From FYSE 1396: Digital Media Literacy
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Swedish developers first created Spotify in 2006 and launched it two years later. When the service first launched, developers simulated a controlled growth to slowly expand the software. Until 2013, Spotify was an "invite-only" application where people had to receive an invitation from someone who had an account. Now, the service is available to anyone with access to the Spotify site.[1] The service offers unlimited free (with occasional ads) streaming to members in the United States, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and New Zealand. It hopes to continue to expand into other markets[2]. It also offers premium membership for $10 per month. The most significant features on the premium membership include offline streaming and access on mobile devices[3].


The application itself is a software that allows users to stream music from a vast collection of labels. The free version of Spotify consists of unlimited computer access to any music on the service (with the interruption of ads), the Unlimited version takes away the ads, and the Premium version then allows users to access music from any device, whether it be mobile or a desktop.[4] The main purpose of the creation of Spotify was to create a digital, social platform for music listeners. The service allows users to "sign-in" through Facebook or by creating a personal username, follow their friends, share what they are listening to through "Spotify, Facebook, Twitter, your blog and via email", see what others listen to, share playlists, discover new music based on taste, etc.[5] In this respect, Spotify is both a medium for music streaming and for social interactions.

Spotify increases the levels of interactivity and synchronicity when compared to other and previous means of listening to music. All users are able to select songs from Spotify's archives and drag them into playlists which they can then share with other users, adding a social aspect to the medium. Users enjoy the message platform of the software, subscribe to playlists, and share what they are listening to instantly. This increased interactivity brings a greater sense of music based community and identity. Each user has a profile, complete with picture, biography and favorite tracks, and each user has his own lists of people they follow and who follow them. The sharing of music among these "friends" creates a music community online that didn't exist before. Friends can create playlists and send them directly to each other, where they can immediately be listened to without any downloads. Users also have the option to make what they listen to available to be seen by friends and, in turn, see music listened to by others. This system gives its users more immediate, refreshed information and allows them to discover what others like while on their own computers. In a sense, you can "peek in" on what someone is listening to simply by clicking on what Spotify tells you that person is playing at the moment.

When compared to other social network sites like Facebook and Twitter, Spotify's sense of user identity is based on music taste. Spotify users create their profile identities through the music they listen to and the playlists that they create whereas Facebook and Twitter users create their profiles based on a wide variety of factors: photos, videos, location updates, education, status updates or tweets, etc. Users may choose to include their music tastes on other sites, but it does not always define their online identities.

As identities form and the software gets a sense of each user's music taste, Spotify has various functions that allow users to discover new music. The "Discover" page on the program has a scrollable list of tiles for songs or artists that the user might like based on the music that the user already plays. On the "Radio" tab, users can pick a genre, song or artist for which the program finds related songs and plays them for the user. The user can then like or dislike the song, further indicating musical taste so that the program can suggest other music and play songs that are geared specifically to each user's taste. In addition, there are hundreds of application options with various themes that allow users to find music. There are apps that generate "Top 25 lists", apps that show lyrics to songs, and apps that create playlists based on mood. In these ways, Spotify is a great place to find new artists and songs. It has essentially changed the way people discover new music.

While Spotify is a great place to find new music, it takes away the sense of ownership that users have when they download or buy a song. Instead of owning a disk or having a library of downloaded music, users stream what they listen to through Spotify. Because of the streaming nature of the service, no actual music files are downloaded or stored, but Spotify allows users to "favorite" songs that they can then access later. Thus, the ability to replicate songs is infinite but bound to the application and streaming of Spotify, whereas other means of viewership allow for ownership of music files to be managed on different devices. Favoriting and streaming maintain the personalization of music libraries (i.e. each user has his own library and playlists) but do not provide actual ownership of that music. In this way, the storage of music becomes less permanent when compared to a CD or an iPod and more dependent on a connection to the service.

Much of the criticism about Spotify focuses on this free or very cheap access to unlimited music, which results in artists being paid very little. Important producers like Nigel Godrich [6] and artists like Thom Yorke [7] have pulled music from Spotify on the grounds that only shareholders profit from the service while new artists barely make money. Spotify, in response, claims that they are investing more money in new artists and that they strive to help artists expand their fanbase.[8]

Despite certain takeaways like the lack of ownership of music and complaints from musicians who feel financially cheated out of their own musical licenses, the program has created a social space for music listeners, allowed music communities to share music online, and provided a space for discovering new music.


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