Welcome to Spotify, America!

Finally – America has Spotify! It’s time to see whether streaming music really can be a viable online model for the music industry and musicians.

It’s also time to admit that Spotify (its search engine and the metadata it has to work with) is massively flawed. It can often seem like a confusing, unnavigable mess. Label search in particular, which should be great, so often isn’t. Fortunately for new music fans like yourselves, there’s Radio Rambler to help you through the maze. Celebrate the arrival of US Spotify by subscribing now to Radio Rambler for semi-regularly updated playlists of the best contemporary composition the celestial jukebox has to offer.

The current playlist looks like this, but I’ll be updating it soon – stay tuned:

Aldo ClementiOuverture
Toru Takemitsu – Ran – Opening Credits / Main Title
Georges Aperghis – Machinations – I
Fausto Romitelli – Flowing Down Too Slow
Aldo Clementi – Fantasia su roBErto FABbriCiAni
Iannis Xenakis – Tetras (JACK Quartet)
Milton Babbitt – Whirled Series
Elliott Carter – Dialogues
James Clarke – Untitled No.3
Graham Fitkin – Log
Salvatore Sciarrino – Let me die before I wake
Jonathan Cole – tss-k-haa
Brian Ferneyhough – Bone Alphabet
Gérard Pesson – La lumiere n’a pas de bras pour nous porter
Kevin Volans – Kneeling Dance
Robin Holloway – Third Concerto for Orchestra
Simon Holt – eco-pavan
Pascal Dusapin – Clam (Solo no.4 for orchestra)
Michel van der Aa – here (to be found)
Toru Takemitsu – Requiem

And don’t forget the International Women’s Day playlist that I put together in March – that’s still available here.

There’s also an archive playlist of all tracks that have previously featured on RR.


12 thoughts on “Welcome to Spotify, America!

  1. That was going to be one of my questions – whether the full panoply of classical labels that seem to be available on the UK Spotify would also be available here. Since they had to get permission to operate on a conglomerate-by-conglomerate basis I’m not surprised that’s not quite the case (yet?).

    I’ve submitted my email and am waiting patiently for the free version to become available so I can assuage my reflexive skepticism…!

    1. According to the SpotifyClassical site above, something like only 2/3rds of what we currently get in Europe is available in the US so far. That might be either due to a lag in updating server information, or it might be labels dragging their feet (I’ve seen comments on FB, for example, of people having trouble finding much from certain major labels, for example).

  2. The answer to your question (whether spotify can prove music to be a viable online model) is, I’m afraid, a resounding NO.

    I’m sure you’ve seen this diagram before, but it’s worth re-posting, as it’s great:

    You, too, can become wealthy by selling your music online. You, too, can earn the US minimum wage by simply having your tracks streamed a mere 4,053,110 times per month on Spotify.

    I think anyone who thinks they will make a living by selling their music online needs their head examined (or possibly they could go live in a small African country where the cost of living is extremely low!). The whole point about music and the internet is that you’re (increasingly) never going to be paid for your recordings, sheet music, etc etc (this touches on your post of the other day to which all the poor old publishers replied). The future of muisc is live music and merchandise – and the more popular side of the music industry has realised this. Classical, I’m afraid, has a problem in that classical musicians expect to be very well paid for doing very few gigs in very expensive concert halls on very expensive instruments, and that large numbers of such musicians and instruments are required for much of the repertoire. I was staggered, for example, to read that the Chapter-11-filing Philly orchestra starts – starts! – their players on 70k a year.

    Depressingly, unless classical music looks a bit more realistically at the world – and we start doing more gigs, not just in the big cities but all over the place – then it’s going to be finished off pretty soon, at least as a “profession”.

    When was the last time a string quartet did 300 gigs a year out of the back of a transit van, selling cool t-shirts and uploading dozens of tracks to Last.fm, myspace, spotify, soundcloud, etc to try and build a fan base?

    1. Agreed that live is where the money for a lot of musicians. (But for contemporary classical, with audiences <100 per gig, even in London? Dunno.) But I've seen that diagram and written about it before (linked in the post above, and here. As I said then, I think the situation with Spotify and sites like it will change once the US market opens up; and if demand increases to a great enough extent, and the model beds down enough to satisfy Spotify’s investors, then artists and labels might be able to negotiate better rates of compensation in the future. And I don’t think the existence of Spotify is losing anyone any sales – it may even be driving down illegal downloading; and without it there’s no path forward at all for making money from music online.

      So it’s not the solution yet (and will only ever be part of the solution), but much better with it or something like it than without.

      1. Well, that (in your first brackets!) is precisely my point really – how many contemporary classical groups would be willing to play in pub back rooms up and down the country, night after night, to audiences of <10 let alone <100? You can't do the odd gig in a church here and a concert hall there and expect to make a living from it, obviously. You just have to put in the graft and eventually develop an audience which, if you're lucky, you'll be able to sustain a modest living from.
        And for non-performing composers, well, they have to do something else, such as teaching (which is counterproductive imho), writing commercially as well as "artistically", and embrace the fact that they will never make a living from writing "contemporary classical" music per se and just get on with enjoying writing.
        As for Spotify … opening it up the US might allow you to get your 4m plays a month a bit faster but I doubt it makes much difference 😉 If however it enables you to grow a US audience and potentially gig there then that's a whole different prospect.
        BTW the idea that better rates might be negotiated in future is I think very unrealistic. The simple fact of there being an increasing number of artists available will be enough to keep rates down – supply and demand. The trend is for rates to go down and down to the infinitesimal offered by Spotify – look at that diagram, the increase in size of the circles correlates to the recency of the distribution channel. I'd bet that if you added something more recent, e.g. the royalties you can get from a CloudDrive, the circle would be even bigger.

  3. Interesting list, Tim. Time for me to open Spotify (which I did just once a couple of weeks ago, got frustrated and never opened it again) and give your list a whirl.

    And thanks for putting Takemitsu’s RAN on there. Aren’t you afraid of being strung up for putting film music in the list? 😉

  4. I was so excited for Spotify at first, specifically as an educational tool where I could share playlists with my students…but with only 5 free “plays” per track, it just feels silly… there are so many excellent points here in the post and comments.

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