The Spotify Playlist Problem

Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 10.49.56Let me start this article by saying that I love Spotify. Great company, great team – and lately, rather ironically given the naysaying of Thom Yorke et al, emerging as something of a potential music industry saviour when you look at the machinations of Google, Amazon and other tech giants, who seem fairly intent on driving the value of music down to zero. So, to summarise: I’m a big fan.

Having said that, I feel there’s an awkward question that has to be asked, namely: why, in Spotify’s Browse section, are 99.9% of the playlists Spotify’s own?

If you’re not familiar, Browse is the “uninformed” discovery section – the editorial area where Spotify can push playlists of its choosing. At the top are more day-to-day relevant playlists, and further down are various mood-related starting points which then offer a variety of playlists to choose from.

Here’s the Browse section today (click to enlarge):
Screen Shot 2014-06-25 at 10.53.40

Of all the playlists shown there, only the BBC’s Playlister one in the centre isn’t made by Spotify.

Continue reading “The Spotify Playlist Problem”

Thom Yorke vs Spotify: some thoughts…

Thom Yorke of Atoms for PeaceIts been a strange few days alright. I was in Dublin enjoying this fine band at Hard Working Class Heroes, then I was rushing home on Saturday as a close relative was hospitalised, and then on Sunday I was standing next to people dressed like this. Surreal? Just a little bit. And now, having had an enforced couple of days away from compiling the Daily Digest, I return to find… yet more news about Spotify, a company who I’m starting to think should be sponsoring the Daily Digest on the basis of their near-permanent presence on it.

I can’t deny that on some points I do feel a little conflicted. Given I’d expressed some reticence about Spotify’s “Follow” button last week, Yorke’s remark that “Spotify [are] suddenly trying to become the gatekeepers to the whole process” is one I struggle to disagree with. Equally however comments like “We don’t need you to do it. No artists needs you to do it. We can build the shit ourselves, so fuck off” are frankly pretty petulant at best and plain wrong at worst.

Here’s the thing: Spotify are just doing what any company will do. If not them, then Rdio, Deezer, Google, Beats or any of the other competitors. And if its not any of them, it’ll be someone else. That is just the nature of business. You can only change things by presenting an alternative of some kind. So, amid all Yorke’s comments of empowerment and how artists don’t need to do this, only one thing kept recurring in my mind: “do it then”. Because as long as you’re signed to XL, having come up via EMI’s pre-internet marketing machine, standing there criticising whilst offering nothing by way of a solution is once again starting to bring to mind images of Yorke and Godrich as Waldorf & Statler, parked on the side and heckling like all hell.

Don’t get me wrong: I think criticism is healthy (hell I’m doing it right now) but this debate either needs more people involved, or a fresh line. Without those, it will soon become a tired headline and interest will fade – at which point one could argue that Yorke may have done more harm than good by ensuring total apathy on the part of the consumer. So – will anyone else step up?

Atoms for Peace quit Spotify

ImageAs you may have seen, Atoms for Peace have quit Spotify (and presumably all other streaming audio services). Rather than rewrite the story, you can read the full article from Stu Dredge on Music Ally here

What sprang from that though was an interesting few discussions around the debate, which I’ve compiled into a Storify piece. Go take a read – some great points being raised from various people in and around the music industry.

Spotify & Deezer’s apps: The Emperor’s New Clothes?

Screen Shot 2013-02-03 at 15.08.16Recently I decided to familiarise myself with Deezer, because I feel the service could start making some big moves this year and that therefore it would be good to have some insight as to the platform, the user interface, what’s possible etc etc.

Something that really caught my eye when using their web client though was the way in which many of the Deezer “apps” were basically just external websites that were using the Deezer API to provide their audio. This led me on a train of thought around both Deezer and Spotify apps, where I concluded that in many respects what we have here is a massive case of Emperor’s New Clothes. A chat with Syd Lawrence on Twitter basically confirmed that, too – which you read on Storify here.

Let’s start with the basics. Spotify’s desktop client is basically a jazzed up Chromium browser, as I understand it. The Spotify apps that run within it are, to all intents and purposes, websites. They’re code being pulled from elsewhere and run within the Spotify desktop client. Similarly, Deezer’s apps run in a similar manner – though often not even within the Deezer web client.

That being the case, one has to ask the question: why are the people behind these apps not broadening them out to run on the web, connecting in with all available services? Take the Earache Metalizer Spotify app, for example. I’d wager that with probably an extra 20% of time spent on it, that could have been adapted to also run within Earache’s website, pointing people to the streaming service of choice, be that Spotify, Deezer, Rdio or potentially something else.

This isn’t – and shouldn’t be – an “either/or” scenario. I would assume you could have the same app available in Spotify, Deezer *and* on your website if you so desired – and why not? It provides convenience to your users, after all. So why aren’t people doing this?

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