Spotify: The Future of Music Commerce?

I’ve heard about Spotify for years now.  Mainly that it was this “celestial jukebox with every song and album you could ever want,” which is somewhat true, and that it “wasn’t available in the US,” which was totally true.  That is, until now.

This whole thing is pretty brainless to use – basically it’s your iTunes plus millions of other tracks, all at your disposal, and for free (but currently invite-only – Klout.Com might be able to help you out.)  Connect it to Facebook and share tracks and albums with your friends.  It’s ad-supported, but you can pay up to 10 bucks a month to get rid of that, and with offline synching and mobile features.  Which seems reasonable.  I mean, we already pay upwards of 18 bucks a month for every movie and most TV shows via Netflix, why not for every song ever?

While browsing the Spotify website, learning about the product and all its features, I stumbled upon what the media outlets have said about the product.  There was the usual: “Spotify is revolutionary” and “it will change the way you listen to music” and all that jazz.  But the one that got me thinking was a comment from Stuff.TV – “the only jukebox that might make you give up music ownership for good.”

This is one of the things I think, initially, people might be reticent about in regards to Spotify.  With an entire library of music with you at all times, synched to your mobile device, that you can listen to however you want, with no restrictions, what’s the point of the iTunes store? Of downloading torrents? Digitally speaking, why would you pay for another individual track ever again?  Why would you ever open iTunes again?  I mean, you can do pretty much everything you do there with the Spotify application – make playlists, put them on your iPod or phone, take your music everywhere you go.  Some, including myself, might be hesitant to completely convert to the Spotify lifestyle – to having everything, yet none of it is yours.

The Village Voice recently wrote about Spotify and how it might affect popular music in the next decade.  It’s a great article that goes in depth about the past decades and what chart-topping tracks began the trend for that particular decade, and how we’re due for another track to turn the tides.  With Spotify added to charting stats in the future, what people stream vs. what they download could produce that track.  But will people eventually STOP downloading altogether?  Ownership purists like me enjoy having an organized iTunes library, filled with mp3s we have on our hard drives, that we can call our own, similar to the traditional ownership of vinyl, cassettes, and CDs.  But will future generations, immersed in the “Spotify culture” or whatever, see the point?  Why waste hard drive space when it’s all there to stream whenever you want it, however you want it, as many times as you want it?

Certainly Spotify could curb pirating, but I could also foresee it putting the iTunes store, as well as Zune and others, out of business, though I can’t imagine that happening anytime soon, and it hasn’t happened in other countries that have had Spotify for years.  But Spotify has certainly started the wheels turning for the music business and the consumer alike.  There has never been a product like this, and now that it’s finally in the US, I think we might start seeing it slowly making its mark on our musical lifestyles, the same way Napster and iTunes did not too long ago.

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