Monday, July 18, 2011

Spotify, What's the Deal?

Ok, so I really don't get why everyone's all a-gaga over Spotify! I've looked it over and I really don't see why everyone was so excited that it's finally here. I mean, it does have some cool features and great syncing, but it's like everyone's forgotten there already was an app that has done that for years. In fact, the company that owns it seems to have forgotten they even have it after the latest rumor that they want to build another music services.

WTH??? I just don't get it. Spotify is no different than Napster. Napster has been around for ages and has had a web client, desktop client, and phone clients for the past three years. I've used Napster since Napster became legal and I've always enjoyed the fact that I pay a monthly fee to access whatever kind of music I was in the mood for at the time without having to worry about whether or not I have room for it or if I remembered to check it during the last sync.

Napster has been great. I even love the fact they have radio stations that play mixes of songs for whatever genre you choose. Not everything is on Napster, but I've had not trouble finding what I want to listen to and it's introduced me to songs I wouldn't have found otherwise. So why is Spotify so awe inspiring? I sure as heck can't figure it out. I haven't actually purchased the service to see if there are other advantages that I'm not seeing just by perusing the website, but what I've seen isn't even as much as Napster offers.

Napster is now owned by Best Buy, which is surprising considering the latest rumors that Best Buy want's to create a cloud music locker. Why do I want my songs locked up in the cloud when I can just pull them out of the air whenever I want? It all boils down to the concepts of ownership. Music labels still haven't grasped the concept that physical media is about as relevant now as the mastadon.

Music labels have struggled for years to keep up with the times, and rather than innovating, they've  chosen to dig their heads in the sands and force people to buy their products the way they want. We've seen how well that's worked. Music piracy has been on the rise for years only coming down when the record labels finally realized that people want their music with them all the time and embraced digital media. They had a golden opportunity to capitalize on concepts like iTunes and Napster, instead they tried to kill it at every turn. We saw what happened there, iTunes is dead right? Number one rule of customer service, give the customer what they freakin want!

The current trends in the book industry are headed the same way, fortunately, it happened in a way that cut the big houses right out of the picture in a single blow giving the power directly to authors. I know there are still plenty of people out there who will argue that you'll never make it big if you don't publish traditionally and I'm not saying the big houses have to go away for this all to work. I think there's a place for both. I think you can make it big because you've got a good product, a great marketing plan, and a vision in mind.

But you know what? Maybe there's a bigger issue here than just making it big. What about making it at all? There are plenty of talented writers who had great works to share who never got the chance just because some tight-shirted bureaucrat didn't like what they read. Publishing is one of the hardest industries to break into, if not the hardest. There's no American Writer, No Dancing with the Poets, and certainly no Hell's Quill out there to put the spotlight on our profession. Writers are left in the dark to fend for themselves. Even after being published by a big house, you still have to do your own promoting and your own marketing. Where does that leave you if you take a day off? Unless you have a name like Stephen King and could publish your memoir if it were written on your underwear, your chances are just as slim of making it big.

At least with the idea of self-publishing you get the satisfaction of seeing your work in print. You might sell a hundred books, but that was a hundred more than you would have sold if you never published at all. The point is that the world is changing, and we either change along with it or go by the wayside. The world is built on new ideas, why do we work so hard to make sure the old ideas persist for so long? I, for one, am embracing change wholeheartedly. I've already found some great books I've enjoyed that were self-published. If you write something worth reading, take the time to polish it up, and spend the money and effort that is needed to see it through, you can't lose. If nothing else, you can say you've accomplished something.

I'm reminded of a quote from my book Tears of Destiny (and this isn't meant as a shameless plug, just a point I brought up in the story):

"The Beast may win a battle, the Mastermind may win a war, but only those able to adapt to change will stand the test of time."

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