To Spotify or not to Spotify, that is the question.

Spotify Logo

Let me get this out of the way right out of the gate: this is not a sponsored review. This is merely me sharing my stream-of-consciousness contemplation of music-as-service in the hopes that it helps others.

What is Spotify?

I would describe it as a music service that gives you access to (pretty much) every song, ever. But it’s more than that. It has fantastic curated playlists, playlist sharing, and even a feature to download the songs to your device for offline listening – a huge plus for plane rides and trips where roaming becomes an issue. Car infotainment systems, like Ford’s Sync 3, even let you use Spotify right from your car stereo through manufacturer-supported apps. Spotify really is a big deal.

My first exposure to it was at a party this summer. One of my friends had the app on his phone, and a small group of us crowded around and DJ’d the party. It was a blast! Spotify had everything people could think of – and this friendly collaboration became one of the highlights of the party for me.

Spotify isn’t the only game in town, though. Apple recently launched a similar service called Apple Music, as well.  Both are subscription services for roughly $10 a month, and both offer some free content.  They are essentially the same service, so you’ve got a choice to make, Apple Music or Spotify.

Is Spotify Amazing?

Yer damn skippy it is. The benefits are obvious. All the music, and no more decisions to make about whether to buy a new album or not. No moments with your finger hovering above the “buy” button asking yourself whether this is how you want to spend your dollars. It’s an all-in, all-you-can-listen buffet. It’s a big “ha-ha” and a finger-point at all those people who paid thousands upon thousands of dollars on CDs over the years building massive music collections. “Now I have all the music, too!”

But is Spotify Worth the Money?

I’m struggled with this. Should you pay $10 a month for access to music?  You don’t actually own the music, you’re just renting it – and that’s the bit that’s been burning in my mind for the last month or so as I’ve tried out Spotify.  Here are some of current thoughts:

  • I actually buy music because I like owning it. Ever since I making a decent living I’ve gone “legit” and paid for all my movies and music – something that I’m rather proud of. Over time, I’ve amassed a nice collection of songs that I really like (and a couple that I really don’t). With Spotify, while I’m technically paying for the music, and I can add songs and albums to a list called “My Music”, I don’t really own anything.
  • Music is an asset. What bothers me about Spotify is that, while I can download my music to machine, if I stop paying my $10 a month, my music collection disappears – poof! Sure, my collection is insignificant in size relative to what’s available to me on Spotify, but I can tell you for certain that all the songs in my own collection are the ones I like, and most importantly, if I lost my job and have to cut back my costs – it’ll be there for me – free to listen to. A musical safety blanket.
  • Buffet vs. a la carte. With Spotify, I have all the music I could ever want. The challenge is that I can’t listen to all of it at the same time so, like a buffet, I’m really paying for variety, not quantity. At $1.29 a song, I can keep building my little collection as I go and keep my listening rather focused. If you know what you like, then a la carte is the way to go.
  • Dollars and sense. Like I said earlier, I pay for all my movies and music. Let’s focus on the movies for the moment. Say a particular movie on Blu Ray costs $30.00, and it costs about $5.00 to rent the same one.  I ask myself: “Self? Will you really watch Paul Blart: Mall Cop more than 6 times?”, and if the answer is “no”, then I rent it.  If we apply the same logic to music, I can assure you that I listen to all my purchased music over and over again, and undoubtedly get my $1.29 worth.  What makes Spotify difficult to justify is that I don’t spend $10.00 a month on music – so the “rent it” option is not cheaper (yet).
  • Radio Station vs. Mixed Tape. Curated playlists and song-based radio stations on Spotify are great. Much like my long-time favourite music streaming service, Songza, the playlists almost always introduce me to something new, and which prompt me to buy a new song. The big advantage of Spotify over Songza is that you have more freedom to go forwards and backwards through the playlists.  Think of Songza as a radio station, and Spotify is a mix tape.
  • Spotify - no exportMind the gap. You use Spotify’s app on your phone and their program on your PC – if you’re using Spotify, you’re in their sandbox. This has its benefits, actually.  Like being able to download the songs into the app for off-line listening, and having all your playlists synced over all your devices. The problem is, once you’re in, you’re in. And if you leave Spotify, that era of your musical life is left there. If you’re really using Spotify, you won’t be building that collection of personal music that travels with you. You won’t have really bought anything. You’ll have all the music you accumulated up until the time you joined Spotify, and then nothing to show for it after that point. There’s no “export” option in Spotify.

I really like Spotify – and it’s growing on me by the day. I love being with friends and having  not just all of my music, but anything they can dream of, too. But as you can see, I’m treating this very much as a life decision – will I Spotify, or will I not? I have two months left to decide.


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