Spotify and MOG: What They Mean for Artists, Round 2

A few weeks ago I laid out all the reasons why I thought the "free" music streaming services Spotify and MOG were ghastly, malicious succubi suckling at the teat of artistic talent.

Since that post, I've been presented countering opinions by musicians and music producers alike, and I've come away with a slightly different opinion. Perhaps I went too far.

Perhaps they're not ghastly.

The day after the post appeared, I was on the Sound+Vision Radio program (Look for the September 3rd episode). The pro/con Spotify debate comes towards the middle of the second hour, between co-host Ted Cohen and I. If anyone is in a position to tell me why I'm full of guano, it's Ted.

It's worth a listen, though I'll paraphrase so I can continue my re-rant. Ted's position is that these music services offer artists more exposure, and these days that can only help. That the artists still get money - and in fact get money per play - instead of just once.

Our points are pretty well laid out in the clip, but I'll just reaffirm that I don't feel people will listen to every track enough to make it a wash for the artist.

What was really interesting was what Ted and I talked about after the show. I'm not going to present any opinions without giving him space to explain them, but I will mention a perspective I hadn't considered regarding Spotify vs. Pandora.

He felt that Pandora was a fantastic "lean back" experience. As in, press a button, lean back, be entertained. While Spotify was a fantastic "lean forward" experience. As in, click this, listen, click that, listen, and so on. He admitted Spotify's "lean back" experience was very poor.

While you can share Spotify playlists with friends, this isn't as simple a way to get exposed to new music as Pandora's system. But Spotify is closing the gap. If you search and select an artist you like, at the top of their Spotify page you'll find an Artist Radio tab. Here, Spotify functions much like Pandora, playing other artists similar to the one you like. Spotify fans probably know this feature already, but it had to be pointed out to me. Way to bury a cool feature. One of my main complaints about Spotify was that there wasn't an easy way to be exposed to new music and new artists. This certainly fits the bill. This makes me dislike Spotify a little less, but I still can't see how it won't lead to less royalties for the artists.

Twitter blows my mind

The other counterpoint came from a rather unlikely source: Twitter. I never understood Twitter until I signed up and started tweeting articles I wrote and cool links I found. I followed people I'd heard of, maybe been fans of, and so on. What amazed me is that sometimes, interesting people have interesting things to say, or find cool stuff. Seeing into the minds of people I admire is awesome.

And sometimes. . . they talk to you.

On a whim I sent a tweet at Bill Janovitz. He's the lead singer/guitarist/songwriter for one of my favorite bands of all time, Buffalo Tom. His blog is great, and I thought he might find my rant interesting.

Well ho-lee-crap he responded. For the full exchange on September 2nd, check out our twitter pages: me, him. (You don't have to be on Twitter to check it out.)

The gist of it was that as a music lover, he loves Spotify. He agrees that the lack of payments to artists is an issue, but no more so than any other digital music venue. He had some other good points as well from a musician's perspective.

So. . .

I still stand by my hatred of Spotify, as it's still paying artists less for the same enjoyment on the part of the listener.

But maybe they'll implement a way to be easily exposed to new artists, which would be a boon. Or maybe they'll get so big the record labels/RIAA will force them to renegotiate at higher rates.

Then Spotify will have to jack up the cost of their subscriptions, freaking people out all over again.