Spotify turns 10. Not everyone is wishing the company a happy birthday.

Like many old-school music fans, I was a slow convert to streaming. Like a lot of music hoarders, I didn’t want to “rent” music, I wanted to own it either as a physical copy (a CD, vinyl, digital file) and not have to worry about my whole music collection disappearing the moment I stopped paying my monthly subscription.

But then I realized that streaming gave me access to tens of millions of songs anytime anywhere at a fraction of the expense of purchasing it outright. I also found myself sampling far, far more music than I had before because the financial risk had been eliminated. If I didn’t like what I heard, I just wouldn’t listen again. In the old days, I would have invested in the album, listened to it once and then put it on a shelf, never to be seen again.

All this was a science fiction concept not that long ago. Now it’s a part of everyday life. And now that streaming makes up 75% of record label revenues, the idea is too big to fail. We are never, ever going back to an era when physical formats ruled.

But there are also downsides to streaming.

  • Music has been made more disposable than ever, turning it into the aural equivalent of grey goo. (See the link to The Guardian below.)
  • Composers are now writing to combat our ever-shrinking attention spans. (For example, the number of songs with long, interesting intros has shrunk.)
  • A stream doesn’t provide any context to the music. It can be just disorganized noise.
  • Fans don’t have any financial stake in music anymore. When you bought an album, there was pressure to play it over and over again until you figured out what was happening. Otherwise, there was a sense that you wasted your money.
  • Payolas has been replaced with playlist-ola.
  • Speaking of playlists, they’re destroying the concept of the album. Individual songs rule while coherent collections of songs in a carefully organized running order are passé.
  • Artists are desperately looking for new revenue streams to replace what they’re losing from the sales of CDs.

All of the above is worth discussing. Read the following two articles and get back to me with any opinions, would you?

Statista has a couple of charts that illustrate Spotify’s growth and the importance of streaming.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

One thought on “Spotify turns 10. Not everyone is wishing the company a happy birthday.

  • October 9, 2018 at 1:35 pm

    Ironically, there’s not much Payola$ (the band) on Spotify


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