Monday, March 20, 2017

Spotify Finally Caving In On Their Most Prominent Feature? Not Good

According to rumors that have been circulating around the internet over the past 2 days or so, it appears that Spotify is poised to give up the one thing that made them so special – unlimited music for free customers. Forgetting the fact that this model was pretty much the main reason for their growth, as well as a key trait in helping to reduce piracy among the masses, this isn't a good idea. Below the fold, I'll explain why.

One of the greatest things that Spotify has done is reduce the rampant amounts of internet piracy, which of course is still rampant across the internet today. The primary reason for this is because Spotify offered an immensely large online music collection, all for free with relatively tolerable advertisements. Spotify made it really easy for pirates to stop being pirates because pirating music, for the most part, was no longer worth the effort necessary. There's actually quite a few steps involved with piracy as compared to using Spotify, which I'll describe:


Piracy

  1. Visit a torrent website such as The Pirate Bay. They're the most popular and have survived many take-downs.
  2. Search for content, which may or may not be there. If not, then you have to return to step 1 and find a new website.
  3. Once content is found, oneself has to obtain a torrent file or a magnet link.
  4. Content has to be downloaded to a torrent client. If no "seeders" (people sharing the content from their own computers) are present, then the files can't be downloaded. One might have to return to as far as step 1 to hopefully find the same content shared somewhere else, and also available.
  5. Once content is downloaded, it may have to be sorted by a tool such as FileBot to clean up file names, add subtitles for movies and TV shows, etc.
  6. Now your media is all nice and tidy, it's ready for (non-OCD) consumption
Now, compare the above with Spotify:

Spotify

  1. Open Spotify, whether on the desktop or on the web.
  2. Sign in to your account, or create one on the fly.
  3. Search for songs, most of which are likely there since Spotify has content licenses with every major record label, and many others through similar agreements.
  4. Click on the song desired, and music starts playing.
See the issue here? Spotify cuts down a lot of steps to obtaining music, and it's also more desirable because it at least it generates some revenue for artists compared to piracy, which nets them nothing. The latest rumor of what Spotify may doing basically gets broken down into these 2 options, or a combination of them:
  1. Timed exclusives – New content released by (usually popular) artists are limited/restricted to premium subscribers only, for a set period of time. Usually a  month, but could be longer.
  2. Premium exclusivity – Certain media collections are outright limited to premium subscribers, meaning that free users will never be able to access the content at all.
The former, timed exclusives, is a little more tolerable than the latter because at least free users are able to access content after a (hopefully) short period of time, relative of course. Free users might able able to rely on sites such as YouTube to fulfill their needs until what they want on Spotify is made available to them, or they just might, you guessed it, return to piracy.

If the latter becomes their chosen pathway, then I expect piracy to increase substantially, as the purpose for not pirating is effectively eliminated. A lot of pirates (I know many current and former ones) enjoy Spotify because it, at the end of the day, lets them listen the music they want, pretty much painlessly and without a lot of effort. They may not want to, or be able to, pay for music. People who can't afford music particularly fit the bill here, especially young people. With the incentive removed, people might as well go back to pirating music the old-fashioned way. At least with that, they'll be able to listen to the songs they want.

At the end of the day, I know why Spotify is doing this. They're desperately trying to lower their rates that they pay to the labels, hopefully to reduce expense and eventually start generating a net income. As I've said before, though, Spotify has always been special in their position because they have allowed free users to essentially survey vast quantities of music, free to them, while being ad-supported. We all know ads don't generate as much revenue as paying subscribers, but at least they do provide some kind of support. This is a terrible idea, though, because of what I mentioned before. Piracy only gains because of this.

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