Most students I know will endlessly praise Spotify. Not only does it offer the best value student deals for music by allowing you to access their premium account at just £5 a month but it also brings a sense of individuality and expression. Students are able to easily collect their own music and introduce others to songs that they may never have listened to.
There is also no doubt that Spotify premium is fantastic. To be able to download whatever music you desire onto your phone or tablet and have immediate access to all your favourite music is a feature that only iTunes can perhaps rival. It also helps to liven up a boring pre-drinks and bring you and your mates closer together before the drunken bus ride down to Kuda.
However, Spotify has now decided that it will limit the amount of music available to free users and will make some material exclusive to those with premium accounts. Although personally this will not have a significant impact on my own life, and the incredibly cheap student rates that Spotify provides will probably mean that this does not have a huge influence on students in general, the consequences that this has on music in general seems to be a greater effect.
By treating music in a more corporate manner it seems that music will become increasingly exclusive, and there will become a greater divide between music genres and what they become associated with.
Presumably the music which is most heavily demanded (pop music) will be what listeners will have to pay for. This by no means is going to bring about an economic divide or some kind of class system to music (if there is not one in place already) but it will take something away from the artist flare of music.
Already Spotify has been subject to criticism. Jay Z criticised Spotify alongside iTunes and YouTube for destroying the quality of music we listen to, introducing his own music streaming site Tidal in 2014. The artist has also removed some of his most famous albums from Spotify making them only available to those who are willing to pay for them.
Similarly, Jay Z’s spouse Beyonce has refused to have her most recent album Lemonade included on Spotify. Of course Mr and Mrs Z are not the only people to protest against Spotify. Fellow superstar Taylor Swift too has chosen to make her music exclusive.
Of course musicians need to be paid and it is unfair to expect them to give away their services for free; we do not expect this from any other industry. However, having their music on free services such as Spotify enables more people to enjoy music. Joining free music services is also not something an artist has to do exclusively. Artists can still generate money through album sales and by performing gigs and touring.
2017 has already seen music have an economic focus. Ed Sheeran’s album “÷” was not only released as an album but also every song was released as a single too in an attempt to monopolise the charts. Credit where credit’s due, “÷” has done exactly that and continues to dominate the top 10s of global music charts. However, is this what music is about?
Perhaps there is a silver lining. This year’s Grammy Awards witnessed the victory of independent artist Chance the Rapper. Chance’s music has originally always been released free of charge in the form of mixtapes on sites such as “DatPiff” in order to provide free access to music and the artist only chose to sell his most recent album “Colouring Book” in order to be considered for the Grammy awards. He chose not to sign with a record label and to deal with the corporate side of music himself in order to continue to make his music as available as he can to his fans and to set an example to aspiring rappers to show that they should not be limited in what they choose to do with their music.
Personally, I view music as a form of social commentary, a way to show what is the reality of people’s lives. This does not mean that every piece of music should have a statement, but music is there to bring us enjoyment and to gain a greater understanding of things. For companies such as Spotify to bring an element of elitism, and make music less available to its audience, seems to only create an even larger divide between pop music and other genres. Music has been moving towards a more accessible world with the introduction of technology. To limit the amount of music available to those who perhaps are unable to afford it seems like a backwards move.