What the heck is a Spotify, and how could it change my life? I always feel like, when I title something in the way I’ve titled this post, I should write “Candice: grade four” beneath it and etch the name of my teacher as if she’s unsure who she is when she grades my papers. Things were simple in grade four, weren’t they? You weren’t in fifth grade where you’re preparing for junior high and you weren’t in third, which was just like a swan song for learning what shapes and numbers do. Fourth grade was when you could just slide through for a full year and enjoy yourself as a child. Put your hair in a sideways ponytail, and wear out your New Kids on the Block cassette tape in your branded Barbie Walkman. (Back off; I was a kid in the late ’80s.)
Music and the industry surrounding it have gone through so many changes over the years I’ve been on this planet. It’s kind of funny to look around and see all of the people inhabiting Earth who don’t even know what music was like before MP3s and they find the concept of cassette tapes and records absolutely ludicrous. Not the rapper, mind you, but he was popular for quite a time, too. Weird. Everything has its inevitable life cycle. Cue the lazy teardrop at the corner of your eye, folks.
Buying Music on the Internet
Now as an adult, I’ve only really had MP3s in my arsenal unless you count the CD “hard copy” I will buy when I truly enjoy an album. Once Amazon started selling DRM-free digital albums, I actually joined that movement because I didn’t want to have to purchase music through an MP3 playing program. Sure, I know, Apple enthusiasts will say “But it’s so much more,” but let’s be real here: you own a marketplace for music, movies, books, and apps that just happens to play those things as well. It’s like letting a company plant a billboard in your house and when you touch it, you’re standing in Tower Records. Seriously. That’s what iTunes is.
Amazon didn’t do any of that. It essentially said “We have music if you want it, but that’s not all; we have blenders and shoes and that little doo-hicky for your computer that you need but don’t want to spend $70 on. We have that.” and I appreciated that. Amazon became the Walmart of the Internet and it wasn’t pretentious about it. So, when it came time to actually invest in music rather than ripping through the CDs that I had and listening to the whir of my CD in the tray, I happily gave the company my money instead.
The problem, however: I was spending a lot of money on music that I just wanted to try out. Music that was catchy on a commercial was now music in which I was investing, but I didn’t feel good about the purchase because of the rate that I go through music. I have a 500 gigabyte external hard drive that glares at me whenever I buy new albums, because it is full. Legitimately full of all of the media I’ve poured into it and haven’t touched since. Sometimes I’ll plug it in and tug a few songs or such free, but I rarely do that. Why? Been there. Done that.
Reaching Beyond Radio
Then, the magical and mystical Spotify came out. For years I had heard everyone using things like Pandora and its ilk, but I never understood it. Radio was radio. A bunch of tracks you couldn’t truly choose? Who wants that? If I wanted that, I’d turn on an actual radio, right? When people told me about Spotify, I expected that it wasn’t any different and I let it go. Until, well, one day I was seeking out something to listen to while I was at work and wanted something easy on my phone. Spotify rested there, like a beautiful beacon lit by shimmering angels as they echoed their choir on high.
That sounded dramatic, I know. It’s seriously how I felt, though. Promise.
Spotify took something that was costing me hundreds upon hundreds a year and it provided a service: freedom. It could charge me money and I could listen to whatever I wanted (provided the service had access to it, and it generally does) without concern. I could make playlists, sync them up to my phone or my Kindle Fire, and walk away. That easily. I could share my playlists, even specific tracks, with my friends and family on Facebook and Twitter and educate as well as entertain people with my broad song selections. Spotify is the one time I truly appreciate social media, and it has to do with music. That’s the degree to which I love music though, and Spotify stopped making working within the music industry about money and turned it into something real: sharing.
Spotify is a Musical Smörgåsbord
Back when I was just buying the music I wanted to hear, it was about being thrifty and only buying a track that I wanted unless I had the option to hear the whole album. Now, I can use Spotify as a source to try out music and get a feel for it before I go buy the actual album. If anything, it’s supporting a healthier landscape for the music industry where people aren’t afraid of buying an album’s worth of material because they get to try on that ruby slipper first. The first time I ever heard Fun was over a year ago; I saw that Spotify had not only the album, but a full-length commentary from the band that you could listen to after hearing Some Nights. Before I headed off for the train station that would take me to San Francisco from Los Angeles, I loaded it up and downloaded the whole thing to my phone so I could listen to it.
I fell in love.
I came home and immediately bought the album through Amazon not just for myself, but four other people. When I saw the hard copy in a gas station during another road trip out of Los Angeles, I bought that, too. Spotify wasn’t making me depend on it as my only source of music; it was setting the stage for me to have a blind date with new bands, fall in love, and start a whirlwind romance before I settled down and held that CD in my hands weeks later.
Spotify Competition Needs to Step Up Its Game
How can you not love that? Sure, the majority of people are still on the fence and there are plenty of things I wish Spotify could connect with so that I can have it wherever I am, but it opened my mind. I recently nabbed a thirty-day subscription of Music Unlimited by Sony to see if it was the company’s answer to Spotify for Sony products and was horribly let down by the complications. Sony wanted Music Unlimited to be the classy and pretty girl with nothing going on upstairs that you let sit next to you because you knew she went to charm school. It’s got tons of buttons that don’t do what they say they’ll do and pretty visualizations that don’t mask the fact it’s just a music player that you pay for that doesn’t do half of what Spotify does without having to teach it.
I’ll choose experience every single time.
So where do you guys sit when it comes to listening to music online? Do you prefer the ambiance of Pandora and SoundCloud, the user-friendly love-fest of Spotify, or do you go old school and rock out to only what you buy on iTunes? I know one thing: this is one jump ahead in technology of which I’m ecstatic to be a part.
Image: Spotify with some personal modifications by the author