Yesterday I was able to take Spotify for a test-drive after getting a beta invite. My dad was nearby, so I asked him for a song to see how deep the catalog was. He recommended “Trouser Press” by the Bonzo Dog Band.
I don’t get my dad’s taste in music.
I also don’t get this post about Spotify by the Electronic Frontier Foundation. Titled Spotify’s US Launch Highlights the Good, the Bad, and the Promise of Subscription-Based Music Services, it seems mostly to use the launch of Spotify as an excuse to dust off archaic complaints against the entire recording industry.
Instead of being forced to buy full-length CDs at $15.99, fans can now make their own decision about how much they value music and how much of it they want.
What the EFF? Setting aside this patronizing view of consumers being compelled to purchase music against their will, what happened to iTunes? Thousands of record labels have provided single songs for sale on the site since it launched in 2003. Before iTunes, record labels had been experimenting with digital single sales since at least 1997, before the arrival of Napster even. 1See, for example, Sue Zeidler, New Music Goes on Sale Online, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, pg 5, Sept. 8, 1997. An entire generation has grown up that hasn’t ever been “forced to buy full-length CDs at $15.99”.
The EFF continues:
Of course, the record labels could have launched a service like this years ago.
This statement is baffling for a number of reasons.
First, Spotify isn’t the first streaming music subscription service. Others include Rhapsody, Rdio, and Mog. I didn’t pick those three randomly, they’re the three services that the EFF mentioned only sentences before. Rhapsody has had music from the catalogs of all the major labels available since 2002 — nine years ago.
Second, record labels aren’t necessarily the ones who should be developing services like this in the first place. They’re in the business of recording and marketing music, not technology. It makes as much sense as saying, prior to the internet, that record labels should have been the ones developing and operating physical stores where CDs and albums were sold.
Put another way, if technology companies could have made the type of service the EFF finds acceptable years ago, but for the record labels’ licensing terms, why is no one asking why technology companies haven’t developed and recorded their own catalog of music?
Most baffling is why the EFF wrote this in the first place. The EFF is a public interest group that bills itself as “the first line of defense” for “when our freedoms in the networked world come under attack.” It’s difficult to see how a thinly-veiled criticism of the collective business decisions of an entire industry fits this purpose — especially when those criticisms have been obsolete for at least a decade. Never mind that the EFF welcomes the arrival of Spotify — with licenses for the major labels’ music — in the US. When it comes to the EFF’s view of record labels, it seems to be “damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”