I’ve Got The Music In Me

26 09 2011

I have been buying music for a very long time. Starting with the musically quirky Gimme Dat Ding by the Pipkins in 1970, and followed by Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey by Paul McCartney and Wings (1971), both in 45 R.P.M. versions mind you, I went on to amass an enormous collection of recorded music. Hundreds of 45s. Hundreds of LPs. And starting in 1985, over 1500 CDs.

Yeah, I’m a music freak. And when I tell people I have a juke box playing inside my head all the time, I mean it. I suffer from ear worms.

But all that music buying changed drastically a few years ago when I quit buying CDs in favor individual song or album downloads on iTunes. I realized I did not need to actually take physical possession of a song to own it. How liberating.

But about a year ago, I endured another paradigm shift by subscribing to Rhapsody. And I quit buying songs from iTunes. For $10 a month I can listen to any of millions of songs and albums. I learned that I do not have to own anything in order to derive the listening pleasure I have always craved.

In other words, I could just rent my music.

This silent revolution of renting music just got a steroid boost last week when Facebook announced its partnership with Spotify, a similar listening service. With a three-tiered freemium model, Spotify is a newcomer to US shores (having cut its musical teeth first in Europe). It’s tied inexplicably to your Facebook account, so all of your friends will see (in the Ticker) what’s coming out of your speakers right now. For $5 or $10 a month, the benefits increase.

But not everyone is enamored of Spotify or services like it. In fact, one Harvard Business Review blogger has come down against it.

And after reading his rant, I could only think one word: Huh?

OK, I understand his argument. he says that listening to music is very different from watching movies. And he is right. We want to listen to manhy songs over and over again. Today. Tomorrow. next week. And we probably do not want to watch the same movie with such recurring frequency (if ever). I also understand his argument about Netflix and their recent price increase as being a distinct possibility at Spotify…once they get us hooked.

But Netflix had very little competition prior to its fateful announcement (the biggest being Amazon, and to a lesser extent, Redbox). But all that changed in quick order when Walmart bought Vudu, and Dish announced its repurposing of the Blockbuster brand. Suddenly Netflix has a bunch of competitors, all willing to scoop up disgruntled customers.

Furthermore, Spotify also has lots of competitors. In addition to Rhapsody, there’s MOG and Rdio, as well as “mixologist” sites like Pandora and LastFM that create stations on the fly based an artist or genre of your choice. Oh, and let’s don’t forget Apple, poised to introduce its own listening service in the very near future.

In other words, unless an entire industry puts it foot down on inexpensive music listening, I don’t think Spotify has much opportunity to raise prices. They will either all have to go up, or else be faced with the daunting prospect of having to prove to customers why your service is worth extra bucks.

Good luck there.

There are also concerns that Spotify is busy scanning your music library and uploading that information to its servers. While at first this may seem scary, consider this: Everything other service you are already using has been doing this for months. years. Google knows you better than you know yourself. Apple’s iTunes knows everything you have bought, everything you have ripped, everything you have stored on your iPod/iPhone/iPad. And Amazon knows every single item you have ever looked at in its online store.

So there. And so much for privacy.

As for me, I rather like Spotify so far. Although I am not quite ready to dump Rhapsody, I will say that Spotify’s music library runs deep. I played “Stump Spotify” last night and lost 64-3. And my three points were for very obscure songs.

The primary concern users should have is whether they want all of their music listening to be social. Do you want the FB Ticker to tell the world that you just listened to Green Day’s “Last Of The American Girls?” On your office computer? OK, so now we know that you like punk rock, and you might not be working very hard.

Wait. I just listened to Green Day, and I am hard at work…writing this blog. But to be safe, I accessed it from a different site.

As for the fearmongering, it happens every time change comes along. I am not worried about Spotify or Rhapsody or anyone else knowing my listening preferences. If any of them can offer up a few good suggestions, I will thank them. Even if this really is one big bait-and-switch, I am still saving far more money than if I purchased all the music I like. And I still kinda like The Pipkins. “That’s right, that’s right, I’m sad and blue, ’cause I can’t do the Boogaloo.”

Dr “A Dat’s Right!” Gerlich

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