John Harris

Journalist & Author

My problem with Spotify – even though I’m a subscriber | John Harris

It’s a miracle of the age, but Spotify’s suspect ‘playlists’, shaky finances and low pay are bad for music fans and creators alike

In the last 20 or so years of technological revolution, has any artform been as transformed as music? Film and literature may still be adjusting to new platforms and business ideas, but they cling to the same basic rules. Art and theatre seem largely unchanged. As Netflix and Amazon Prime embed themselves in our lives, even TV is managing to hold on. But, though songs still form the soundtrack to our lives, everything that surrounds them has changed beyond recognition.

Only a generation ago, we all had to pay to own music; now, it is either free, or available in abundance in return for paltry subscription fees. The ubiquitous chatter of headphone noise attests to how many of us drink in a great ocean of sound, while a lot of the people who create it wonder how on earth they can make a living. Such, perhaps, is the price of the fulfilment of a simple wish. As a high-ranking tech executive once put it: “people just want to have access to all of the world’s music”, and for good and ill, we are now living with the consequences.

Music industry insiders now talk about artists nipping and tucking their music according to the playlists’ vanilla aesthetics

Related: ‘They could destroy the album’: how Spotify’s playlists have changed music for ever

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