Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Spotify trying to lock-in users just after IPO (2018) (freeyourmusic.com)
90 points by bartoszhernas 9 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 53 comments

Spotify was salty after Apple was mean to them; this is a good example of the fact that they aren't concerned about "fairness" as much about their own business. Users that have poured time into Spotify playlists aren't going to transfer if they can't move them. Spotify didn't even have to develop something here, they blocked the work of someone who did it for them. This isn't fair. Which is fine, but it is then okay for Apple to be "unfair" about their business too.

That's exactly why I posted this with title "Developers to Spotify: Stop Locking-In Users, Time to Play Fair" first.

Spotify is being hypocritical af :(.

Our users experience degradated a lot and every few weeks our hacks stop working and we need to update user agents we use to simulate browser. Spotify is actively trying to bring us down.

So you're just looking after your own interests while calling Spotify hypocritical for doing the same?

We're all hypocrites, and we're all looking after our own interests...

Of course I am looking after my own interests. I am human, that's how we evolved, that's how we made it to the moon.

How am I hypocritical? I am just in favour of not locking in users, and we do not lock in users.

Spotify wants Apple to not change TOS to their favour while doing exactly the same.

>Of course I am looking after my own interests. I am human, that's how we evolved, that's how we made it to the moon.

So why the surprise that Spotify is doing the same? Yes, it's hypocritical for them to say "Apple locking in users is unfair" then do the same in a situation that benefits them. But to your point, it is human to look out for one's own interests and Spotify is a group of humans doing just that. That doesn't make it right, but would you behave differently in their situation?

> How am I hypocritical?

Oh, that wasn't about you specifically, just humans in general. We aren't internally consistent, we are all hypocrites.

It isn't a criticism :)

And we're all in favor of no lock-in until it conflicts with our own interests.

I can't even recall the number of "music curation" and "share your playlist" type services I used in the '00s, and how they all folded.

For that reason, I've never bothered to make Spotify playlists, because I realized I might be locking myself in to begin with. The current generation of streaming users are now discovering something similar to what I did back then.

I do have some playlists on Youtube (whose selection is far bigger when you consider bootlegs, B-sides, unreleased tracks, demos etc), but I take a screenshot of it every now and then so I'll have a copy.

I nearly always own a digital copy of what I listen to, so there's really no reason to store your playlists on Spotify at all.

It's possible to take a full page screenshot of any of your playlists or saved songs in the Spotify web player. That would probably be the easiest way to save them, but not the most usable. For a little more effort a scraper could be written that would generate simple text file with artist - album - song.

I have a "full page screenshot" Chrome extension that does this. YT is annoying though because they lazyload scrolling content, so a list of say, a 100 items would be tough to export. My playlists are around 15-20 songs each, so it's not too bad.

Spotify backups:


https://github.com/bitsofpancake/spotify-backup (Python, JSON backup)

YouTube backups:


YouTube-dl can dump public playlists for YouTube (you might need jq to pretty it up), Google Takeout should export your private playlists.

Should be marked (2018)

It would be awesome if music licenses were portable. Holding collections hostage reminds me of how carriers made it difficult or impossible to keep your phone number when moving between them.

They are portable if you don't buy through those channels.

I acknowledge this point, though there are efforts to reduce the value of non-subscription digital licensing. For example, exclusive or advanced content only available to streaming subscribers.

While brand new exclusive content is hard to imagine being portable (since it is often locked to a particular service) it seems to me that generic user music collections should be made portable.

The Spotify playlists aren't even a license. They are just a list of songs that you want to listen to. The only thing that prevents you from switching services is restrictions on porting the playlists. (Currently, the two ways of getting playlists out of Spotify are the developer oauth tokens and the GDPR export.)

Couldn't Spotify argue that the creation of the playlist on Spotify and therefore the resulting object "playlist" is a unique property of Spotify and therefore lockable to their service, excludable from APIs...

I built a tool for exporting your Spotify playlists and library to CSV spreadsheets: http://www.streamexport.com/

It doesn't 'move' your playlists to other services but it gives you a record of all of your playlists that you can control and store locally.

Now you just need a tool that OCR’s screenshotted playlists and imports them... at which point Spotify will start using a less legible font... the end State will be that Spotify’s main font will be “Captcha”

For anyone wondering "would that actually work" there are helper tools for PoGo that actually work like this:


Yup, even an open source one: https://github.com/farkam135/GoIV

Unfortunately it's not as good as Calcy IV. There are also iOS apps, but they require manual screenshotting.

It's classic cat-and-mouse game. If they truly believe they are better than competition, then why to lock-in users?

> Stamp is in violation of Spotify’s Developer Terms, which prohibit developers from integrating Spotify Content (including metadata) with third-party services

So ... It's forbidden to use Spotify's API?

I currently stay with Spotify because of its decently good UX (despite constant, nonsensical A/B testing) and because I had the impression they were behaving well. This perception is fragile.

I'm not sure making your service less attractive to users will increase your stock price either.

It's was always ok to use their SDK and make money as long as you did not make money from music listening.

We make money from user playlists data (which we believe should belong to user) and I don't treat our usecase as integrating with others, as we do it in 3 steps: download from Spotify, then import to somewhere else.

It was all fine for 2 year, but after IPO they changed their TOS for Developers.

There was either making our service less attractive or removing Spotify all together, so we had no choice. Don't really care about stock price ;), just want to keep the project going and allow others to be able to migrate between different services.

I like that with email on your own domain you can easily switch providers (which I recently did with google to protonmail). But there are many other solutions which are not so easy to switch which halts competition.

Amazing! If you want others to play fair, you should too

Thanks for the support ! :)

The worst aspect of this post that it lacks a call-to-action. Without that, it didn't have a chance to make an impact.

The second-worst aspect of this post is that it proves Spotify's point. Not only does the author attack and threaten Spotify from start to finish, but they reinforce that the primary use case is to leave Spotify for competitive services.

The post was originally written more like a vent/message to our users.

I do not have time and resources to set up new website like Spotify did.

Today when I saw Spotify asking Apple about being fair, I immediatelly though about our case from few months ago.

It's not like they did not implement something, they deliberatelly changed TOS for Developers and send email to us that we have to stop using their SDK which was ok to use just before IPO...

So they did exactly what they accuse Apple of doing: bending TOS to company's benefit.

Smart companies make it easier to leave, because potential customers are more likely to sign up if they know they won’t be locked in.

Replace Spotify with Apple Music in the article. Same case. If Spotify wants others to play fair, it should start playing fair as well.

Not sure that is the case as your playlists are accessible from AppleScript. Here's their titles, you can further iterate and get the info about the tracks in the playlists.

    tell application "iTunes"
      repeat with p in playlists
        log name of p as string
      end repeat
    end tell

Funny you mention AppleScript, because before there was Apple Music API, we were using it and pure applescript was exactly how we have started.


Bit of a history now, but it was just an applescript that used CSV to click through iTunes.

Google Play Music and Apple Music also do this. I don't think I'm able to move any of my playlists off their services.

We (FreeYourMusic.com) support both Apple Music and Google Music, so you can easily migrate ;)

Apple Music has official SDK for both web and mobile. (even on Android)

Google Play Music is same case now as Spotify. We mimic their web API, but it's far from perfect as you need to use "app password" for login.

Well, you can always issue a GDPR request for all your data. They're obliged to comply, aren't they?

Yes, but the GDPR doesnt say “make it easy so apps like STAMP can exist”. Spotify could create export process that takes 3 days, you get zip file of JSON with format changing every day, and it would still be GDPR compliant.

Arguably it does:

> The data subject shall have the right to receive the personal data concerning him or her, which he or she has provided to a controller, in a structured, commonly used and machine-readable format and have the right to transmit those data to another controller without hindrance from the controller to which the personal data have been provided

> In exercising his or her right to data portability pursuant to paragraph 1, the data subject shall have the right to have the personal data transmitted directly from one controller to another, where technically feasible.

Whether that will be enforced in any meaningfully useful way is debatable, but the format changing every day would seem to break the spirit at least.

Thanks, good to know!

Are there no time constraints on GDPR exports?

Honestly, I haven't checked.

Once we would need to use GDPR law to be able to export the data, then we would rather find a hacky way and pretent do be a user browsing their webpage. Just to offer best user experience for our customers.

> Select all songs in the playlist

> drag into textedit or equivalent


On Mac OS this just gives me a list of open.spotify.com links.

Not very useful for portability unless you plan on scraping the metadata from each URL.

True, but it is the playlist in Song - Artist format. I don't think Spotify has any obligation to provide interoperability with other platforms, but getting the basic song information out seems pretty straight forward. My off handed solution wouldn't work for mobile though so don't know if there's an equivalent.

You get Spotify URLs for each song, that still counts as lock-in.

For European residents, if you request a copy of your data (GDPR), you get your playlists as JSON. Granted, the data is not very elaborated, but it's a start:

    "name": "Spotify Playlist Export Test",
    "lastModifiedDate": "2019-02-15",
    "tracks": [
        "trackName": "Sabotage",
        "artistName": "Beastie Boys",
        "note": null
        "trackName": "Unknown Track",
        "artistName": "Unknown Artist",
        "note": "LOCAL FILE"

Who cares if you can't export your playlists. You probably used their proprietary recommendation systems to generate them anyways. And its not like I can't write down all of my playlists and recreate them elsewhere. Why should Spotify go out of their way to make it easier for me to switch off of their platform. I refused to get fired up over this non-issue.

> Who cares if you can't export your playlists.

Many people spend lots of time carefully creating playlists, consider them theirs, and would like to bring them with if and when they switch vendors.

> Why should Spotify go out of their way to make it easier for me to switch off of their platform.

The problem is that (allegedly) Spotify was fine with this, and then they weren't. Yes, everyone should know that everyone dependent on a platform is subject to their whims. However, it's still possible to find empathy with the author.

This is noteworthy because it's an act that favors the company at the consumer's expense--like how grocery stores put necessities on the periphery, forcing exposure to other items; or how cable companies gradually raise prices over time. It's a dick thing to do and I regard it as adversarial.

They've also recently started showing promoted tracks in "Release Radar" & "Discovery Weekly" which cannot be disliked. Just another reason to keep your mind open to other services.

Yeah, the context for this is that spotify recently launched a website & EU legal complaint against apple for not opening up its platform sufficiently to competitors (or not sufficiently prioritizing feature work desired by competitors).

I assume OP found spotify's actions hypocritical, which is why they posted this.

Then the question is whether we should see spotify's 'time to play fair' website as a true statement of principle, or a cynical attempt to sway public opinion against actions that harm it as a business, but that it would be more than happy to engage in itself if it were in apple's position.

Making it so your data structures in a Saas platform can't instantly be ported to a competitor is standard and a no-brainer business practice in my opinion.

Spotify's complaint against Apple is that they're abusing the App Store platform to an anticompetitive end because non-Apple apps have disadvantages on the platform that Apple's competing apps don't.

I think this owning-the-platform-while-also-selling-on-it situation we see Apple, Amazon, and others in is something that we will see formal regulations appear on in the coming decade.

So would it be similar if Spotify created some of the media that it put on its own platform?

For example if it just bought two podcast companies?

I would assume there would not be the same application of antitrust law, if any (IANAL) because Spotify isn't a marketplace that sells the podcasts.

That situation would be more comparable to Netflix since you're just paying a bundled subscription and you're getting 3rd-party work as well as Netflix originals. While openness would be awesome to have, they don't really have any obligation to provide it.

Of course it's not exactly like Netflix since you can self-publish onto Spotify so there's wrinkles. But my point is that it's a lot different than operating a buying/selling marketplace.

Because spotify owns the podcast companies, and podcasts have paid ads, spotify directly benefits if they are played more often. That is not the case with netflix.

But they are doing some things the same as netflix, in that they are also creating exclusive podcasts to drive traffic to their platform.

> That is not the case with netflix

It is. They do a lot of product placement (https://www.whats-on-netflix.com/news/is-product-placement-g...).

They also don't have to pay others for views, though I expect that to be less of a motivation.

But it's not new. Physical stores have had own brands for a super long time. How is software different?

I think it's the kind of thing that doesn't matter unless you can argue that a single company has monopoly control of marketplace

Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact