Music + Technology + Random Nonsense from the Music Industry by Ethan Kaplan, VP Product, Live Nation

On Spotify

I’ve been a Spotify user for a few years now thanks to an early hook up from Daniel. And I love Spotify. It truly is like magic, and really fun to use. However, I don’t find myself using it all that often. Paradoxical? Maybe.

The issue for me is how I consume music. I don’t consume music like I consume information. I curate, digest, browse and meander the stacks as it were. Maybe it is a generational thing, as I do remember going to Tower Records every Saturday morning and doing the same. What it comes down to is that Spotify democratizes music to such an extent that it becomes just files and audio rather than atomic entities known as albums, artists and genres.

This might be addressing a nascent behavior in terms of music consumption, and I suspect it is judging from my younger family members, but I think something is missing.

Try going to Spotify and browsing movie soundtracks. I’ll wait.

Try searching for John Williams. He is not a guitarist, but that is what comes up mixed in with all of the soundtrack work he has done.

And this is not something unique to Spotify, but also endemic to Rdio and Mog. Mog at least has a page of curated soundtracks, but its just as hard to find them “in the wild” as it is on Spotify. The same applies to Rdio.

iTunes to me is like my Tower Records experiences on Saturday morning as a kid. I can browse genres, artists and albums. It still holds precious something I still hold precious, and while I know I’m in the minority (maybe), it does have a huge effect on my consumption behavior. I find myself curating my taste on iTunes, and broadening my taste on Spotify/Mog/Rdio/Rhapsody. I also find myself creating music-as-atmosphere on the streaming services, and music as focus on iTunes.

Spotify hitting the US is way overdue, and my hope is that they fix some of the data issues, and discovery issues and it grows to making music something to appreciate again. The trending toward this is emerging with things like Turntable and Soundtracking (both worthy of more posts), which I feel are more relevant forms of social discovery than the native Facebook integration in Spotify.

My biggest fear though is one of the biggest strengths of Spotify as a technology platform: they could make a new client for searching for photos and nothing much has to change in terms of UX. The user experience of Spotify is not endemically tied to music, and music deserves its own native experience model. Music is unique still, and different than files, photos, videos or software.

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7 Responses

  1. Foster Hagey says:

    Artist, album, and song are not enough info to find what you want. I don’t have a working spotify account, but I used to. I’ve done the thing where you find a UK proxy server to bounce your requests off, but I always come down to the fact that the library is curated by industry rules not music lovers.

    Try searching by producer, engineer or songwriter. I should be able to search Dr. Luke or Max Martin and get a list of #1 hits from the past decade, but actually all I get is a bunch of crap. I know I should get search results containing Ke$ha, Katy Perry, Britney Spears, but instead I get a bunch of… well… crap files that have nothing to do with what I was actually looking for.

    The problem with the wikipedia model of creating a a music library is that you get all sorts of trademark infringement (anyone remember downloading Eminem freestyles from Napster), but if you follow the industry rules you get a really bad service that is about hiding valuable meta data from users.

    I love the use of torrent technology that means the more people using the service the faster it gets not the slower it gets, but it is hamstrung by ancient industry practices of listeners only being allowed to listen to what industry wants them to not what they want to.

  2. What’s your favourite streaming all-you-listen service? Spotify doesn’t really have a community or discovery engine built into it the way MOG or Rdio do, correct? Does that make it less exciting than what people are possibly anticipating?

  3. Ethan Kaplan says:

    Depends. Around the house I use Rhapsody on my Sonos. On the go I mostly use Rdio.

  4. David says:

    I assume you have also tried Wimp, Ethan? Almost equivalent to Spotify in terms of music offerings and pricing, but slightly different interface. They still lack a lot of Spotify functionality though, including itunes sync, offline sync (I think) and mobile solutions.

    As regards community aspects, Spotify does have collaborative playlists etc, and certain Facebook connectivity built into it. My experience is that it is not used to a large extent apart from the general sharing/posting of links and a rather extensive use of collaborative playlists etc.

  5. Jabari says:

    I think the issue with discovery is pretty much solved with the linkage to facebook. I just started using my Spotify account again recently and I see my facebook friends who are on Spotify (five, I’m in US) on a bar on the side. If I click on one of their pictures I get a list of their shared playlists and the playlists they follow from other people.

    My only issue with Spotify, and all these streaming services, is that they only have published music. What I mean is that, I listen to hip-hop and new music comes out all the time on blogs and mixtapes, which I want to hear, but it isn’t published by company so it will never be on Spotify. I just have to download it myself I suppose.

  6. julian says:

    Spotify? Who cares.

  7. Drew says:

    Thank god for Grooveshark! :)