Why Spotify Matters

Recently, there has been two different points of view regarding the music streaming service Spotify. The first crack was when Taylor Swift pulled all of her albums off the site after she released her new album, “1989.” The counter has come, from of all people I’d never think I would agree with after releasing his new album in an obnoxious way, Bono of U2.

Swift’s argument makes sense. Music should not be free. She works to write that material, record it and promote it with touring. She deserves her fair share of compensation that apparently Spotify does not payout. I get it. But it seems very shortsighted, and I would not doubt that eventually her music will appear back on the service down the road. And as history (Metallica V Napster users) has taught us, fans usually hate it when well-to-do musicians complain about money.

Others, like Bono, see services like Spotify as the direction music listeners are heading. According to a report from Reuters, Bono said at a Web Summit conference recently “I see streaming services as quite exciting ways to get to people. In the end, that’s what we want for U2 songs.” He goes on to say “The real enemy is not between digital downloads or streaming. The real enemy, the real fight is between opacity and transparency. The music business has historically involved itself in quite considerable deceit,” alluding to what I believe is what the labels who collect money from Spotify then pay artists.

For me, here is why Spotify matters:

First, record stores have been dying for more than a decade. They were the places people would go to sample a record before investing $10-25 on one. Spotify has, for people like me who do not have a record store nearby, filled that gap by allowing me to preview albums before buying.

Secondly, I listen to music I own via Spotify. It’s just easier to use the program when I listen to music while I’m not at home than lugging around a bunch of CDs and vinyl. Sure, I have to hear ads every now and then, but it’s just simpler this way.

And thirdly, it’s better than radio for a lot of new artists to get their music out there and heard. Fourteen years ago, artists like rapper Sage Francis got more exposure by releasing their albums via P2P file sharing services. That’s many people initially came across their works because you didn’t hear them on the radio. Now instead of giving material away to get noticed, artists can now at least a little bit of money from it.

While someone as popular as Swift obviously does not need Spotify to promote her albums to get sales, that doesn’t mean a lot of other talented artists are in the same ship.  It’s a pretty effective way to promote your album that probably would be only heard by a handful of people.

Spotify is not perfect, but it is pretty much where music is heading by ways of people listening. We live in a digital world where people stream movies, TV shows and music. And it’s not changing anytime soon. Hopefully the more revenue that Spotify gets in from paid subscribers (they currently pay out 70 percent of profits to labels, according to Bono) and from paid ads for people like me who do not pay for a subscription, down the road, the more artists will see coming in.

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