Maybe you don't really need Spotify

Posted on 01/30/2022 in misc

Hang on a second, gotta cancel my Spotify account before continuing this post. .

Huh. I don’t have a Spotify account. Not paid anyway. I never bothered to migrate away from Pandora. I do have a free account, so I can listen to the occasional song or playlist that somebody posts on Twitter or Facebook. For most of this century, I really didn’t use streaming music services. I’ve had a Pandora account since it was a start-up service in the early 2000s, but I mostly used it for occasional free listening at work. However, I've been WFH full-time since 2015. For about the last year, we have had a Pandora family account, which I use to mostly play music I already own. I need to stop doing that. Streaming services are useful for previewing new music before deciding to buy, and for sharing on social media, since sharing a song from my Dropbox would violate all kinds of rules and laws.

I have my MP3 directory on my computer. I don’t have time to enjoy the 500 odd albums I’ve chosen to buy over the years. Adding 70 million more choices on a streaming service doesn’t really help solve that problem.

Also, tech stocks have gotten hammered this entire month. Spotify, along with just about every other tech stock, has lost tens of billions combined market value. Neil Young did not blow up Spotify’s stock.

Here is the thing. You are never going to listen to even .01% of the music available on Spotify, or any of the other streaming services. Their value prop is portability and music discovery. Portability is not a big deal anymore. If you don’t want to install Plex, back up your MP3 directory to Dropbox. There are free apps that will let you stream straight from Dropbox. Again, not a user but from what I’ve read online this week music discovery on Spotify has been broken for years, as the algorithm recommends what gets Spotify paid the most, not what you might want to hear next.

I have a crazy idea, so hear me out. What if we all started talking about music again? What if we shared the cool stuff we are listening to on Twitter or Facebook or our blogs or wherever. Human curation > algorithms, every time and forever. Also, what if we bought the music we wanted to listen to? It’s better for the artists, and probably better for the environment too. Won’t you think of the songwriters, and the polar bears?

Also, support live music. Most indie bands are basically t-shirt sales operations anyway. Go to the show, buy the CD, buy a t-shirt. You’ll have more fun and the artist will make more money. It’s a win-win.

One more thing. Abundance causes us to under value anything. It's a simple economic principle. So having 70 million songs available at any time causes you to value any specific tune at roughly zero. Contrast that with a carefully curated record collection, even if it is all in MP3 form. Those albums have value. They have meaning, because they are yours. Also, you probably know the music better when you choose to play it, versus passively consuming whatever Spotify throws at you.

You don’t need Spotify for podcasts. In fact, Spotify locking up podcasts on their platform violates the spirit of openness that podcasts were created under. Podcasts use RSS (remember Google Reader?) It’s an open platform by design, an open platform usable by anybody with no fee or gatekeepers involved. So fuck Spotify just on principle, even if it is an asswaffle like Rogan they are locking up behind a proprietary platform.

Keep using Spotify or don’t, I really don’t care. I doubt it’s going to make any difference in the long run anyway. I’ll be here listening to my MP3s using an open source music player, like I have been for the last 20 years.

This post composed while listening to the album Perfectly Good Guitar by John Hiatt, using the open source Audacious music player to play locally hosted MP3 files.

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