To the tune of a small monthly fee
SPOTIFY, THE new music-streaming service that has been making Europeans go gaga for the last few years but only just arrived on US shores, has done something that wasn’t supposed to be possible anymore: It has convinced me, a relatively tech-savvy twentysomething, that it’s OK to pay for music.
You don’t need to much tech expertise to utilize websites that offer free music, and as a result, many people in their teens and twenties think that paying for music makes about as much sense as paying for oxygen. If Spotify is any indication, record labels are finally adapting to this situation - to music fans’ benefit and their own.
How is Spotify different? Imagine your MP3-playing program of choice, but with access to 15 million songs, all of them legally available via agreements with both mainstream and independent labels. Playback is so quick that you would swear the song was from a locally stored MP3 rather than a file streaming from the cloud.
This is all free if you can nab an invite, although you do have to listen to the occasional ad, and down the road Spotify will cap how much music free subscribers can listen to in a month.
But it’s the premium version of Spotify that could change people’s minds about paying for music (Spotify gave me a free month to put it through the paces). For $10 a month, listeners get ad-free access to all 15 million songs, and can listen to them on a computer or smartphone. They can also take up to 3,000 songs offline (handy for my frequent Red Line trips).
For about 30 cents a day, I can listen to just about anything I want, anywhere I want. So I’m going to pay for it, and my fellow music-loving Internet denizens should do the same. Let’s be honest: We’ve had a pretty good run of free music, but there just isn’t much justification for the idea that we should get everything gratis. Spotify represents a grand bargain of sorts. The major labels seem to have come to their senses, realizing they needed to offer a compelling reason for consumers to pay something, even at a mega-discount.
But it might not last. “Spotify hasn’t done enough in [the labels’] eyes to reduce piracy and to drive premium sales,’’ Mark Mulligan, a UK-based music analyst, said in an e-mail. “There is a concern among some label execs that Spotify perpetuates the perception that music should be free, that rather than fighting the contagion of free it legitimizes it.’’
Still, Spotify doesn’t let you own any of the music it offers. You need to be logged into Spotify - no subscription, no listening. So I’m renting my music, not buying it, albeit in a way that gives me unlimited access for as long as I’m a subscriber.
I’ll take it, for now. The music is calling.