Sunday, 2 September 2012

Imperfections of the Skin


As much as I love to praise Spotify, extensive use over more than a year now and in particular since its Australia release reveals an undeniable truth: Spotify’s archives of 15 million songs are full of holes. Or, in other words, a Spotify user cannot rely on Spotify’s services alone for all their music listening needs.
There are bands that were never there, and let’s be realistic about it – will probably never be there, either. I’m talking about The Beatles with their exclusive Apple deal, Led Zeppelin, or AC/DC whose music was never made available digitally. I can live with that.
The more annoying cases are those that are half available. Take David Gilmour, whose Remember That Night I recently reviewed: the audio version of that performance is unavailable on Spotify. However, his later live performance and fellow Pink Floyd Richard Wright’s last, Live in GdaƄsk, is there. But… the one song I would like to listen to the most out of that performance, Echoes, is unavailable. WTF?
Continuing with Pink Floyd, I couldn’t avoid noticing their catalog is all but non existent for Australian Spotify users. I couldn’t avoid noting this fact not only because I’m a big fan of Floyd’s, but also because I did listen to Pink Floyd through Spotify during the time I used the American version of the service. Floyd is not the only example for that particular issue: the movie soundtrack from Until the End of the World, one of my favorite movie soundtracks, is another piece of music Spotify would let me listen to as an American but block me from as an Australian. I can continue mentioning other performers in this geo locked club, but I’ll assume the point is taken.
Clearly, the matter here is a matter of rights; I don’t suppose Spotify actively denies me the pleasure of my favorite music, it’s just that they could not get the copyright holders’ approval to do so. Thus I have exposed one of the more annoying aspects of copyright, the fact that the rights for a certain piece of content may be held by different holders at different territories. In such a messy environment one cannot truly blame Spotify for failing to provide its subscribers with all the music they could think of, but one definitely wins the right to show copyright legislation the finger yet again as the latter is used not for the promotion of culture, as it claims to do and as it is meant to do, but rather for the blocking of culture. I do blame Spotify to some degree, though: so little of what it makes actually goes to the artist that there is little incentive for the artist to want to take part. Then again, this fault is likely to lie more on the heads of the greedy record labels, pointing the finger back to the illnesses of the copyright concept.

From a user’s perspective, the question then becomes: If I cannot rely on Spotify to provide me all the music I want to listen to then what’s the point of paying for Spotify in the first place? I might as well put my money elsewhere (iTunes got the lot, or at least so much the gaps are effectively undetectable); then there are free downloads, courtesy of Bit Torrent & Co. That realm could not care about borders and does not charge Aussies more than Americans; it is the realm of the truly free citizens of the earth.
My answer to that question is that Spotify is still a good tool whose main benefit is not its archives but rather its comfort and ease of use. That said, I wouldn’t mind at all if it got more songs added to its catalog…

Image by factoryjoe, Creative Commons license

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