As the guitarist of Chicago hard rock band The Last Vegas, Adam Arling decided to share his thoughts on music streaming service Spotify. It’s an interesting look from an artist’s perspective from someone that was initially skeptical of the service. The Last Vegas’ album, Bad Decisions, is out now on Frostbyte (and streaming on Spotify).
Spotify will change music consumption forever (I’d bet $20). There will be ups and downs, negative rants, cries of how it’s not right, artists are getting ripped off, it’s the death of recorded music, but the change in the playing field is as imminent as the setting sun.
Here’s how I came to meet Spotify
The Last Vegas (my band) released our latest album Bad Decisions this past August. As with every album release, you re-vamp the website, re-package your band’s web face to the world. Our manager was gung-ho on a Spotify link prominent on the band’s updated site. Being default webmaster, I’m thinking first off ‘all right, another new social media, here today-gone tomorrow service I have to waste time on. Man, wasn’t it easier before bands had websites?’ I didn’t know what this Spotify thing was.
I begrudgingly downloaded Spotify, talking shit the whole time to my roommate D’Jerk, a local Chicago R’n’R DJ, about the state of current music. Spotify installed: think of a any band or song, off the top of your head and within 10 seconds the band, and most likely a majority of band’s catalog, is instantly accessible. You can play full tracks. You don’t have to pay a dime (if you don’t mind listening to a Spotify commercial every 3-5 songs or so, which aren’t even that annoying). There’s just all this music right at your fingertips, most anything you’d want to hear from Pussy Galore to Soundgarden, for free (basically).I say: ‘D’Jerk, this is the ultimate slap-in-the-face to recording artists, and a big, rusty nail in the coffin to the music recording ‘business.’” He replies: “Really…is it?”
So, I continue through Spotify to selfishly inspect if our band is listed, and what type of filtering, info and pics they display in the bands’ bio – you know, what impression are people getting of our band. [It’s] always a trip when labeled the gamut from garage, glam, sleaze, punk, stadium, classic-rock, ‘80s to metal and you get micro-categorized on the ‘net. Yeah, there we are. Cool. The photo is from the latest album photo-shoot. That works, Spotify is up-to-date. Spotify has our new album Bad Decisions, along with previous semi-major label release Whatever Gets You Off. I’m surprised to see our first two indie label releases: Seal the Deal and Lick ‘Em and Leave ‘Em. How’d Spotify get these albums when it is hard for us to even order back-catalog copies directly from the label? Go figure. 4 albums total. Wow, that’s cool I guess. Word is getting out. Only a matter of time ‘til we’re huge online and viral-worthy.
I get over this latest dimming of our band’s financial prospects cause anyone with Spotify can now listen to our entire catalog instantly, legally, somehow. Used to be it was either torrents or some kind of regulated platform like internet radio. Now I’m just tearing through Spotify’s catalog like someone who hasn’t bought a physical CD in 4 years, except for friends’ bands (sorry). First, I check out all the bands’ albums that we get compared to while doing interviews the past few months that I haven’t heard. Bands like Rival Sons, The Treatment, Biters, The Answer. Some of these bands we’ve toured with or are friends with, but I have just never sat down and listened to their catalog. This fucking rules. I’m listening to full albums, creating playlists of my favorite tracks, discovering bands I never knew existed through the ‘Related Artists’ feature, like The Booze. I listen to the new KISS album (came out in Japan the same day as our own Bad Decisions), and Gene’s bass tone rips. I’m listening to the new Megadeth album produced by the same guy who produced our last album, just to hear the tones, and I love this record too.
First impression: as much as I want to hate the damn Spotify green circle, I’m thinking ‘Wow, I haven’t been this excited about music in a very, very long time.’ Then I start thinking that we live in a world that’s going (or already is) on-demand. The digital age has liberated us entertainment consumers from the shackles of scheduling. Why do I need to watch my favorite TV show at 8pm on a Sunday night when I can stream it the next day at 12 noon on my lunch break? We’re a plugged-in society that wants what it wants, when it wants it, and if it doesn’t get it immediately, it is pissed. If we don’t get our entertainment demands immediately, our attention shifts one step down the line to the next best-marketed package waving its flag.
So this is the true power of Spotify. OK, so you’re not going to take the time to buy a CD (either 10 clicks through Amazon or heading out to Best Buy or something). We in bands get it (some of us), sadly enough. Spotify is a platform that’s easier than navigating through torrent sites or Google to steal the album. Spotify’s like a no BS approach to the wild west world of digital entertainment items. It accepts the transparent delivery process from band to fan, and tries at least to give something back to the equation by accepting the fast-moving reality of how we’re all consuming entertainment these days. I have a feeling Spotify’s intention is to make their software easy on the eyes, easy to use, and fun to share. Too easy not to use.
Spotify Major Realization #1:
Two months later I’m still hooked. What I’ve genuinely discovered is how many truly great ‘new’ bands currently exist. Granted most of Spotify’s artists are label-affiliated bands and somewhat ‘official’, and not to say that these are the only bands worth listening to cause that sure as hell is definitely not true. But what I’ve found are a ton of modern artists creating amazing songs, tones, textures, bands that are just flat out cool that you’ll never hear on radio (who listens to radio anyways for new bands? This could be a whole other blog from the perspective of a modern hard rock band with a few radio campaigns behind them.)
It’s tough to discover a great new band nowadays swimming within the digital ocean unless you have some kind of map to points of interest along the way. Will Spotify be the new big platform for artist discovery? Will the increases in exposure for bands outweigh the financial loss of discovery via digital stream vs. album sale or ticket sale? Will Spotify help make up the gap by driving ticket sales?
Case in point, my new favorite band (feel like an ass even revealing it is due to Spotify) is Rival Sons. It’s everything cool about fuzzy guitar tones, garage, soul, rock, Zeppelin…perhaps a bit too close to the blade, but still undeniably cool as hell. I look at their tour dates, and it is all Europe, don’t even mess with the States. I’d really, really like to see them live and would pay good money and probably buy a shirt too. Without Spotify, I probably never would have become a fan, or at least Spotify shortened the gap. That’s a powerful app. It is a different world nowadays. People discover music in all kinds of new ways, shapes and forms. I do know it’s pretty awesome to fall in love with music again. Once Spotify catches on more, I really think people will realize the power of this beast (assuming Spotify’s funding remains strong), and it will revolutionize music listening and consumption. It’s just too easy not to.
So the question then becomes, is Spotify the end of album sales, and selfishly (from my perspective) the end to labels and financial supporters of independent music production? Doubt it. The flow of music to consumer will just continue to evolve from vinyl platter, to cassette tape, to CD, to mp3, to who knows what’s next, but one thing I know is that music will not disappear. Spotify probably falls into this progression somehow, maybe a little bit sideways but is definitely a vehicle of delivering your goods to your fans. And it’d be really cool if Spotify drove hard sales as well. We sell a lot of CDs at shows, and seems the past 2 years 90% of people who buy a CD want it autographed and I know damn well it’s not for our good looks (or mine at least). Fans want a piece of that show, a souvenir, a physical reminder of the band to take home and add to their own little creepy world. This is a good thing. Maybe CDs will stick around after all. Or go HD or something. Recorded music as a collector piece, or souvenir and not necessarily buying one to just check out a new band like we all used to take chances on at record stores.
Music used to be less accessible and had more of a mystical, romantic notion in the past, but that has forever changed and we’ll all evolve as music fans (first and foremost) to the new world entertainment order. It might not be as cool, but technology generally comes with a price. Spotify just turned my crushed-CD-case music collection into a living, breathing, active, easy-to-use library where I can feed my head with any type of mood-altering jams I desire, throughout the day. Metal mornings, ‘70s easy afternoons, country evenings, whatever. All from the comfort of one mouse-click away from the Facebook page on the screen, which rules the kids. Scary. And when I grow tired of the ads on Spotify, I’ll eventually break down and purchase the premium ad-free service for $10/month or something. And this keeps the musical wheel spinning from 2013 into the future…what a weird, but cool, trip. At the end of the day it’s still all about the music.