Tag Archives: Streaming services

The Spotify Playlist Problem

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 10.49.56Let me start this article by saying that I love Spotify. Great company, great team – and lately, rather ironically given the naysaying of Thom Yorke et al, emerging as something of a potential music industry saviour when you look at the machinations of Google, Amazon and other tech giants, who seem fairly intent on driving the value of music down to zero. So, to summarise: I’m a big fan.

Having said that, I feel there’s an awkward question that has to be asked, namely: why, in Spotify’s Browse section, are 99.9% of the playlists Spotify’s own?

If you’re not familiar, Browse is the “uninformed” discovery section – the editorial area where Spotify can push playlists of its choosing. At the top are more day-to-day relevant playlists, and further down are various mood-related starting points which then offer a variety of playlists to choose from.

Here’s the Browse section today (click to enlarge):
Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 10.53.40

Of all the playlists shown there, only the BBC’s Playlister one in the centre isn’t made by Spotify.

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Re: David Byrne’s article for the Guardian

Photograph: Chris Sembrot for the Guardian

Photograph: Chris Sembrot

I don’t really know what to make of this David Byrne article he wrote for The Guardian. I consider the man a hugely intelligent person who often presents other ways of viewing things… but in this instance I’m just not sure what his point is. He claims that mass availability will lead to the death of creative content and even the creative industries to some extent, but as countless people have proven that’s only the case if you’re viewing it within all the existing models that are out there. As Nicholas Jaar proved in his recent interview, there’s plenty of people finding models outside of the monopolies. It also doesn’t help that numerous figures he quotes in the piece have since been debunked as wildly inaccurate; it leaves Byrne open to criticism that he’s now speaking on a topic without full grasp of the facts.

I realise that makes me sound like I’m fully defending streaming media. I’m not; I accept that it could be argued that artists are getting ripped off in the context of this. Equally though, as Byrne himself acknowledges, that’s happened forever. That’s not to justify it happening – but in amidst that happening for centuries artists have still broken through, become successful and made a lot of money. It simply isn’t as black-and-white as he paints it out to be. I fear I’m starting to sound like a stuck record in saying this, but at some point this conversation needs to turn into a more constructive one in which ways to support artists and deliver revenue back are discussed and explored.

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Thom Yorke vs Spotify: some thoughts…

Thom Yorke of Atoms for PeaceIts been a strange few days alright. I was in Dublin enjoying this fine band at Hard Working Class Heroes, then I was rushing home on Saturday as a close relative was hospitalised, and then on Sunday I was standing next to people dressed like this. Surreal? Just a little bit. And now, having had an enforced couple of days away from compiling the Daily Digest, I return to find… yet more news about Spotify, a company who I’m starting to think should be sponsoring the Daily Digest on the basis of their near-permanent presence on it.

I can’t deny that on some points I do feel a little conflicted. Given I’d expressed some reticence about Spotify’s “Follow” button last week, Yorke’s remark that “Spotify [are] suddenly trying to become the gatekeepers to the whole process” is one I struggle to disagree with. Equally however comments like “We don’t need you to do it. No artists needs you to do it. We can build the shit ourselves, so fuck off” are frankly pretty petulant at best and plain wrong at worst.

Here’s the thing: Spotify are just doing what any company will do. If not them, then Rdio, Deezer, Google, Beats or any of the other competitors. And if its not any of them, it’ll be someone else. That is just the nature of business. You can only change things by presenting an alternative of some kind. So, amid all Yorke’s comments of empowerment and how artists don’t need to do this, only one thing kept recurring in my mind: “do it then”. Because as long as you’re signed to XL, having come up via EMI’s pre-internet marketing machine, standing there criticising whilst offering nothing by way of a solution is once again starting to bring to mind images of Yorke and Godrich as Waldorf & Statler, parked on the side and heckling like all hell.

Don’t get me wrong: I think criticism is healthy (hell I’m doing it right now) but this debate either needs more people involved, or a fresh line. Without those, it will soon become a tired headline and interest will fade – at which point one could argue that Yorke may have done more harm than good by ensuring total apathy on the part of the consumer. So – will anyone else step up?

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Atoms for Peace quit Spotify

ImageAs you may have seen, Atoms for Peace have quit Spotify (and presumably all other streaming audio services). Rather than rewrite the story, you can read the full article from Stu Dredge on Music Ally here

What sprang from that though was an interesting few discussions around the debate, which I’ve compiled into a Storify piece. Go take a read – some great points being raised from various people in and around the music industry.

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