I just discovered Spotify. Like literally a couple of weeks ago. I’ve known about it for a few years, thanks to people in the UK, but it’s not been available to us Kiwis for long, so I’ve taken the plunge and downloaded it. It’s fucking incredible isn’t it? HOW do they do that? I mean, I don’t get it, how does the minimal amount of advertising generate enough revenue to pay the rights? There’s no irritating screen ads, and the sound ads are just for Spotify Premium. Presumably this could not work as a business model if nobody bought the premium version, but how the hell did they get the rights holders to agree in the first place?
This very possibly signifies a tidal change in my music habits. I’ve amassed a healthy collection of (almost exclusively) pirated mp3’s over the 15 years since I first fired up Napster, Gnutella, followed by Kazaa, then Limewire, eDonkey and finally bitTorrent. I even remember the first song I downloaded (Sing Our Own Song, by UB40). I’m quite proud of my 20,000 song library, I mean, it’s a veritable work of art and I’ve put thousands of man hours into it, searching, researching, WAITING, re-tagging etc, not to mention the Terabytes of data allowance that it’s cost. I’ve got several copies of it – backed up to 3 or 4 places because it’s incredibly valuable to me. Or at least it was.
The day I discovered what was available on Spotify, my 1TB of choons became largely redundant. I say largely because there is a lot of ‘specialist’ or shall we say ‘minority interest’ music on my hard drives that will probably never see the light of day on a commercial service but the majority is there for my streaming pleasure. And it’s there with fucking little bells on – pretty much every album is the deluxe remastered edition with additional live tracks and shit. There are a few notable exceptions (why is there no Cardiacs ??!?) but it’s more than a fair trade-off for the bazillions of weird and wonderful new artists to whom I now have access. It’s like searching through box upon box of old LPs at a charity shop. A good deal of it is cockwash, with horrific cover photos and terrible puns for titles but the breadth of choice utterly mindblowing. Over 20 million to choose from, I read somewhere. And they’re just there, ready to be streamed at a moment’s notice. From a purely techie nerdy perspective, I’d love to see what they have under the bonnet, there must be some serious database kit propping all this up.
I find myself using Spotify mostly when sat at a desktop, either via speakers or ‘phones (at work) – even streaming just the basic version which I guess must be at least160k, the sound quality is quite acceptable via laptop / home entertainment system. I don’t even need to do the 320k version, certainly not enough to justify the $12 a month (on its own not bank-breaking territory, but I’ve taken a stand against signing up for monthly subscriptions on t’Internet. Viz, The Onion, The Daily Mash, all my fave reads are now behind paywalls, it soon adds up.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not about to format all my hard drives and get rid of my mp3 collection, that way madness surely lies. My parents did a similar thing in the 1970s. Gave a bunch of Beatles LPs to the jumble sale because the arrival of cassettes and home taping meant that there was no need to keep the cumbersome vinyl eyesores any longer. I nearly cried when I found out what I could have inherited. Obviously, the whole Spotify / Grooveshark / Last.fm streamed music thing could all go tits up very easily, if Herr Ulrich, Dr Dre et al get shitty like they did over Napster. In the meantime, I’ll continue to use it to expand my musical horizons (who the fuck has ever heard of Captain Twang And His Rhythm Cat?), fill in a few notable gaps (there were 3 New Model Army live albums I didn’t know about!) and generally make hay while the sun shines.