A few weeks ago I wrote a post about Spotify and the social features that are built into it. I praised how easy it is to share music and I thought the service as a whole was the coolest thing since sliced bread. Soon after beginning my Spotify usage, I qualified for a free month of their Premium plan that allowed me to listen to music ad-free and on my smartphone via the Spotify application. It has now been three weeks since I’ve started using Spotify, and I’ve come to realize a few things that are pushing me closer to abandoning it entirely. Don’t get me wrong, I still love Spotify and all that they offer. They have a huge music collection, and I’ve yet to search for a song that they didn’t have available. The songs load fast, don’t skip, and offline playlists are great for going through country roads far from cell towers. So with all this greatness, what could possibly make me want to abandon it? Well, I’ve become too reliant on it and I’m afraid of being stuck with a library full of songs that I don’t really own.
When I first received my Premium account, I immediately downloaded the application to my android phone. It was great, now I could make playlists on my phone or computer and they would automatically be on the other device when I went to use it. This caused me to become sort of a Spotify addict. I used it via my phone on the way to work in the mornings, at work through my computer, and again once I got home in the evening. If I heard a song I liked, I would immediately search for it on Spotify and it would typically be the first thing to pop up. No more making lists of songs to remember to download in the future, I would just search and add to a playlist on the spot. This was all fine and dandy until I was going on a weekend trip in a friend’s car. I had a great playlist put together and I knew everyone in the car would enjoy it. That is, until I found out there was no way to connect my phone to the car’s stereo. No auxiliary plug and no cassette adapter meant no streaming Spotify. We could have bought an FM transmitter, but I’ve never had much luck getting clear audio through those. My friend suggested I burn the playlist to a CD, but since I didn’t really own the songs, that wasn’t an option.
Perhaps most new cars have auxiliary inputs and/or a way to hook up devices like mp3 players and smartphones, but this scenario still brings up a huge concern about Spotify. If you pay for Spotify Premium and build your entire music collection using their songs, you are stuck continuing to pay for that subscription for as long as you want to keep listening to those songs. Let’s say you pay for Spotify Premium and use it for two years, then something terrible happens and you lose your job. You need to cut back on expenses, and a luxury like Spotify is usually the first to go. Now, your entire music collection that took you two years to build is basically gone. You can keep a free account and listen to it via the desktop application, but if you’re anything like me you listen to more music on the go than you do sitting at your computer. You may not think you’ll ever want to leave Spotify right now, but you never really know what the future will bring. Maybe you’ll move to a remote area without mobile data, buy a car that has built in music storage, or even just decide you don’t want to pay for it anymore. Whatever the reason may be, do you really want to get there and have to decide whether to lose your music or keep paying Spotify for the rest of your life? Probably not.
Spotify is not alone in trying to keep customers coming back. Several companies, especially Internet based ones, create products that users get so intertwined in there’s no easy escape. This doesn’t necessarily make them bad companies, it just means we as users need to be more aware of what we’re getting into. Think about a company like Google, they provide an array of products that millions of people use in every aspect of their life. Separating all ties with Google would be difficult for most people, but since it’s free (and will most likely remain that way) we don’t often think about the future. If Google charged customers to use their services, people would be much more hesitant of creating such a deeply integrated relationship. By combining your existing library, social networks, and giving you the ability to add new songs, Spotify is trying to connect with you in this same fashion. But unlike Google, Spotify is making you pay for the best parts of the relationship.
Again, I’m not saying Spotify is bad or that you shouldn’t use it. I’m simply sending a warning out that, depending on how much of a music junkie you are, you might want to think about the future and what’s going to happen when you and Spotify decide to part ways. An alternative would be to continue buying each song, which of course will probably cost you more than the $10 a month Spotify Premium charge. If the streaming aspect of Spotify is what you like best, there are still plenty of ways to stream music to your phone. So, what do you think? Are you willing to take the risk of building up your music library in Spotify, knowing that at some point in the future you might have to start all over? As for me, I think I’ll quit my addiction after my trial is over and go back to purchasing each song individually. It will take more time because I’ll analyze each songs worth, but I just can’t imagine the day I decide to stop paying for Spotify and lose the thousands and thousands of songs I will have undoubtedly built up.