Home > blogging for Britain > Spotify has presented me with a moral dilemma

Spotify has presented me with a moral dilemma

I’m a law-abiding citizen. I am sure that most of the people reading this blog would regard themselves in a similar light; but I reckon I’m more law-abiding than most. For example, I have never illegally downloaded anything. Which as someone who listens to as much music as I do is pretty remarkable. Back when Napster and Gnutella were all the rage, I refused to steal music. Partly, it was because I didn’t want to break the law, but it was also because I felt that artists should be rewarded for their efforts. I am a fan: I relate to the bands I like, and I want them to be remunerated for producing music I like. At the same time, I was spending £40-50 a month on CDs. It’s fair to say I was the music industry’s ideal customer.

When iTunes launched, I slowly made the transition to buying MP3s rather than CDs, and hoovered up the free downloads bands would distribute to promote their new records. But still I thought nothing of parting with hard-earned cash for music.

Then, a couple of years ago, I was an early adopter of Spotify. I persisted with the ad-ridden ‘free’ model until the end of last year, when I decided that for a tenner a month, the ability to listen to more or less any album I wanted on my computer and phone was too good to miss. And I’m still paying for music, right? So that’s ok. However…

In the last month, I have dropped five or six really good releases on to my phone. The sublime Relayted by Gayngs, the new PJ Harvey album, REM’s return-to-the-glory-days opus Collapse Into Now, the new DBTs record…there are more. And I have paid Spotify – not the artists in question – £10 for that privilege.

During that same period, I found myself talking to a friend of mine who is the world’s biggest Luddite. He even resisted getting a mobile phone until last year, when he was forcibly given one as a birthday present. I was encouraging him to listen to some of the music I have mentioned, risk (and payment) free on Spotify. He refused. His reason is that, like me, he feels artists should be rewarded for their endeavours. I argued that eventually, Spotify will be monetised to an extent that bands will profit; after all, record companies seem to be broadly supportive. But still he stuck to his guns. And then, this week, I found myself unable to spend a £30 Amazon voucher because it seemed pointless to pay for music I was already listening to for free. As my finger hovered over the ‘Add to basket’ button, I told myself that REM are plenty rich enough, and won’t miss my £8.99. And then I shuddered. I may not be breaking the law, but have I mislaid my moral compass?

I can still sleep at night, but surely this is the start of a slippery slope. I’ll be driving in bus lanes next…

Update, 25/3: Curious: a few days after this blog post, the REM album has mysteriously become unavailable offline on my iPhone on Spotify. Now I’m no conspiracy theorist, but…surely this wouldn’t be an attempt to make me buy the album, would it? I’ve tried everything: rebooting the iPhone, making a new playlist…nothing. All my other downloads are fine. Hmmmm.

Edit #2: Panic over – all is fine now. Still a mystery why the REM songs temporarily disappeared, but now they’re back, and eveything is right with the world. And I’m going to buy the CD too…

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Categories: blogging for Britain
  1. boingster
    March 19, 2011 at 12:12 am

    stop thief

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