Spotify & Deezer’s apps: The Emperor’s New Clothes?

Screen Shot 2013-02-03 at 15.08.16Recently I decided to familiarise myself with Deezer, because I feel the service could start making some big moves this year and that therefore it would be good to have some insight as to the platform, the user interface, what’s possible etc etc.

Something that really caught my eye when using their web client though was the way in which many of the Deezer “apps” were basically just external websites that were using the Deezer API to provide their audio. This led me on a train of thought around both Deezer and Spotify apps, where I concluded that in many respects what we have here is a massive case of Emperor’s New Clothes. A chat with Syd Lawrence on Twitter basically confirmed that, too – which you read on Storify here.

Let’s start with the basics. Spotify’s desktop client is basically a jazzed up Chromium browser, as I understand it. The Spotify apps that run within it are, to all intents and purposes, websites. They’re code being pulled from elsewhere and run within the Spotify desktop client. Similarly, Deezer’s apps run in a similar manner – though often not even within the Deezer web client.

That being the case, one has to ask the question: why are the people behind these apps not broadening them out to run on the web, connecting in with all available services? Take the Earache Metalizer Spotify app, for example. I’d wager that with probably an extra 20% of time spent on it, that could have been adapted to also run within Earache’s website, pointing people to the streaming service of choice, be that Spotify, Deezer, Rdio or potentially something else.

This isn’t – and shouldn’t be – an “either/or” scenario. I would assume you could have the same app available in Spotify, Deezer *and* on your website if you so desired – and why not? It provides convenience to your users, after all. So why aren’t people doing this?

A recent development to further erode any argument against doing so would surely be the introduction of Tomahawk’s Toma.hk API. For the unfamiliar, Toma.hk is a top-level music sharing service. You tell it what song you want to share, and it spits back a shortened URL that will offer links to the song across all services it can find it on (Spotify, Deezer, Soundcloud, YouTube etc), and will provide a player if the song is found on an open service like YouTube or Soundcloud where an account isn’t required to listen. By offering an API, Toma.hk means people can now build webapps with the same functionality as a Spotify or Deezer app, but with the flexibility to link to any service it can interact with. You can even state what order you’d prefer results to be found in (ie “please find me the songs on Spotify first, then YouTube if not available” etc).

Playing devil’s advocate then, it would be very easy to take the concept of Earache’s Metalizer app and rebuild it using Toma.hk’s API, so that it could serve up heavy metal playlists for not just Spotify but Deezer, YouTube, Soundcloud – you name it. The site would be open to all and on paper at least would have far greater reach because it is not restricted only to users of one service. There’s nothing untoward about this either; all the services in question are 100% legal and, with the exception of Soundcloud, remunerate rightsholders.

In some respects it feels like the music industry has fallen under a classic marketing spell here. Various content owners and publishers have rushed to deliver Spotify apps (and Deezer ones too in some cases), whilst failing to look at the bigger picture. In my own experience, Spotify is an awesome service but still one limited by virtue of its requirement 1) to be operational in your territory and 2) for you to have an account. Taking this concept of locked-in apps and opening them up to a wider audience only makes good sense to me, as it ensures rightsholders are not limiting their offering to one or two services but instead putting the consumer first with maximum compatibility to their listening services. When you look beyond your own country especially, you realise that such a move isn’t just “a nice additional feature” – its critical to delivering awesome, engaging web experiences to as many people as possible.

So… who will be the first to step up?

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2 thoughts on “Spotify & Deezer’s apps: The Emperor’s New Clothes?

  1. This is definitely where we’re headed: “music as an API” as Mark Mulligan once put it.

    I’m a bit surprised that Tomahawk are still (seemingly) the only guys doing it, although certain Spotify apps are of course also available outside of Spotify (Shuffler.fm comes to mind). I think it needs some time. Perhaps it will take a high-profile app heavily relying on one music API (eg. Soundrop) to suddenly get suspended from it…

    Because currently it’s not stable, it’s more fragmented and it still (!) sucks to share music with friends in a completely legal way… Especially when those friends don’t live in the same territory.

    I think this will change fast though. Music catalogs with big amounts of highly popular music are becoming increasingly easy to tap into. This could well be where the next generation of music apps lies.

  2. Les says:

    They are not the only guys doing it. Musictray.org is another company that is doing it a little differently but effectively achieves the same thing.

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