About this Spotify Thing

Or non-thing, as the case may be.

First, some brief background.  I am a recorded songwriter, and a huge music fan.  I have hundreds of my songs available on the dreaded internet, for free.   I also have a huge library of purchased music on our family’s music server (where my kids ignore the Allman Brothers in favor of some Disney Channel media creation, but I digress).  Many thousands were legally ripped from the thousands of CDs that have spent the last decade stored in boxes in the garage.  Several more thousand were purchased (DRM-free) from Amazon (which is the only place you should ever purchase music, but more on that in a moment).


As I’ve said a few times, I am bored beyond description by all the hoopla surrounding Spotify.  Either launch in the US, and I’ll take a look, or don’t.  But fish or cut bait.  Poop or get off the can.  Play your music or shut up.  There hasn’t been this much attention paid to something that doesn’t exist since Y2K.  Seriously, my kids don’t love me as much as some bloggers seem to love this vapor-service.

Paul Carr writes an absolute must-read (and I use that term rarely about things not written by me) article about Spotify and some other service called (stupidly) Rdio (is Ry Prker Jr. the singer?).  I haven’t used Rdio, and I probably won’t.  Partially due to Paul’s description and partially due to the indisputable fact that:

1.  I simply don’t want to rent my music.   I can understand renting a house.  They cost a lot of money.  I can sort of understand renting a car.  They cost a lot of money.  I rented a tuxedo a few times, because I was only going to wear it once.

Image Source,Photobucket Uploader Firefox Extension
I rented this fancy tux back in 1977

But songs cost around a dollar.  I don’t rent gumballs or stamps, so why in the name of all four Elvises (Presley, Costello, Grbac and Dutton) do I want to rent a dadgum song?  If I don’t know that I’m going to play it more than once, then I shouldn’t be renting or buying it.  You can preview songs, or enough of them to know if they suck or not, lots of places, for free.

2.  I’ve tried similar services, and while the are intriguing, they didn’t work for me.  When I first stumbled onto the dreaded internet back in the day, music files were in Real Media format.  That’s because we were all on dial up, and the pipes were the size of fishing line.  But I dutifully encoded all my songs (as in the ones I wrote) in Real Media format (that was a fun few days), put them up on a flashing (not flashy) web page and waited patiently for George Strait and/or Bruce Springsteen to discover them.  Somewhere along the way, I made the epic mistake of installing the Real Player on my Compaq 386.  It tried to take over the entire Risk board from the safety of my 200 MB hard drive.  It was horrifying and irritating.  After I finally succeeded in removing all of the remnants of that application…

I turned around and jumped back into the molasses by installing Rhapsody (when it was an on-demand service; it may still be- I have anything Real-related blocked by redundant firewalls guarded by rabid German Shepards with fully-charged Tasers in their mouths), so I could listen to music on demand.

3.  Rhapsody was sort of appealing.  I liked the catalog and it was easy to use.  What it wasn’t easy to do was cancel.  It would be easier to get Dave Winer to admit that he didn’t actually invent everything than it was to successfully cancel the Rhapsody service.  The almost as big problem was that, while I could listen to that big library while sitting at my computer, it was either technically or practically impossible to take the songs with you or burn them to a CD without, you guessed it, buying them.  I could rent to buy.  Like a fake leather sofa or an off-brand TV.  Awesome.  Not.

Anyway, after making about 300 calls, sending about a thousand emails, and seeking counsel with a Jamaican shaman, I finally got free of Rhapsody.  I promised never again.

Never.  Again.

So here’s the thing.  Music just isn’t that expensive.   If I want to hear a type of music, then I use Pandora, which with a little care and feeding can give you a really targeted playlist.  Targeted to your actual musical likes, and not bound by genre.  If I really like something and want to take it with me, I buy it at Amazon. Because you get unrestricted MP3s.  iTunes would be a decent alternative, except for the fact that iTunes, the application, sucks so bad.

At the end of the day, all I really want is for people to stop yammering on about Spotify.  At least until it launches.  Then we can go all Flipboard again, and claim it is the iPhone killer of the day.  Or something.  Everything has to kill something.

Until (and likely after) then, I’ll take my music now.  On my hard drive,  CD and/or iPhone.

3 thoughts on “About this Spotify Thing

  1. It's hard to argue against an opinion, especially one as entertainingly presented as yours. But I'll tell you that you're wrong anyway :p.Many of us who are musicians and/or who just love music are also in love with “renting” music. Why? – Our tastes may evolve and change. One month, we may be totally excited about exploring afro-cuban jazz and relistening to specific albums in their entirety. Another month, not so much. 30 second samples don't cut it. Pandora — as awesome as it is (and I'm a paying user!) — often won't give you enough targeting to satisfy a particular itch (and dangit, won't even let you rewind to listen to a specific song you just heard and loved!). And buying an entire album? Now that adds up after a while! – Given that on-demand services are as cheap as $3.33/month (Napster with a special promotion), renting is very, very affordable as an *adjunt* to renting- You want to take your music with you? If you have an iPhone or an Android phone, you can do that with rdio for $10/month. Their mobile app smartly offers offline access, too.- Online music services are awesome for try-before-you-buy. Friend gives you a recommendation of a particular artist, you can then listen to several of their albums in full to get a real, in-depth feel for their work. No, 30 second snippets don't count (especially with musicals!).And again, while I don't want to sound like a rich snob, paying $3.33/month to me just seems like a no-brainer (and — again singling out Napster here — especially when it includes 5 downloadable MP3s every month! That's CHEAPER than *not renting* and using iTunes!)DISCLAIMER: I have none. I don't work for any company that offers any online music services.

  2. Many thanks for the comment.I get the part about Pandora. I love it, but I don't like the (certainly stupid label-mandated) limitations on fast forwarding and specific song retrieval. Even Slacker (which I tried, but abandoned) has more flexible rules on that stuff.If the service was beautifully presented (and while I don't know first hand, it doesn't sound like Rdio is) and easy to use (i.e., create playlists, maybe some Genius-equivalent), I would consider it. But is it streaming? And if so, wouldn't that clobber your data limits?I may give Rdio a look. As long as Real isn't involved, it's not out of the question.

  3. Hmm… hadn't thought about data limits. I don't *believe* I have data limits on my mobile data w/ T.Mo in the U.S. but I could be mistaken. And Pandora is streaming, too, so that would have the same issue anyway.re: UI/UX… I don't think any of these online music services have beautiful / amazing interfaces yet, unfortunately, but I find most of them reasonably usable.And lastly, re: MOG and Spotify and Rdio — all offer the ability to download tracks to your mobile, so you don't have to stream 'em.These services all offer at least brief free trials, so it may indeed be worth trying 'em.

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