[By Nic Lindh on Friday, 15 July 2011]
After an agonizing wait, America has finally joined Europe in Spotify reality. American customers now have instant access to essentially all published music. That’s right. Go ahead and get a free account, then search for whatever obscure popular music you can think of. It’s probably in there. Even the stuff you overheard that annoying hipster in the coffee shop blather on about.
It’s hard to overstate how important this is. In Sweden, where the service originated, Spotify is ubiquitous. Hear about a new interesting band? Fire up Spotify and listen. Hosting a party? Make a Spotify playlist. Guest at a party where the music sucks? Log in to Spotify and play your own—obviously infinitely superior—playlist.
This is a huge turning point for the music business, and I’m deliriously happy Spotify somehow managed to talk the notoriously Luddite and short-sighted U.S. labels into licensing their content. (It’s not perfect, though. There are some frustrating region-licensing hangovers, where Spotify has the rights in Europe but not the U.S and vice versa, and of course some labels aren’t onboard.)
Not to get hyperbolic, but the only reasons to purchase a physical CD these days are because you enjoy them as artifacts or you have a serious case of audiophilia and must have lossless music. (And of course, if you’re into vinyl, go nuts with that.) Nothing wrong with that, of course. But unless those are the kinds of thing that floats your boat, and you purchase digital music from iTunes or Amazon, there’s really no reason to bother anymore. It’s all there, endless raindrops in the cloud.
Like I rhapsodized in my panegyric to e-book readers, the future is freaking here. THE FUTURE IS HERE. We can have all music. And the artifacts around it, the jewel cases and discs, are now from the past.
Sure, your comfort level with jettisoning the physical aspects of your entertainment correlates with your age and nerditry—for many of my fellow Gen Xers, the mere idea of not having shelves of CDs and LPs is enough to cause a nervous breakdown. And that’s okay. Be your codger self. But for the next generation coming up, I can’t imagine them doing anything but roll their eyes at all those books and CDs cluttering up your house.
For the labels, just like the movie studios and book publishers, I really hope they all sit down in front of a mirror, take a deep breath, look themselves in the eye and have a nice daily affirmation: “I am not in the business of selling physical goods. I am not in the business of selling physical goods. And that’s ok. I’m good enough and I’m smart enough. I am not in the business of selling physical goods.”
I have almost every song in the world on the phone in my pocket. How freaking cyber is that?