Streaming Music? You've Changed Your Tune

There is no sound I enjoy more than the crackle of a vinyl record. There’s a certain romance to it.

If I could listen to music from vinyl all day I would, but sadly, that just isn’t a viable option.

For starters, it’s too expensive. As an example, let’s take Jake Bugg’s latest album Shangri La. On Amazon, you can pick up the CD of the album for £6.99.  The vinyl version? £25.99.

For that extra nineteen quid I could literally get a taxi from my flat to the council estate where he grew up and ask him to play the album to me in person.

Don’t get me wrong, it’d take a while to track down the right house, but you get my point. It’s a lot of money.

Then there’s the issue of portability.

I’ve never personally taken a record player on the bus, but I imagine if you did, you will get quite a few bemused looks. Even if you can cope with the stares, you hit one speed bump and the record is ruined.

It’s just not practical.

CDs and MP3s were OK, but with an existing library of music, you either had to carry the CDs with you or rip them all, one by one, onto the computer to use on an MP3 player or phone.

Then came Spotify.

Just enter your credentials and you can listen to any of the millions of songs available.

If Spotify closed today, I’d mourn it like I’d lost a family member.

Not just because I can listen to nearly all of my favourite music conveniently from my phone, computer, Smart TV etc., but also because it has introduced me to so much excellent music that I probably wouldn’t have heard otherwise.

There has, however, been a lot of controversy recently surrounding Spotify.

Thom Yorke, frontman of feel-good party-band Radiohead, has recently led an attack on the streaming service amid released figures that artists, on average, receive £0.004 per play.

This may seem ridiculously low at first glance but bear in mind that this is per play. If you like a song, you will rarely listen to it just once.

If you really like an album, listening to it 100 times is far from out of the question.

For the sake of argument let’s say there are ten songs on an album. Listening to that album 100 times has put £4 in the artist’s pocket.

That’s only three pounds less than the physical CD version of the 2013 Jake Bugg album I mentioned earlier.

It also has the Radio function, where it recommends others songs you may like based on a playlist, an album, a genre or from just an artist you like.

This has led me and others to listen to tracks we never would have done otherwise.

Without Spotify, those other artists wouldn’t have got £0.001 out of me, never mind £0.004.

Then I might buy merchandise, or a physical album, maybe recommend them to a friend or pay to go see them play live.

There’s a video on YouTube of me playing live with my band. It only has 143 views at the time of writing this, and of those views, roughly 141 will have been me and the other three lads from the group forcing our loved ones to feign interest for two and a half minutes.

It doesn’t matter who it was that clicked on it, had those songs been played through Spotify, we could have earned 57p. That’s nearly two plectrums!

The important part though is that on Spotify, a band is more likely to be heard. Whether through the Radio function, through the Related Artists tab, or because it was on a mate’s playlist.

That exposure could mean the difference between 2 and 20 people turning up to watch you play.

That may not sound like much, but when there are more people on the stage than off it, it’s an awkward experience for everyone involved. Trust me.

Of course with services like Spotify though, you don’t own the content. If the artist or label decide that they want to pull their music from the service, then it’s just gone.

Another issue is that unless you’re happy to pay out a tenner a month for the Premium subscription, you get adverts popping up between songs.

This isn’t too bad, and there are fewer adverts than you’d find on most commercial radio stations.

However if you’re having a romantic night in with your partner, the Go Compare man popping up between Barry White tracks might ruin the mood somewhat…

As with any new technology, it will take a while to get to a point where everyone is happy, but I hope they do.

There is one last thing worth considering here amidst Spotify’s regular branding as greedy. Since its launch in 2006, they have made a loss every year.

But, to paraphrase The Beatles, money can’t buy you love.

It can, however, buy you the exclusives rights to rare Beatles recordings.

Just ask iTunes.