What I wish for in a music subscription service
Apparently, the times of clunky digital discs containing an hour of music or video are over. That is so cool, because who likes dusting them twice a month? And the concept of “owning” the right to project air waves through the ether into my ears never really made sense to me. What does make sense (and appear to be common sense to me) is the concept of paying artists so that they can make music that sends chills up and down my back, and not starve while doing so.
Enter the internetz and streaming music services. I have tried a few, and none seem to be completely satisfying. So I thought, hey, let’s write up what would make a really good music subscription services, maybe they are listening:
- No censorship: I am a grown up, perfectly capable of hearing a few swear words without turning into a depressive psychopath. No blips, no beeps, no blurs, I want to hear all the shits, fucks and craps. If you are concerned about those with more sensitive natures, add a “Not safe for work” button. Seriously.
- Pay the artists: The artists are the ones sweating, practicing and conjuring up those tunes. Fair means fifty-fifty, eighty-twenty (twenty for the service…), the other way around is not. Your service is just the transport medium, please know your place. And communicate what share the artists get, so that we users can judge if your service is fair or not.
- Transparent reputation and ranking: Do not allow, or clearly separate, sponsored rankings from the up and down votes of the actual listeners. I do not care if label X or Y thinks that artist Z is hot now. Most of the times, their promotions suck and annoy me. Every listener should be able to rank a track from one to five stars, and your service should honestly publish the averages of that rating.
- Fair access for all musicians: Music is all about variety, and your services shines if it offers less-known tracks from local musicians et cetera. Make it easy for local bands, beginners and independent artists to join and offer their tracks. Trust in the reputation system crowd sourced to your users to separate the sparrows from the nightingales.
- Native clients: Especially for laptops and desktops, providers seems to think that Adobe Air apps are a wonderful thing. News flash: They are not. All of them suck equally, do not integrate into the rest of the desktop, and feel like aliens. Compliment your great music service with the native desktop application it deserves. If you do not want to develop three applications, use Qt. Same goes for mobile apps. All the HTML5 based apps I tried on my iPhone are slow, crashy and stick out like a sore thumb. Give me a proper native client. Come on, WiMP even has a native client for the N9 :-)
- Allow usage on all my devices: I have two phones, three computers, and I want to get an Android tablet. A service that limits authorization to three, four or any number of devices just does not cut it. It is fine if only one of the devices can play back at a time, because I only have one set of ears, but there will be more and more devices. What about my Kindle? A watch? A sports tracker?
- Respect privacy: I may choose to share what I listen to with friends, but there is Twitter and Plus for that. Please respect that I want nobody to know about my preference to gangster rap in the morning. Oh wait. Dammit. ^w^w^w^w….
So, there you have it. If you subscription services gets those points right, let me know, and I will switch to it :-) And fellow readers, please comment and add what other wishes you would have.
Photo: anita.maria on Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/whatsernamex/5902033354
Leaving Spotify because of forced Facebook authorization
I finally cancelled my Spotify subscription. When Spotify launched in Germany I was excited about it, as the company initially offered a great service that would finally allow me to get away from the stupid “I own music files on my hard disk” model. It also seemed modern and open to engage with it’s users to improve further. Obviously, that was a false impression.
I was surprised when the option to log in directly to Spotify was not available anymore, and I was forced to authorize Facebook to look into my usage data. Being critical of Facebook’s attitude towards my data in general, I signed up, and then contacted Spotify’s customer support requesting to get a real login that allows me to de-authorize Facebook again. My initial request was ignored, and then answered with a bland “if this is still a problem, please get in touch again” (without Spotify actually responding or even processing the actual request). When I responded and insisted on a real login, the answer was (directly translated from German):
“Since most of our users are already connected with Facebook, we have decided to integrate Spotify and Facebook logins. We are trying to strengthen our social functions, and by integrating Facebook logins we tried to create a simple and seamless social experience.”
While that is all nice and sounds smooth, what it really says is “We do not want to offer our users an opt-out way that gives them control over their own usage data.” Problem is, music or artistic preferences and tastes are a highly personal thing. For me, and many others I know, it is not something I feel one of the biggest advertising company in the world should know about. On top of that, there is the ongoing argument over the royalties Spotify pays to artists (the actual creative beings behind the music I listen to) being rather low. I hope for the current dominance of distributors over the the music scenes to be killed by the competitive forces of the internet, peer production and self-publication, and I do not want Spotify to replace this old strangle hold with a new one.
Well then, Spotify, if you do not listen to your customers or care for their right to privacy, good bye and fare well. Good thing that there is competition. Welcome, Simfy. They also have Metallica on board, which makes their offering infinitely better anyway.
Update: As some have pointed out, just a week ago Spotify decided to lift the requirement to have a Facebook account. Well, this post has been edited for a while. After the whole experience with Spotify, I still have no inclination to return as a customer.