Last week I read an article in the Harvard Business Review titled “Why I’m Not Going Near Spotify (and Why You Shouldn’t Either).” My first thought was, “shuuuutuuuuup. Quit being so dramatic!” But it was early in the morning when I saw that title pop up on my phone’s Twitter feed. After some coffee (and listening to Cults on Spotify for a few minutes), I decided to hear Mr. James Allworth* out.
Allworth posits that Spotify’s likely to pull a bait-and-switch move on subscribers, just like Netflix did recently, and increase their subscription fees. I don’t disagree – this seems possible, especially when they beat out other competition, like Netflix did. He says the danger in this lies in the way we consume music versus the way we consume movies/TV.
Think about it. It is relatively rare to own a movie or TV series that you sit through and watch multiple times. Sure, there are some classics where that’s the case, but most people watch a video once and that’s it. Music is not like this. The same songs get listened to time and time again. We build playlists (custom CDs or even mix tapes, if you’re old enough) around them. It’s the very reason most people don’t just listen to the radio. They want to own their favorite songs and albums so they can play them when they want. Understanding this — that we consume audio in a fundamentally different way from video — is critical to understanding why, from a consumer point of view, paying a monthly rental fee is a risky way of obtaining music.
Reading the article, I breathed a sigh of relief as he seemed to be targeting his argument at people who are already paying for their subscription (I have a Free account: unlimited streaming with ads, but not offline/mobile, and I am perfectly satisfied with that). He does make an excellent point. And that point became ever more excellent yesterday as I realized how terrible I’d feel without the music “library” I’ve built up.
I don’t stream music that I already own. It’s pointless. Instead, I’ve built a library of hours’ and hours’ worth of music: 32 public playlists alone, full of music that I would buy if I had the money and music that I want to listen to but probably wouldn’t spend money on. The allure is that it’s THERE at my fingertips when I want it. If Spotify wanted to charge me, that allure would be gone. My music would be gone. I’d go back to listening to singles on YouTube. It wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world, but it’s like sitting in coach when you sat in first class the flight before. And I’m in no financial position to be making any upgrades.
Anyway, I thought Allworth made an excellent point, and I’d like to add that the danger exists for Free account holders, too. I think I should wean myself off of Spotify a little. It’s going to be hard – I’m a voracious music consumer – but it’ll be worth it if the bait-and-switch does happen.
*Doesn’t he just SOUND like a Fellow at Harvard Business School? ALLWORTH!