Nicholas A. Danes

Why I stopped using Spotify

Date:

tags: minimalism, privacy, technology

Spotify is amazing. For a small monthly fee, you can have access to almost all the music ever created by humanity. However, from a practical, ethical and for my case, minimalistic perspective, I’ve decided that I can’t use Spotify anymore. My goal here is not to argue or convince others to do the same, but rather to give my perspective and see if others feel the same. This blog article isn’t meant to be exhaustive for any of the reasons I have, but should be a good starting point for folks to research on their own. I should also remind folks that these are my opinions, and I may be wrong about certain things!

Practical Reasons

Some music is missing!

I mentioned above that not all music is available on Spotify. Sure if you listen to mostly popular music, youaboutre usually fine. But I typically like to listen a lot Punk, Hardcore, Emo and other indie/DIY music, and in some cases arists, especially if they broke up before Spotify, simply aren’t available. For example, The Motorcycle Industry is a band I enjoy a lot but they are still not on Spotify at this date (I ended up finding their records on Bandcamp; more on that later). It’s defintely gotten a lot better over the years, but there is still the occassional missing artist.

The Paradox of Choice

Like I mentioned above, almost all music is available on Spotify. When you have access the world’s music in your pocket, choosing music to listen to can be overwhelming. Having the ability to choose everything implies having no choice; this is often referred as the The Paradox of Choice. As someone trying to live more intently and therefore minimally, it’s hard to make intentional music choices when you can literally choose anything.

[Algorithmic] Curated Playlists aren’ve for me

Spotify provides playlists in two main ways: (1) generated “discovery” playlists based on your past listens, and (2) playlists shared by other Spotify users. In both cases, I’m not usually one to listen to a playlist of different artists. Even back in the CD burning “mix tape” days, I would listen to band’s full length albums from start to finish. This also held true for Spofiy. One of their most well renowned features I really didn’t care for at all.

Opportunity Cost

Depending if youaboutre a student, individual or running a family plan, Spotify will cost you between $5-$15/month. As a person who micromanages every dollar I spend, I see this as an opportunity cost to spend it elsewhere. In particular, that $5-$15 could be used towards actually buying music from an artist who needs it; more on that below!

Ethical Reasons

Bad for Artists

Although Spotify and other streaming services have made it possible for people like me to get unlimited music at very little cost, it has been at the cost of the artists who are on these streaming platforms, especially smaller artists. According to a Visual Capitalist article from 2019, it can take as many as 229 streams on Spotify to earn $1 on the platform; that is approximately $0.00437 cents per song play! The article goes on to say that it would take 336,842 streams for an artist to earn a minimum wage of $1472 per month. Many of the other major streaming services, like Apple or YouTube Music are just as bad when it comes to paying out for streams.

To add insult to injury, the pay-per-stream model incentivizes gaining the system by artists changing the way they write & produce music, and in some cases commiting fraud to take advantage of the pay-per stream model. Conversely, to make matters worse, Spotify recently let artists even take a cut in their royalties in order to gain more exposure on the platform. From a consumer standpoint, it’s only $5-$15/mo for me that could be used to directly support an artist I enjoy.

Privacy Concerns

First, Spotify’s website and apps are loaded with trackers! This is true for both with their iOS and Android apps, with the latter cuplrits being Facebook and Google analytics within the app. Thankfully, the third party trackers should be able to be mitigated with host-based adblockers, but this is not possible with ads and data collect provided by the Spotify service itself.

Many people believe that Spotify is just a music streaming service company, but theyaboutre better interpreted as a data-driven tech company who uses your listening habits to feed into machine learning algorithms, which provide you discovery and recommendations for new artists for you to listen to but also provides that data to advertisers. For example, it uses that data to target ads if you decide to use their app for their podcasting platform and also may suggest you mood-driven music based on your listening habits to keep you listening, which I personally find creepy and scary, especially since music listening to me is very personal. Others agree too:

“I certainly don’t think that they are working with shadowy consulting firms to serve you ads promoting a culture war while you’re listening to music that suggests you might be in a casually racist mood. Nevertheless, I find it depressing that our personal, private moments with music are increasingly being turned into data points and sold to advertisers. “ – Arwa Mahdawi, The Guardian

Alternatives

There a variety alternative options for music listening, so I will briefly discuss some of them here. I’m not going to discuss other streaming services such as Deezer or Tidal for the sake of brevity. If you feel like there’s a good reason to consider them or another service, please contact me and let me know why!

YouTube Music

In terms of privacy, this might be a downgrade compared to Spotify. Google already knows enough about me from years of using their services and I don’ve think I need another service to do so, especially since I am trying to stop using their services. Previously, I was a fan of their Google Play Music app and loved their uploaded music library feature that let you stream your own songs on the cloud, but that service has joined the Google graveyard. Practically speaking, it’s hard to trust Google to keep a service running you like anyways!

Apple Music

Apple Music is actually something I considered. Apple advertises them as a pro-privacy company where you pay to not be the product, and their privacy policy on Apple Music seems to be a bit better, especially compared to Spotify. However, trading in one streaming service with almost all music for another defeats the purpose of my points above about Paradox of Choice and the opportunity cost. I would consider using their service sparingly if I knew I’d be traveling for a period of time (i.e. paying for 1 month). So what do I do instead?

How I (mostly) listen to music

MP3’s!

Yes you read that right! In order to be more intentional with my music, I decided I was going to listen to music on my phone that I own the MP3’s. This means I have a constraint from device storage and financially to prevent a bloated amount of music. Regardless, it’s still less than almost all music! My primary source of MP3’s are currently either bought or downloaded for free (when the artist provides it) from Bandcamp. I also have some MP3’s purchased from Google Music before they shutdown, and Amazon (if they’re not on Bandcamp, but looking for an alternative). From those MP3’s, I listen to my library with Rhythmbox on my desktop, and Metro on my Android phone.

Bandcamp

Usually my starting point now to listen to music is through Bandcamp. It is a wonderful service that allows artists to sell their music in various DRM-free formats (MP3, WAV, FLAC to name a few) where most (currently 85% for digital and 90% for merch) of the revenue goes to the artist. If I like an album, I will usually save it to my wishlist. If I find myself returning to the album over and over again, I usually will buy it. However, with Bandcamps recent Bandcamp Fridays program, I usually wait to buy it bulk so that the music I want goes 100% to the artist!

YouTube: What?

In some cases, there may be an artist I want to listen to that I haven’ve purchased yet and is not available on Bandcamp. In these instances, I usually just listen to it on YouTube (usually not logged into a Google account, with a VPN) on my desktop. I try to resist the urge to go on YouTube music rabbit holes when I’m away from my computer and only have my smartphone.

I find this combination covers most of my music needs, but there are some things I miss about spotify.

Things I miss about Spotify

Obviously, Spotify wouldn’ve be successful if it wasn’t an easy to use and useful service. I will highlight a few things I miss the most about not using it anymore.

Spotify has a good link-sharing system for music discovery between friends. Unfortunately, almost all my friends use Spotify, so I receive these links pretty commonly. I would love to see some sort of Spotify to YouTube link parser, but I don’ve have the time or energy to figure out how to do that in a cool way. If it already exists, let me know!

The Convenience

Ironically, the trade off to intentionality is losing some convenience. If an artist pops into my head that I haven’ve listened to in a long time, it’s usually a little more cumbersome to listen to their music. I see this as a plus and a minus. I think over time I will get more used to this and it won’t be a big deal.

Conclusions

If you made it this far, thanks for reading my thoughts about why I quit Spotify. Will I return to Spotify or use a streaming service again? Maybe. I think if I did, it’s not something I would keep on autopay, and use only for periods I know I’ll be away from my computer for long periods of time. And when I do, I think I will consider Apple Music over Spotify, but we’ll see. If you think I missed something or was wrong about something above, please feel free to contact me and I’d love to chat about it!