Here is my New Year’s Resolution: I will no longer use Spotify. I have uninstalled the software from my computer and my phone and I’m about to tell you why.
Of course, we live in modern times. Never before has there been such free traffic of information, and by and large I think that’s a wonderful development. Nevertheless, there are downsides to the age of technology: use of social media has been linked to mental health problems (source), online shopping makes small-scale bookshops, my favorite places in the world, obsolete, and there’s an ever-growing privacy concern around technology. Watch some Black Mirror and see what I mean.
But there’s something else that really bugs me. With information becoming available globally for free, it has become devalued. Why would I buy a book if I can download a free epub? Why would I buy a CD when Spotify is right there in my hand? Why would I go hang out at a friend’s house if WhatsApp is so much quicker?
Of course, technology is convenient. It also leads us to believe that we are not responsible for our individual actions. Cyberbullying is a lot easier to do than putting someone down face-to-face, simply because it’s more anonymous. Similarly, you probably wouldn’t steal a book or CD from a shop where a shopkeeper was keeping an eye on you behind the counter, but you have no problem downloading the same content illegally.
I’m here to argue that you should have a problem with it. Now, I’m not telling you to travel back in time. I love CD’s, I love their glistening covers and the booklets full of lyrics and the whirring sound they make when the disc starts spinning, but I understand if you find CDs outdated and inconvenient.
But please consider the following: an artist receives one dollar per album sold on hardcopy through their label. When you listen to an album through a (legal) streaming service like Spotify, the artist makes 0,00029 dollarcent. That means that in order to make an American living wage (5 euros and 36 cents an hour, what the actual fuck??) an artist needs to be listened to on Spotify 4,5 million times a month (source.) Obviously, illegal downloads earn the artist nothing. Of course, artists can supplement their income by doing live shows and selling merchandise, but my guess is you don’t want those things to be crazy expensive, either. Furthermore, the pressure to tour keeps these artists from having families. Additionally, life on the road can be a huge drain on an artist’s mental health. Artist’s don’t just exist to entertain you. They are also people with personal lives and needs.
Do you want to live in a world where the only music available is the music 4,5 million people listen to? Because that’s the ultimate consequence of using Spotify: our choices in music will become less and less diverse. “There is no such thing as a free lunch.” Please be aware that if you’re getting something cheaply (through Spotify) or getting it for free, that means somebody else somewhere is paying the price. That person might be Beyonce, and I can already hear you argue that she can afford it. I don’t disagree. But it might also be Jens Lekman, and I am more than willing to put in a little cash to save his career.
Illegal downloading and legal streaming services such as Spotify have another downside: local businesses get in trouble because no one buys CD’s anymore. There’s Spotify users that use the service to browse, then go out and buy CD’s anyway. I just happen to think there’s a lot more people out there who don’t do that. I don’t do that. But I will stop using Spotify and start buying CD’s this year. I promise you that.