Yet another blog series: “No One Asked.” I see it as a space for my (Tyler’s) opinions about anything that isn’t music. This might seem like it’s about music but it’s not––it’s about Spotify. Later in the series, I’ll write about why I like Instagram, why I like tumblr a little bit, and why I think Starbucks is (sort of) justified in cramming so many copies of itself into very small sections of a city. I also plan to explore why I compulsively start this sort of series. We’ll see if I get that far.
I pretty much like Spotify––it’s convenient. I like convenience. It’s futuristic––one of the best formats for a digital heap of immediately-available music. Does Spotify cheapen music? RZA thinks so, and he has a point. Musicians aren’t making much on Spotify and the cultural value of music is cheapened by our never having to work to hear it. I don’t feel bad about the finances of Spotify because a) megaupload wasn’t good for musicians either, b) sometimes I buy music, and c) I don’t plan on ever making money from selling bellwire recordings. (Although, to be clear––I would if I could.)
In terms of the cultural value of these recordings, the excitement that people once experienced from buying/borrowing/trading/talking about albums probably can’t be restored. I live in an era and place of jaded instant gratification, and I’m going with it. If not Spotify, someone would be plugging our phones and computers into a massive library of recordings. Providing that kind of service is irresistible when it’s doable and using it is irresistible when it’s available. And for what we’re losing, we do gain a lot––let’s not understate how nice it is to be able to get what you want right when you start to feel like you want it. So the only time I blame Spotify for anything like “cheapening music” is when they do a shitty job. And the worst thing they do is indiscriminately post repetitive Greatest Hits albums.
For certain older artists, Spotify curates a collection of >10 very-similar best-ofs, with only one or two actual albums. It’s bad that they all have the same songs, but honestly that’s not the biggest problem for me; they just look so bad. Half of them could pass for exclusive releases with The Dollar Tree. They have that sickening combination of cheap, careless and shamelessly commercial design. Any 15-year-old with a Deviant Art account could recreate these. They’re ugly and lazy.
Does anyone know why Spotify does this? Is it just that the companies behind each of these compilations want a chance to cash in? Are these especially inexpensive for Spotify to provide? I think there’s a threshold for how many plays it takes for Spotify to write a royalties check––can they save money if everyone listens to a different Best of the Troggs? Do they think no one will notice? Have they noticed? Are they trying to make up for how few of the real albums they have? Are the collections picked by computer programs? Do they hate me? Message me if you know what the hell is going on here.
Whatever the reason it happens, it makes the band seem filtered through a hundred barely-invested corporate interests. That’s what’s bad; it exaggerates the distance between you and the band, or between you and the time and place of the recordings. Finding this kind of an artist page is a small, but distinct disappointment for me.
I know it’s tacky to complain about things you get for free, but I don’t care that much. For one thing, Spotify doesn’t feel free––not by 21st century internet standards anyway. I still have to listen to commercials and Spotify belongs to that group of companies that that seeks firstly users and buzz. Well here I am using AND blogging about you, Spotify. So do a better job here.