Pirates are jumping the shark over Spotify's new service
To read the output from tech blogs this morning, you'd think Spotify had strangled a bagful of kittens in public. Maybe they well have, or indeed are planning to do so, but that isn't what's caused a meltdown in today's coverage of the service.
In case you don't know, Spotify is a music player that lets you create and stream playlists from millions of tracks. There's a free service which limits usage and plays commercials; there's an Unlimited subscription for £5 per month that has no restrictions; and there's Spotify Premium for £10 per month that allows you to save playlists offline and sync your collection with your mobile.
Spotify has today announced that it's changing the restrictions on the free service; instead of being able to stream 20 hours of music a month, new users will only be able to do so for the first six months, after which they'll only be able to stream 10 hours a month. Also, new users signing up from May will only be able to stream an individual track five times.
To reiterate; Spotify isn't axing its free service. It still exists and will continue to do so. Spotify are restricting their free service, because it'd be a idiotic business plan that sees a company give away free music to everyone forever. Spotify pays music labels for every track streamed, and since the service is likely to launch in the US shortly, there's a good chance that the current model of usage won't scale as well.
Regardless, the point of the free service is to encourage subscriptions - you trial it, you discover the various feature sets, you like it and you subscribe. It's a business, after all, not some global initiative to ensure every man woman and child can listen to La Roux.
And yet, the first to comment on Spotify's blog dismissed any suggestion of change out-of-hand, and did so in the most ridiculous way:
Those are perhaps two of the most selfish, self-absorbed comments I've ever read on a blog. Justifying piracy as a valid alternative to paying £5 a month for an all-you-can-eat music service is nonsensical. People who want to pirate music will no doubt continue to do so, but the fact remains that the justification for doing so made sense when the music industry held a monopoly on pricing and platform. That simply doesn't exist now; there are dozens of digital start-ups are finding innovative ways to fund music distribution at minimal cost.
The sentiment has toppled the wrong way; pirates can't claim to be sticking it to The Music Man anymore when third party services now provide access to music for pennies. It isn't about liberating music or pleading poverty; it's lazy and spoilt, and you can't claim to value a product you are prepared to pay nothing whatsoever for, no matter how low the price goes.
As the founder of Instapaper, Marco Arment said: "People will pay for something they like because they want to ensure its future." And as another commenter posted on the subject: "Saying piracy is free isn't a good answer."