As a prerequisite to reading this article, go out and immediately listen to Emeli Sande’s album; “Our Version of Events”. What you are about to read can only be understood having heard it, as the only words I can think to do it justice are your standard music review adjectives (“stunning, gorgeous”, so on and so forth…), and these adjectives, however apt, don’t really give you an insight into the mood I am in whilst writing this article.
Basically, I’m outraged. Not because the album offended me in any way, but because I simply don’t have access to it. You see, when I find an artist I like, I fall in love with them. I form a proper attachment to them- an attachment that Spotify Free just doesn’t seem to comprehend. It’s a love that is forbidden by their “five listens per song” limit. And it cuts me deep.
When I was first introduced to the Arctic Monkeys, I played them on loop for about three months straight. Rihanna, One Night Only, Black Kids and Jamie T all suffered similar fates. Two Door Cinema Club have only just been relieved of their duties, and currently in charge of my iPod are Friendly Fires. It's just how I go about listening to music. A phase of a band here, fifteen consecutives listens of an album there. I blame this peculiar way of enjoying music for my very stunted knowledge of what’s popular at any given moment. I’m anti-hipster, essentially. I hear of an artist when they start to gain popularity, and I’m still singing along long after they’ve fallen out of the charts.
|(c) Emeli Sande|
Sometimes, the choices are acceptable; the general consensus on the Arctic Monkeys is that it’s OKAY to be able to recall any lyric from any of their (first three) albums (I gave up post Last Shadow Puppets…). However, some are less acceptable, and some are just all out embarrassing. My entire A-Level period was spent revising alongside Pixie Lott’s cheery meaningless pop- which has since become so ingrained into my studying patterns now, that whenever I am in desperate need to concentrate on revision notes, I just whack her on my iPod and I’m good to go.
My music habits aren’t obsessive; I don’t particularly care much about the celebrity behind the music. The only music poster I have still is one I pinched of Azealia Banks giving me the finger (less than delightful to wake up to, but I really have grown to love it). I very rarely venture out to live music gigs that don’t involve my own friends rocking out on stage. I just want to listen to what I like. Again and again and again. And again. Consecutively. As though I’m trying to commit it to memory.
For those of you who aren’t Spotify Savvy, it’s a free music service- essentially an on-demand radio. I love it. It allows you to siphon off what doesn’t appeal to you, and leaves you with what does. I’ve recently discovered Ben Howard and Passion Pit through their “similar artists” function, for which I’m very grateful. It’s also cracking for having a good nosy at what your friends are listening to, though I’m not sure I want all my friends to know that I actively listen to Alanis Morisette (I’m slowly turning into my mother, I may as well embrace the soundtrack).
|Spotify- spoiling the customers?|
One massive bugbear I have with it, however, is that it just so happens to limit the amount of times you can listen to any given song to five times. Which, for my habits, is very frustrating. When Our Verison of Events cut off at the beginning of the week, I was furious. This frustration, I recognise, is completely unjustified. I’m very aware that this reeks of a First World Problem. You’re only allowed a certain amount of free stuff? Poor you. Must be taxing. Fancy that big bad company not spoiling you completely, those bastards.
Which got me thinking. Why do people resent paying for music so much? Any entertainment, in fact? No one seems to buy music anymore, or go to the cinema, or buy DVDs. Everything is downloaded, and I’m willing to bet a massive deal of that is illegal. Personally, I’m so terrified of The Internet Police knocking on my door and suing me for copyright infringement because I’ve downloaded the Mulan soundtrack, that I never, and I mean NEVER, illegally download things. If I really want to listen to something, I’ll use Spotify, or grooveshark.com, or youtube. Or, as an ultimate last resort, I’ll download it on iTunes. But paying for my entertainment really is considered a last resort, and I have to have some sort of guarantee in my head that is going to be worth the £5.99.
Why is there a sense of entitlement with entertainment? Artists do not OWE us their music/films. The amount of money it costs to make a blockbuster, or for a band to produce and distribute albums, is highly disproportional to how the general population values its worth. What results is this stand-off between consumers and the producers of entertainment; we don’t want to have to give money away for something so easily accessible; they don’t want to give everything for free.
It’s a boundary that’s becoming harder and harder to define. The lack of a willingness to pay for music has surprisingly benefitted many in the music industry. Lily Allen and the Arctic Monkeys famously rose to power through the online music host MySpace, and have both made a lot of money packing out stadiums as a result. Software such as Spotify allows music to be recommended solely through social media, creating up to date and vital information on what is popular, and allowing artists to gain much more attention than was necessarily previously possible.
Perhaps this begrudging does benefit both sides of the battle. Customers are being pickier about what they’re willing to pay for, and therefore we’re sorting the wheat from the chaff ourselves, rather than allowing some media buffs to do it for us. Increasing the difficulty of competition can only increase the quality of the winners, right? Or does it damage smaller artist’s chances of any acknowledgement? Personally, I think not. Ed Sheeran’s success speaks volumes, for instance.
Either way, the industry has won this time. Our Version Of Events must mean a lot to me, because instead of sitting in my Spotify account, it now lives in my iTunes account- the true sign that an album is worth it. A song know’s it has made it when people transfer from Spotify to iTunes. You’ve won this one, Emeli. Better luck next time, bank account.