So let me tell you a little about how I discovered Spotify.
I first heard about the service and its “awesome” factor when I studied abroad in London with New York University’s Global Music Management program. My classmates, who are all well submerged into the music industry’s trends and developments, were able to enlighten me about a bunch of services, companies and “insider” stuff, so-to-speak. Some of that ‘privileged’ information comes courtesy of the very internationally open discussion promoted through not only the Global Music Management course, but NYU’s music business program in general. Graduate program chair, Dr. Catherine Moore, being from Liverpool, is very much involved in the UK’s music scene and brings this awareness to her lectures for the benefit of her students.
This, is how I came to hear about Spotify, as I conveniently happened to be in the UK when the program was just hitting a high note among the locals and it had yet to even be a thought in the minds of American music lovers. Goes to show how much learning about and doing things like: being tapped into the international scene, listening to international radio and subscribing to globally aware publications like “The Recording Industry in Numbers” by IFPI, can make a difference in a person’s industry exposure. Thank you once again NYU. (as if I didn’t love my graduate education enough already)
In any case, the reason I give you this bit of my collegiate history, is to point out how much more of a disappointment can be felt when you personally see a trend before the rest of your peers, only to watch it change over a long period of time and how that longer timeline can make you feel like a service is that much farther from its “cool” origins than if you’ve jumped on the bandwagon farther down the road.
Example? Think of a band you have followed hardcore from their humble beginnings. Most everyone has a group they know with a solid amount of intimacy and has followed their history and line changes and sound development and logo alterations and so on, knowing they could throw out facts at the drop of a hat and being proud of this reality. Now, just because one person has followed a band longer than another doesn’t make them a “better fan” or anything like that. However, they are a longer time fan, so if they are happy over anything the band has done that a newer fan couldn’t be aware of, the longer fan might have a similarly hard time grasping why anyone else could complain with what seems like an equal amount of disdain when a band does something they don’t like.
Think of it in terms of that mindset of, “what you don’t know won’t hurt you.” and “you don’t know what you’re missing” being rolled together.
Bands and line change ups aside, this scenario has played out repeatedly in the social media world as well. A second example I’m sure, many more people can relate to are the mass complaints and whining and wall-to-wall griping (excuse the pun) about Facebook’s typically unwanted alterations. The social media giant has had so many layout transformations that I’ve lost count. I can say though, that I’ve probably seen more of these supposed “annoying as hell” changes Facebook has made, since I started using it back when the site was strictly for college students. I mean, opening up the service to NON-COLLEGE STUDENTS? WHAT THE HECK IS MARK ZUCKERBURG THINKING?! …erhm, sorry about that.
The latter was clearly a game changer for Facebook but if you ask any high school aged Facebook user now, chances are, a good portion of them don’t even know it was intended originally for college students to connect with each other. Yet some users are so actively negative about changes from recent months that internet memes have been circulated on Facebook to point out how no one is making you use a FREE service that’s clearly causing you to be angry. Not that I can’t say I have had that type of knee-jerk reaction at times, but as my all caps rant above demonstrates, there are clearly some very large changes Facebook has made in the past that make their smaller tweaks pail in comparison if you’re talking about how it affects the site and its users as a whole.
To get back to my original focus, the same can be said for Spotify. Back when it was all the rage in the UK, Spotify was like this old fashioned train gaining a pretty solid amount of momentum, but still somewhat “under the radar” as an innovative service or, actually, as a service entirely. As such, there was a crucial founding aspect of Spotify that in no way exists now as it did back in late 2008-early 2009 when it was first released. It was absolutely free and without limiters based on “account level” because there were no levels. True, the user interface was in a delicate and “liable to be changed” phase of initial, digital, life but Spotify’s core differences from competition like iTunes and foobar2000 were a bright new frontier to be explored and made the program a “must have.” Hence why my classmates would whisper frustrations about Spotify not being unleashed in the U.S. for over the past two years. Then when it finally did arrive, by the time the service took hold in the blogosphere, things were already not as before. Track play limits, listening time limits, subscription ranks…it’s not as though I don’t understand why these statutes exist or why they are necessary but if you got to experience Spotify to its full potential and keep it that way for a good few years before someone cut you off, you will have been spoiled somewhat to know what that was like, as adversed to someone who was either restricted or paying from the start. On top of this now, even Spotify’s late-to-the-party U.S. customer base is feeling the sting of alteration alongside their UK counterparts with the introduction of a merged sign in between Spotify and Facebook. The long and short to this? Anyone new to Spotify going forward must have a Facebook account and must use that to access their Spotify services and data.
Any person you might radomly ask could tell you, “I have a Facebook account. It’s not as if Spotify is making me go to the one thing I’ve avoided all this time.” Does that mean they want to link the two services? Not necessarily. There are plenty of cons as well as pros for this move and I have no doubt that the pros are certainly valid. What idea I think needs reinforcing, whether you’re talking about indie bands going major, Facebook going to a timeline based format, or Spotify forcing media integration, is that although industries like fashion and music tend to recycle their fundamental materials over time, rarely, if ever, do changes in consumer approach take a cue to rewind toward the past. Things are cool when they’re secret and new and perhaps even a little “too good to be true.” When we lose these perk-filled circumstances, the thing we have to remember is that we were fortunate enough to be a part of that stage but that the circulation of music in general lends itself to the assumed needs and wants of the majority consumer, not the individual’s experience. Quite a bit of irony yet again, considering that music can be such an individually defining part of someone’s life.
Do you agree with the idea that services should team up to “enhance” our discovery experience? Sure, it makes for business and (supposedly) customer oriented work, but what about the nature of spontaneity? Maybe this notion that I take to heart when I listen to music I have or look for new, is a thing of the past; not to be revered or harped on, just like services that aren’t free anymore.