Why Spotify and Rdio are Worse Than Torrenting: Op-Ed

Should you put your music on Spotify?

Taking into account everything I’ve said here, you could draw the conclusion that I’m entirely against anybody putting their music on Spotify. However, it isn’t so cut and dried. One thing to take into account is that discovery can take place on services like Spotify. If you feel like letting your recordings be a loss leader for the sake of gaining greater listenership, taking the financial hit might be worthwhile to you. Nobody will buy your music if they don’t know you exist. (Disclaimer: I think the whole “free gig for exposure” thing is totally bullshit and something to avoid, but that’s a separate topic).

Similarly if you don’t rely on recording revenue, you might as well put your music on these services, as you won’t be getting any revenue from them anyways.

What can you do?

As a music listener, what can you do to ensure that the artists you enjoy are compensated for their art, and that they’re able to continue producing music? A few things:

  • Go to a show

If a band you’ve been listening to is coming through town, go see them. Seeing them live will probably heighten your appreciation of that artist, and it’ll help them out.

  • Buy a shirt

While you’re at that show, why not buy a t-shirt? Merch sales help artists a lot, especially when you purchase said merch at a show.

  • Buy the album

Owning a copy of your favourite albums has many advantages. Having a digital copy lets you listen to your favourite albums anytime, even if you’re offline without a network connection. Or if don’t have a connector for your iPod in your car; why not buy a CD for when you’re driving around?  I’d also suggest buying vinyl too, but if you’re into vinyl you’ve probably already done that. 

In conclusion, I don’t think you necessarily need to avoid services like Spotify and Rdio altogether. However, if you do use them, try to find other ways to support your favourite artists, because your subscription fees aren’t.

Postscript

I need to frame this piece by saying that I honestly think streaming subscription services like Spotify and Rdio are trying to do a good thing. The distribution model of recorded music has been turned on its head by the web, and really in earnest by the proliferation of mobile devices with a constant network connection. Services like Spotify and Rdio are trying to adapt and create a distribution model that embraces the new paradigm. However, the paradigm that they’re creating is not only unsustainable in the long term, it’s damaging to musicians in the short term.

Nathan Shubert is a professional keyboardist from Vancouver, B.C. – www.nathanshubert.com