Spotify is the world’s most popular music streaming service by some distance. With a catalog of 30 million songs, it offers just about every track you could ever wish to listen to (unless you’re a Taylor Swift fan!).
Surely it’s worth a few dollars per month to have access to all that content? After all, it’s a thousand times better than listening to music on YouTube or pirating music off torrent sites.
This is true, but if you dig a little deeper, there are some strong arguments for giving the music streaming service a wide berth.
In this article, we’re going to highlight some of the negative aspects of using Spotify. Some of you will agree with these points, while others will vehemently disagree. Either way, we invite you to let us know what you think in the comments at the end of the article.
1. You Won’t Own Any Music
You don’t own any of the music you listen to on Spotify. All of those carefully crafted playlists, the albums you discovered through a friend’s recommendation, and the hot new tracks on the Billboard 100 – none of it is yours. You have merely been granted a license to use it.
Spotify is by no means the only company that this situation applies to. Other subscription-based services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Apple Music are operating an identical model.
I’m well aware that a lot of you will be shrugging your shoulders — why does ownership even matter in this day and age? Many of us (myself included) were raised in an era where every conceivable CD, movie, TV show, or book could be found, pirated, and consumed within a matter of minutes.
Aside from the fact that hundreds of CDs or vinyl LPs on a shelf look really cool, there is still one major thing to consider:
2. Spotify Will Go Away One Day
It’s inevitable. Spotify’s most recent financial results showed revenues increasing to more than €2 billion, but it still made a net loss of €173 million. In fact, it’s never made a profit since it launched publically in 2008. That’s clearly not sustainable over the long haul.
Closely tied to those losses is Spotify’s relationship with the music industry — and specifically, with the record labels. You don’t own any of the songs on the platform, but neither does Spotify. As a result, it paid out an eye-watering €1.63 billion in royalty and distribution fees in 2015. The more users it has, the more that figure increases. And because it doesn’t own anything, the music industry can pull the plug on a whim.
The worst part? You haven’t got a hope of recalling and remembering all of your saved tracks and playlists to start afresh on a new platform.
3. You May Become Trapped in Spotify’s Ecosystem
Spotify could ease this concern by offering a way to download text files of your playlists that could then be easily imported into other services — but it doesn’t. The company’s reasoning is obvious: it doesn’t want to make it easy for you to jump ship to one of its competitors. However, from a consumer standpoint, this is a disaster.
Taking this a step further, what happens when Spotify ups its prices to the point you can no longer justify paying? The relationship we have with music is fundamentally different from the relationship we have with TV and movies.
With the exception of a few classics, we’ll watch visual content once and move on. If Netflix hikes its prices too much for your taste, you can cancel your subscription and get your fix elsewhere — nothing is really lost.
With music, we’re more likely to listen to our favorite tracks and playlists over and over until our ears bleed. We have a far more personal relationship with it. If Spotify becomes too expensive and you have to cancel your subscription, that bond is lost.
It’s the perfect bait-and-switch. How much would you pay not to lose your music? How much is that connection worth to you? $20 per month? $30? $40?
Ultimately, once you buy into the Spotify ecosystem, you’re trapped. You’ll spend years making playlists, discovering new artists, and refining your music collection, but it’s an illusion — a house of cards. Because you might wake up one morning to find it’s all gone.
4. Beware Those Bugs, Errors, and Flaws
Long-time users of the service will be all too aware of Spotify’s love of stripping out awesome features. This practice is really annoying, and the service arguably gets a little bit worse every time as a result of these changes.
While Spotify keeps making changes we don’t appreciate, the company avoids fixing the errors, bugs, and flaws within Spotify. Some of these are so severe they can render your whole library inaccessible without warning.
At the most extreme end of the scale is a total service-wide outage. They’re more common that you might think — there have been two in the last couple of months alone.
We’re aware of some issues right now and are checking them out! We’ll keep you posted.
— Spotify Status (@SpotifyStatus) October 21, 2016
But what about other simple usability issues? For example, you can only sync 3,333 songs for offline listening. Why? Yes, it’s a lot of music, but it seems like an utterly unnecessary restriction.
Similarly, there is a 10,000 song total limit — you cannot add more than that number of songs to your library. If you’re a power user, or someone who likes to discover and save new albums regularly, you’ll be hitting that barrier sooner than you think.
5. There Are Limitations You May Not Appreciate
Perhaps worst of all, you can only download songs for offline use on three devices. This means that if you have a laptop, smartphone, and tablet, you have hit your limit. And any other device will have to be music-less when you’re away from an internet connection. A quick search through the forums reveals countless users who have had their music deleted by Spotify accidentally because the app incorrectly thought it was downloaded on more than three devices.
And if you don’t go online once every 30 days? Poof, you’re offline collection of music is automatically wiped. This is hugely frustrating if you make an innocent mistake like leaving your device in offline mode. Oh, and if you want to load up a device for a trek through the Andes, or to island-hop around South East Asia? Forget it.
In a nutshell, Spotify holds all the cards, so you’re forced to either adapt your listening preferences to fit in with the company’s quirky terms and conditions, or you’re on your own.
6. You’ll Be Working for the Record Labels
Yes, Spotify is offering more and more ways to find more content; features like Discover Weekly, Daily Mix, and Release Radar are welcome additions. But secretly, there is a trade-off at play.
The record labels are already unimpressed with Spotify. At the very least, they want you to be using the service to listen to Bieber, Madonna, or Coldplay — the big-hitting, mainstream artists. Their worst nightmare is for you to discover “Davey P and the Entertainers”: the new and hip local rock band who distribute their music on a start-up record label.
Spotify knows this, and for all of its “innovative” new offerings, you can bet your bottom dollar that its highly secretive algorithms are all slowly funneling us all towards broadly similar artists, or at the very least, towards “unknown” artists on the big record labels.
The realization of this situation goes a long way to explaining why it’s been so keen to permanently remove so many of the great social features, despite the public outcry.
Try getting back to the way music discovery used to be — visit an independent record store, speak to the owner, have a cup of coffee with other shoppers, and learn more about the genres you’re interested in. You might be surprised at what hidden gems you unearth.
Do You Agree With This Article?
Have we convinced you to flick the Spotify off switch forever? If not, we hope we have at least opened your eyes to some of the negative things about the service.
Despite my personal protestations, I still firmly believe that Spotify has a great deal of potential. I actually subscribe to it myself — but crucially, I’ve assessed the offering thoroughly so that I’m aware of what I’ve let myself in for. And we recommend you do the same.
At the very least, if you have subscribed to Spotify with the attitude of, “It’s my music, it will always be my music, and I can do what I want with it!”, you might be in for a major shock down the line.
Do you agree with this article? Does the question of ownership affect your feelings about Spotify? Or do you still think Spotify is the best thing since sliced bread despite its downsides? Please let us know what you think in the comments below!