Monday, March 12, 2012

Free Irish ditties for St. Patrick's Day (just get Spotify)

Here, I've loaded up more Irish music than you can shake a Shillelagh at. You just need to install Spotify and click the link. (Or punch in "Irish" in the upper-left search box of the Spotify app for a tsunami of more tunes.)

I've been experimenting with Spotify, which for anyone unaware of it is a relatively new music service. Here's what I've found so far: 

(1) You can tell it's a new service - 2/3 of my [80,000+] songs they don't have licenses for, and therefore I can't post them. 

(2) Many of the songs they DID post for me now (one day later) 'cannot be found', and the service is asking me to 'try again'. Thanks a lot, boyos. 

(3) There's a world of 'net piracy trying to swoop down on these guys, and that is partly why many artists are hesitant to participate. (For example, The Beatles won't sign up.) 

(4) The main reason artists won't sign, though, is that they misunderstand the mindset of most fans. The thinking is, "Why would they buy our music if they can get it on Spotify for free?" Of course, that was once the 'music industry's' argument against radio. (Not to mention the handwringing and all-out war over recorded music in theaters! Which spelled the end of economic viability in the musical arts, exactly as forecast by music industry execs of an earlier era. Yessir.) 

What listeners today really want - and the late, great Steve Jobs got this - is to 'own' and control their music. Mainly, they want to build their own playlists, and Spotify (wisely) stops just short of allowing that. 

Despite the still-considerable issues the service has, 'social' music should take off. Whether Spotify will continue to lead the charge is unknown (remember, MySpace was once the king of social media, as was AOL before it. Today's leader is tomorrow's also-ran.). But the concept has now been demonstrated to be viable and vital. 

The great advantage of 'social music' for music lovers is the casual and immediate discoverability Spotify offers. It presents an opportunity to discover music through the ears and experience of people whose musical tastes you respect. Now - odds are, there are few people you think of that way, but with Spotify you'll find 'em, and fast.

This is what Apple wanted their 'Ping' to become, but the sticking point for them was dealing with Facebook, which is where the majority of listeners they want to reach hang out. Steve Jobs found Facebook's terms of engagement 'onerous'. Even after Ping's launch, things got even more fractious between the two companies -- Ping started out with the option to add friends using Facebook Connect, but Facebook blocked access when it discovered that Apple wasn't playing by the rules. FC is actually an open service - unless Facebook decides that it isn't -  and apparently it decided Apple's Ping network was an unwelcome guest. Apple removed the service from Ping, but you'll still see some notes around suggesting you can bring in friends from Facebook.

Facebook claimed the problem was that Apple would have simply sent them too much traffic, which seems suspicious. Some observers believe Facebook (i.e., Zuckerberg) was simply lying.

At the same time, since 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend', one can only wonder why Apple didn't turn immediately to MySpace. On the surface it would seem the two would have seen the mutual opportunities - and Apple already had a strong relationship with MySpace's owner at-the-time, Rupert Murdoch, who had recently launched a newspaper specifically for the iPad. (Murdoch, in fact, has lately admitted that on his watch 'they screwed up MySpace', and the new ownership says a vast remodeling is underway. So Apple may yet cut a deal that could torpedo the fledgling Spotify.)

Anyway, Spotify was leaner and hungrier than Apple. (Almost any company on the planet is leaner than Apple.) They agreed to whatever 'onerous' terms Zuckerberg dished out. The downside for users is that Spotify lacks Apple's clout in the music biz, and so the rollout of this service is likely to remain painfully slow. 

Despite the drawbacks and occasionally spotty service, I've downloaded about as much of my library onto the service as it will allow. Prior to this, I relied largely on the vast wealth of mostly-Blogspot blogs out there to discover new and/or forgotten music (especially 50's-era jazz). Now the opportunity looms for a broad and more-immediate wealth of experimentation. Or at least it does if Spotify gets its act together. They have a LOT of work still do do, and have barely scratched the surface of their true potential. Here's hoping. But if Apple/MySpace manage to come together and build a more compelling service, I'm there. The concept works - in theory. Now it's a question of who will MAKE the concept work, and from there become a dominant force in the music industry. My bet is it'll be the company who's there in the thick of things already, and holding more ready cash than the entire US government. 

Three guesses.

1 comment:

  1. Got to be Google, who already controls YouTube's vast music library and has mountains of cash, as the most likely Company to partner with Apple/MySpace to revive the Music Industry.