Steve Fenton

Why Spotify will make music better

I have been using the Spotify for a long time now and I am in no hurry to go back to using CDs, MP3s or any other time-wasting format. Not only do I have (very nearly) all the music available in one place on Spotify, that place is with me wherever I am. When I had CDs, I could take a small selection. With an MP3 player I could take a larger collection. With Spotify, I take the lot – including stuff I’ve never heard yet.

But how will this make music better? Here is my simple theory.

For many, many years now we have bought albums. In some cases, the album really is a carefully packaged bundle (like Therapy’s Infernal Love), but in many more cases the album is just “some songs”. For a huge pile of bands and their associated teams, selling an entire album based on one killer song, or one novelty song, was not an uncommon practice.

In some cases, the cynical amongst you might even think they were doing it deliberately.

Whether they were or not, the full benefit of album sales was enjoyed while a whole bunch of disappointed fans filed everything except the big hit under “waste”. The front-loaded expense of the music-purchase gave people big returns for rubbish records. Imagine that one-hit-wonder enjoying the same earnings as a your all-time-classic album. Doesn’t sound right does it?

This all changes with Spotify. You realise earnings from music over a longer period if people keep listening to the music. A novelty record might enjoy a couple of months of attention, but they will eventually drop from play-lists when the amusement wears off. The really good music will last longer and get more plays. Mr Blobby will no longer ride roughshod over real talent.

So Spotify, and similar services, will mean a long-tail for really good music (subjectively) and the trend of gap-filling around a big single will no longer reap the same rewards. Of course, this doesn’t touch on how much gets paid per play or where that money goes – as an independent artist I see practically nothing per-play, but over time it does gather like lime-scale in an old pipe!

Written by Steve Fenton on