That is the question. Er, for today's post I mean - to Spotify or not to Spotify? Obviously it's a hot topic now - or was last week when Thom Yorke and Nigel Godrich of Atoms For Peace decided to remove their music from the Spotify service, and were vocal about it, taking to Twitter to explain their frustrations with the streaming service.
For a decent summary of the grievances artists feel toward Spotify and Pandora and some of the other streaming sites check out this New Yorker piece - it contains links to Godrich and Yorke's Twitter feeds, and to other pieces on the topic including Damon Krukowski of Galaxie 500's piece for Pitchfork from 2012 about the depressing pay-rates from Pandora in particular (he mentions Spotify too).
I'm a new convert to Spotify. I've only taken up with it in the last few weeks.
My argument, same as it had always been for any kind of "illegal downloading", was simple: I don't have time to get through all of the music I'm asked to get through as it is/I receive enough free music anyway.
Of course it's never free as such. Never mind the orchestrations you think you are hearing on the disc - there are always strings attached.
And so I've gone about my business for the last decade never too concerned with these over-exaggerated "death of the industry" proclamations. Again, I've had a standard answer there: There was music long before there was ever "a music industry", there'll still be music when that industry crumbles.
And I don't care for the industry - I care about the music. That's what I listen to, what I love, what I write about. The industry is - for me - mostly a hindrance. An annoyance. A set of painful negotiations; a series of unanswered emails, ignored calls, petty grudges and thin-skinned, fragile egos locked in a circle-jerk with the buttered-up, the fools, the wannabes, the suck-ups and the frauds.
(Side note: want an example of how sad and petty it all is? I'm denied a comp to see Steve Vai last week. Turns out the show is great; because I make it in anyway and then wrote this review. But Groove Guide in Auckland would have had no issue getting on the guest list for the little plug they gave the gig ahead of time - despite, you know, running a picture of Joe Satriani with their blurb. But I digress...)
Anyway, I've turned to Spotify - because it's helping me to put my opinion across. I care about access to albums. I care about spreading the word, sharing my thoughts, making recommendations, issuing warnings. And Spotify is helping me to do that. I can access albums that I'll never get sent - I can hear things quicker, on time, ready for review. Spotify has become a tool of the trade for me. Arguably it was always that - but I've only just discovered it. I'm happy taking my time with these things. I'm also happy in the knowledge that I am not ripping artists off. You might not agree with my logic - and that's fine, have your say below - but in using Spotify to listen to music that I then write about I'm spreading the word, I'm giving plugs. (I even choose the right photos to go with the artists).
I discovered one of my favourite albums of the year, so far, from foraging around on Spotify. I was able to prepare for my interview with Black Angels thanks to Spotify; also reviewing the band's latest album based on Spotify listens.
It even allowed me to review the new Fat Freddy's Drop album.
The new Matthew Herbert album is the most recent in a long line of Spotify discoveries for review. And in that instance I was back checking out Herbert's Score, a wonderful collection of his soundtrack work (a must-have; trust me) and all the way back to his Around The House which I reviewed back when it was released; one of the first things I reviewed for the local rag in fact. I may well post later this week, or month, or later in the year about Matthew Herbert and the great range of music he offers under various aliases and it will be thanks, largely, to Spotify.
Record companies now use an essentially similar service for critics to preview/review albums. Spotify is easier to use, quicker, with bigger, better range. So it's a no-brainer from that point of view. My iPod, turntable, car stereo, CD player, walkman (no, really!) and computer are all tools of my trade. Along with the obvious sites for brushing up (Wiki, YouTube, Google) and a few other quick-search sites (Amazon, Pitchfork) Spotify is now a go-to for me; a crucial resource.
So that's why I'm there - that's why I use Spotify. Everything I listen to on the site is written about in some way or other; research for posts here, reviews over at Off The Tracks, Tweets, Facebook posts, columns, interview-prep and so on.
So I'm new to Spotify. And I kinda like it. It hasn't replaced my record collection - and I still buy albums (most weeks in fact). And it won't replace that.
But it is an addition to my various listening experiences; a new resource for me, a new component to the tool belt.
But do you use Spotify? And do you feel okay about using it? Has Thom Yorke given you food for thought? Or is he missing the point, fighting a hopeless battle and something of a hypocrite anyway?
Do you think artists are being ripped off by streaming sites like Spotify? And is that even an issue? In this day and age is it a hopeless - dated - dream to be expecting revenue for recordings? Is the real money in publishing and performing with the recording a mere business card?
What are your thoughts on Spotify? Are you for it or against it or blissfully unaware of it?
Do you have a moral dilemma with Spotify and the like? Or do you like not spending money on music?
You can also check out Off the Tracks for The Vinyl Countdown, reviews and other posts.