The Ethics of Spotify

Thoughts on Spotify and supporting the arts and artists

I used to be up on technology. I loved it. I knew all the shortcuts and all the secrets. Those Tuesdays when Steve Jobs would give his keynote presentations and announce new products, new software, and new models were simply exciting.

To put it as bluntly as possible, these days I don’t care.

I’ve been an Apple guy since 1993—still am. But there’s little excitement anymore. Maybe it’s because I prefer working with my hands over working with a computer. Maybe it’s because Steve is gone. I always said that when Steve was gone, Apple’s brilliance would slowly fade. They seemed to be maintaining and that’s about it. As for Samsung and Microsoft, they’ve simply copied Apple to a large degree—Samsung with success, Microsoft without. Despite their success, I have little respect for Samsung. Have you heard much about their watch? I haven’t, and I’m guessing it’s because they didn’t have a successful model to copy. (Or maybe it’s just a bad concept from the start.) And Microsoft has a bad habit of taking a fad technology and making it the focus of their product rather than making something amazing, innovative, and easy to use. This time around it’s touch and tiles. The results are shockingly lackluster.

But I’m boring myself. I don’t argue with people about Apple anymore. You can leave your hate comment below. I won’t reply. I’m not an Apple evangelist. For starters, it’s as useless as trying to convince a Democrat to become a Republican and vice versa. They’ve chosen their horse and they’re not switching. And once again I just don’t care. Apple? Microsoft? They both do the same thing in the end. If you like the way Microsoft does it, if you like their price better, if you use them because you feel Apple is corrupt—fine. I really, really don’t care and I have no desire to change your mind.

All that to say, I finally downloaded Spotify a few weeks ago. Yes, Spotify has been around for a while, but I had my way of listening to music and that was that. However my brother-in-law talked it up, so I decided to give it a try. It’s pretty great. The commercials I need to sit through as a non-subscribers don’t bother me at all. I can handle a few ads for the opportunity of listening to pretty much anything I desire. I’ve especially enjoyed finding music from my high school and college years. During college I got into country music. (This was back when Garth Brooks was king.) It’s been fun looking up old favorites like John Anderson, Suzy Bogguss and Restless Heart.

These days I don’t have music purchases in my budget. They haven’t made an appearance in the budget for quite a few years. One of my favorite artists today is Mark Knopfler, and I was excited at the thought that I could now listen to his latest release from start to finish as many times as I wished. I did a search for “Privateering” and there it was in front of me, all ready to go. But I didn’t hit play. In fact I have yet to hear a note of the album.

Oh, I’ve played many other albums from my favorites. I found a few live Jackson Browne albums and listened to them over and over. These are albums I would never have purchased—and that’s the difference. I have no problem listening—for free—to an album I know I will never buy. However when I have some additional income to spare, I know I will purchase “Privateering” by Mark Knopfler—that is unless I first listen to it over and over for free via Spotify.

This is not an issue of legality. It is not illegal to use Spotify. And while it’s true the artist gets payed by Spotify, don’t be fooled—the amount going to the average musician is paltry. As an artist who is trying to sell my creations to other people, the thought of not paying for an album because I was given free access to it makes me sad. I don’t believe in Karma, but I do believe in “do unto others.”

I encourage those of us who make a living in the arts and claim to support the arts to be conscious about how we are utilizing the art we cherish. Support the artist you love. And if you are unable to support financially, consider holding off on enjoying that art until you are able to support it, or that support will likely never be given.

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