaming, and I'm spending more time on soundcloud but again that's not as good as spotify is in anything.

> Except the insane amount of effort and cost involved in running such a system:

If you think it's proper, you can charge for such convenience (i.e. some subscription fee). Why not? Those who want it, will pay for it. If you think you can manage without charging - all the better (GOG don't charge for it for example). Nothing from the above requires DRM.

> What would be nice is DRM free streaming

Bandcamp offer that too. You can download what you paid for, and you can stream it as well.

> Bandcamp offer that too.

Bandcamp is an online music store, not a music discovery service.

> Nothing from the above requires DRM.

Correct, however there's nothing currently out there that compares to spotify which is my original argument.

What you described as "the benefits of DRM-free media.", I've described as "the current inconvenience of DRM-free media.".

Maybe in the future there will be a DRM free service that has the same features as Spotify, if that's the case I'll sign up, but until then the limitations of DRM free streaming are obvious, I'm just trying to point them out to you.

Not sure what stops you from searching for something. All stores have good search functions. What other discoverability do you need? All of the above is again completely orthogonal to streaming or not streaming.

> Not sure what stops you from searching for something. All stores have good search functions.

Searching a store for music and spotify's music discoverability are not really the same thing.

Searching a store for music is like going to a bookstore, going into a genre you think you might like and then picking out a book, buying it, getting it home and finding out you don't like it, double disapointment in that you've just lost money buying something you didn't like. That's a problem spotify solved.

> What other discoverability do you need?

Spotify's discoverability is like having a librarian who has read millions of books and has seen the thousands of books you've read, then personally handing you a book there's a good chance you'll like.

On top of this you're able to read it right then and there, if you don't like it she hands you another one to check out, and another, and another, all of those based on your personal tastes with a high success chance you'll like it.

I came into this like you with a mindset of "My tastes in music aren't mass market", that must be why I struggle to find good new music, but turns out I had a problem finding it. You can see from my last.fm that in all of 2008 I had listened to 128 artists at least once, last week alone I listened to 187 artists.

It's hard to convey just how good spotify is, music discovery personanlised for you and all the music you do like, delivered in under 200ms, at a fixed cost per month that plays on all the devices I have (even my work PC) without the need to transcode, upload, download, move/copy/manage or do any work on my behalf.

Does this suggest someone can't do the above with DRM free media? No. But just like a vegan burger that tastes amazing that service isn't out there right now.

This is nothing more than PR fluff. Spotify is in big trouble, as waging war with Apple is proving to be far more costly than they expected.

I want to know how much Techcrunch got paid for this advertisement.

My instincts feel that way, but Apple Music announced they crossed 20 million paid users in 12/2016, 40% of Spotify's 50+ million. Anecdotally, discover weekly is a tremendous hit.

Makes you wish for functional public capital markets so we knew the real story.

Spotify has partnered with telecoms, newspapers, and others to provide bundled subscriptions -- inflating their "paid" subscriber amount.

A good chunk of those 50m aren't paying $10/mo; they've expanded their partnerships (in part) to inflate that number.

There's also Spotify family. I'm paying 15 USD for 5 (extended) family members. Dirt cheap. Discover weekly is amazing. Wish for the best for Spotify.

Very interesting. Can you give me some pointers on what kind of partnerships they have?

Every Starbucks barista (who's worked at Starbucks for some number of months) receives a free Spotify subscription, for example.

Here in Australia, Vodafone (a mobile carrier) have been bundling Spotify Premium with their contracts, for example: https://www.whistleout.com.au/MobilePhones/News/Vodafone-rev...

Interestingly Apple did a similar thing with Telstra (the largest, formerly state owned carrier), with a year free on 1 year contracts.

That has now become more of a free trial sort of deal though: https://www.telstra.com.au/applemusic

NYTimes All Access subscription ($5/week) includes a free year of Spotify premium.

The most recent one I heard was a partnership with the New York Times, which seems like an odd partnership to me:


Here in the Philippines the major providers bundle Spotify with data plans. Also, a family subscription here is a fraction of what it was back home in the US (~P159 vs ~$10+)

In New Zealand, Spark (our largest telco, the ex-state monopoly) offers free Spotify with their mobile plans.

With Rogers in Canada some plans get Spotify free for 6 months.

And students at accredited universities in the US get half price($5.00) a month subscriptions.

I switched from Google Play Music to Spotify specifically because of Discover Weekly and the curated playlists that spotify hosts. I pretty much only listen to music from one of those two.

Conversely, the "daily mix" playlists seem to be utter crap for me.

Heh, it's the opposite for me. I rarely get anything out of Discover Weekly (just too random) but the daily mixes work well.

I like the daily mixes, possibly because I have hundreds of saved songs across dozens of playlists.

Discover weekly is great but Apple Music now has the same thing (My New Music Mix) and an additional 'My Favourites Mix' which is kind of a weekly playlist made up of songs they think you already like but haven't heard in a while and one or two songs you don't know but by artists you already like.

I think discover weekly is much more than that, and that is precisely what makes discover weekly so good!!

>> I think discover weekly is much more than that

I don't understand. The 'My New Music Mix' feature is exactly the same as Discover Weekly. It presents you a weekly playlist of music you don't know yet but might like based on your listening patterns. I've used both extensively (I have subscriptions to Apple Music and Spotify) and they do the same thing (although obviously with different algorithms).

> Anecdotally, discover weekly is a tremendous hit.

Would be nice to try, but it is restricted for me.

Agreed, I came here to say the same thing, namely this is a PR fluff piece, not serious journalism. I don't believe there is a records executive at any of the major 3 labels that is legitimately concerned about Spotify gaining "leverage" over them. And like you mentioned Apple seems to be quietly growing its subscribers in leaps in bounds:


I don't have any real reason to believe so, but I doubt techcrunch would accept money straight up for an article.

You absolutely can buy your way on there. You pay a PR firm with a strong enough relationship with an editor to get anything on there.

This goes for traditional news orgs as well.

There is an actual price list for those if you know where to look and you know right people.

Access to scoops and leaks, which translate into articles that get page views, which translate into ad dollars, is an indirect way to pay off a journalist.


>So by your logic they are 'bribing' the journalist and 'paying them off' by 'giving them a scoop'?

Yes, it happens often. Journalists get paid with scoops, etc (aka in the industry as "access") and that buys some favorable pieces and a sympathetic ear on the other side.

Here's an example (there are countless others from all parties and from tons of companies): http://gawker.com/this-is-how-hillary-clinton-gets-the-cover...

>Ergo - every decent news story amounts to 'bribery'?

Where did you came with this weirdo conclusion?

Bribing a journalist/media with scoops if something that happens, not something that ALWAYS happen -- so it doesn't apply to "every decent news story".

For one, not every scoop has been leaked to the outlet breaking it by the company/organization that the scoop is about.

>I think you bit your tongue on that one.

No, he really didn't.

Is this not the main criticism leveled at big press outlets during Obama's administration? That they were too easy on reporting and justified it by saying you need to be to get the scoops.

> Every decent news story amounts to bribery?

George Orwell's "Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations" is the best filter to apply in these situations.

This article is nonsense.

Spotify will not win unless they find a way to materialize and dematerialize vinyl LPs on demand.

As we said above, their artists would suffer from the loss of distribution, but they’d also suffer a loss of revenue.

Not much revenue. Spotify is famously stingy in how much it pays artists, to the point where big names like Taylor Swift are keeping their releases off Spotify.

Isn't that because the artists are having shitty deals with the record labels though?

If you are completely independent the amount you get per play (before your distributor - e.g. CDBaby - takes a cut) is $0.006 - $0.008. If we say you get the max per play and you're a one person act (not a band) you need about 250,000 streams to make $2000 (just about enough money to live on). Obviously you have other ways to generate income (merch, touring) but even getting anywhere near that number of monthly streams for an independent artist with no marketing power/skill/money is almost impossible regardless of how good your work is.

If not going to get into the usual debate about free market and value but I thought it was worth laying out some actual figures as 'labels are taking the money' is the go to argument here when in reality having no label isn't going to work for most artists either.

NB: To get your music on all of these digital services you need a distributor like CDBaby (many others are available). I left out their cut in the figures above but for digital services it is 9% of net income.

If I understood it correctly about 50% (old and perhaps quite obsolete figure) of the monthly fee goes to labels and artists. That sounds reasonable to me, and given that that means roughly $5 goes directly to labels and artists from my subscription.

A Spotify subscription is more than I have ever paid for music, even half of it is - and the moment I stop my subscription I loose access to all of it. To me it sounds like the labels are the ones dictating, one way or another, who get's paid and how much.

If I understood it correctly about 50% (old and perhaps quite obsolete figure) of the monthly fee goes to labels and artists

Yes, but which labels and artists? There is a notion that people have that when they listen to Spotify, Spotify takes their $10/mo and divides it up among the artists that they've listened to. That's not how it works. Spotify takes the money, puts it into a giant pool and divides it up globally based upon total number of plays.

So, for example, let's say I'm a huge fan of Portugal, The Man. I listen to them, and only them, all day, every day. That doesn't mean that they get my $10 a month. They get paid in proportion to what percentage they are of the total number of Spotify plays. If I'm the only one listening to Portugal, The Man, then they're not going to be a high percentage of total plays, and they're not going to get even $10 for the month.

Meanwhile, lets say that Kanye West drops a new album, and he skyrockets to 60% of all listens. He's going to get 60% of the money, even from people like me who haven't listened to any of his music during the month.

Now, you might argue that this is a fair solution. But it does explain why a lot of smaller artists (and big names too, like Taylor Swift as mentioned above) are very wary of Spotify.

I'm not sure I understand. The numbers I quoted were for someone not signed to a label. They get the stream rate that Spotify sets. Your original question was do artists not make much money because of bad deals with labels. The numbers clearly show that they don't make much money even if a label isn't involved because stream rates are less than 1¢ and subscription prices are very low.

It isn't hard to imagine that spotify needs to recoup the costs lost by having to please the labels. My point was that I'm paying a fair price and Spotify are relaying a fair share of that.

Now where the money actually ends up seems to be up to the labels.

The numbers compare fairly well to what artists get paid per listener for being played on the radio, IIRC.

The 1990s CD boom is over, and it turns out it wasn't a law of nature.

I'm not worried about Taylor Swift outside of Spotify.

I'm happy to listen to the artists I favour, as much as they get paid little, they do get some revenue from it


To add to what you said: when Mrs Swift demands to get paid much more than everyone else, that money is taken from the payout of less famous artists.

I got 99 problems but Spotify ain't one! because I live outside their small map. I don't exist for them and they don't exist for me.

Edit: just joking, I am actually irritated I can't check out the Discover Weekly playlist, whenever it comes out in discussion. I just checked, my country is still not on their list.

Which country is that?

Romania. Spotfy-istan ends at Hungary, right at our border. We're part of that Europe that doesn't get into Spotify.

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