Headbangers’ Brawl is a weekly column where Metal Insider’s Bram and Zach take a moment to debate and analyze two opposing sides of a topical issue occurring in the world of metal and/or the music industry.
As you all know, it’s been six months since Spotify made its debut in the U.S. And that means that a lot of new restrictions on the services’ free users will be implemented on the first batch of subscribers this Saturday, January 14. This essentially gives effected users three options:
1. Upgrade to the $5 premium account for unlimited usage (or $10 for mobile access)
2. Stick it out with the free account and get limited to 10 listening hours per month and a cap of 5 plays per track.
3. Or (and this is Spotify’s worst fear) give up on the service all together.
Well, both Bram and Zach were one of the few lucky ones who got a free trial with the $10 account. And soon their trials will be coming to an end. So with that in mind, the two discuss whether or not they’ll be paying for the service that’s been causing quite a buzz this year in this week’s Headbangers’ Brawl.
Bram: In six months, Spotify has become the de facto way to listen to music. I haven’t looked into it, but I’m pretty sure Spotify got their business model from drug dealers. The “first one’s free” method has probably gotten quite a few people hooked on crack, and at its best, Spotify is pure audio crack. That being said, I’m not quite ready to give no-look handies behind a 7-11 to fuel my music addiction quite yet.
Spotify’s ease of use and vast library is impressive. There are some absences, like the handful of label holding out, some bands that don’t put their music on the service (Tool, Zeppelin) and some diva holdouts that aren’t putting their current albums on, like the Black Keys and Coldplay. But you can’t see the American version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo on Netflix yet, and plenty of people are still subscribed. There’s definitely a parallel to cable. A lot of people decided that paying for TV was ridiculous, but for choice, you can’t beat cable. For the price of a CD, you can listen to whatever you want. I think that it’s worth it personally.
Zach: Sure, our first taste of Spotify gave us a great high. But just like crack, we can get our fix from multiple sources (and not just from a guy behind the 7-11 with no eye contact). Actually, let me rephrase that: Spotify isn’t the only way we can access music through mobile devices. For instance, Spotify was being used on my Android nonstop since it launched. Now, though, I’ve been using Google Music a lot more often. Yes, I know that one thing Spotify still has over cloud services is the access to NEW music. It still serves as a great new way to discover music. But do I need that type of tool on my phone? Furthermore, do I need to pay $10 a month for it while Google Music or even Amazon Cloud allows me to access my own music (which at the very least has more titles from Metal Blade or Century Media than Spotify does) for free?
So chances are I won’t be paying for the $10 account (yet). Maybe the free account, even with its limitations and advertising (let’s not forget why giving the free accounts away is valuable), will be enough for me. And if not, then I’ll be the first to jump for the $5 account.
B: I think that asking a reasonable fee to access millions of songs is perfectly reasonable. I’ve been having a blast with Spotify, not just listening to music I own, but cheesy music that I would never own but haven’t heard in years. Do I want to search for that music and buy it on iTunes, or even illegally download (shhh!) a song just to listen to it once? Absolutely not. That being said, I’m not sure if I’m going to pay either. I think it’s going to come down to how restricted I feel with the free version. Tethered to a computer all day will give me a lot of opportunity to find out. I like the interface, both on a desktop and mobile. I think it might get to the point where I’ll pay $10/month, but that’s dependent on Spotify. The concern I have is that it hits a wall, much like Netflix did when it got super popular. Suddenly, the movie studios and cable channels realized that everyone was using Netflix and pulled their offerings while renegotiating fees. That’s already happened with some metal labels, but if even one of the label groups pulled out, there would be millions of less songs available instantly.
Z: See, you hit the nail on the head. But if I can access those same guilty pleasure songs easily enough with the free account, then why pay even $5? Granted, chances are I’ll get annoyed as hell with limitations and nonstop ads, but right now my biggest concern is what you just mentioned: the pull outs. Call me cheap, but if I’m going to pay for a service (even $5 a month) then I’m going to want the most bang for my buck. Spotify has lots of music, but still lacks a good chunk. You may call them divas, but Coldplay and The Black Keys (let alone the metal labels)are adding fuel to a trend that seems to be going on for too long now.
B: I think the service might ultimately go through some growing pains, as I said. But even now, I think it’s probably worth a measly $5 amonth to listen, even with those limited holdouts. I’d imagine it will get better in time as far as label involvement. If it doesn’t, then it’ll be time to re-evaluate. They definitely did a great job of getting the word out about their launch, if nothing else.