I’m not instinctively a guilty person. You should know this. But ever since my upgrading to Spotify Premium I haven’t quite been the same.
For me, at least, it’s the musical equivalent of shopping at Primark; there’s fucking everything in every which way and in all directions, but sulking under your grand, colourful edifice of choice is a poor, convulsing, malnourished little child slowing trying to string together the hem of some revolting striped-shirt monstrosity.
Sure, I get to wear something different every day (perhaps for the rest of my life) but while I’m frolicking about in my new maroon jumper, which I’m definitely going to wear for years (I’m definitely not), I’m happily sitting on top of a mountain of sartorial injustice; content to ignore, or even enable, the less-than-shiny moral quirks that enable me to have that cheap maroon jumper, and yes, that revolting striped-shirt monstrosity (I have terrible fashion taste) all at a bargain price.
Not to diminish the plight of children labourers in sweatshops, I’d much rather be an out of work Western musician than an illiterate Bengali child forced into servitude through poverty, but there are parallels here. Here I am enjoying this abundance of choice; Spotify has over 20m songs and the vast majority of things people want to listen to, bar the notable exception of the new Adele record. Yet, I pay minimal for the pleasure.
I tell a lie; I pay nothing. Since upgrading to Spotify Premium a couple of months ago my free 3 months of listening hasn’t even ended, so I have yet to cough up a single penny. Meanwhile, my music buying habits (like, actual money over the counter or out of my bank account) has plummeted; the token, ritualistic purchase of a band’s music as a gesture of support? Gone. The occasional financial embrace, however small, of an artist on Bandcamp? Non-existent. How much music did I ask for/get/buy after Christmas? A bit fat fucking zero. It was books, books, books this year (obviously, Kindle has some way to go before fully wooing me and calling me their own).
What makes this worse is that I don’t buy vinyl – never have, never will. Shock horror, I know. Truth is I’m just too much of a lazy/stingy bastard to ever fully partake in the culture without it looking like a desperate dance of ‘cool’. Which in the wider ecology now makes me the equivalent of a tapeworm, clasping onto the lower intestine of the music world. Neither buying or producing, merely redirecting passing sonic nutrients for my own audiological whims.
Should I be less harsh on myself? Perhaps. My implicit endorsement of Spotify can’t realistically be compared to a truce with the Devil, even if it is partaking in the colossal devaluing of music, although this is a trait Spotify shares with almost every business actor in the digital age. The company isn’t even profitable. Yes, Spotify still receives investment, pays staff and runs an operation (last time I checked I can still get Biebs on tap), but it has yet to make any real money even though it’s revenues topped a whopping $1bn last year.
As of yet though, I haven’t fully reconciled my roles as a serial moaner about the music industry’s woes (as evidenced by this article here) and my tapeworm-ish tendencies to not pay a penny for the manpower that goes behind it.
Naturally, I’m writing all this whilst I actually listen to Spotify. C’est la vie.