I was very interested to read the recent Guardian coverage of the music streaming service Spotify, especially having been part of the beta programme and written about Spotify quite a while ago and a couple of times since.
My initial impressions were very positive. I liked the clean interface and the incredibly quick response times. But on using the service more, I started to notice that there seemed to be issues with the sound quality, and whereas I recanted to an extent, it does seem that others have picked up on this. And then there’s the adverts, which I do feel intrude on the music. I’ve been told this is why the service is free, but Last.FM and Musicovery are free and they don’t interrupt your listening pleasure with ads, that I’m aware.
But the real problem with Spotify seems to have been its licensing situation. It would appear that overnight, thousands of titles were recently removed on orders from the publishers. It’s even been noted that a lot of Radiohead is missing, which I find very peculiar considering they’ve been quite literally giving their music away.
So, the service is launched, then radically changed. Sounds horribly familiar to me. Isn’t this what happened with Pandora, which was my previous service of choice? Lovely interface, nice algorithm, then suddenly the plug is pulled for anyone outside the US. And only this week we have Facebook attempting to hold the rights to users’ content – forever – then deciding it needs to think about it some more, in a manner reminiscent of its recanting of the Beacon advertising system.
What is going on? Exactly how thoroughly have these services really thought about their business models before going to market? I would like to think Facebook in particular would have thought long and hard about the legal complexities of what they want to achieve. At the very least they should know that the very networks they enable have collective voices powerful enough to give them real problems. But it seems Pandora and Spotify have also gone like a bull at a gate to get their services online, then suddenly realised they haven’t quite thought it through.
Is it the mentality of the ‘permanent beta’, the idea that software is in constant development when delivered over the web? If so, it’s a powerful way to deliver software, but I’m not sure it’s such a good way to run a business.