Thoughts on Spotify, Last.fm and Pandora

You may (or may not) have noticed that it’s been many months since my last update. I won’t bore you with details but suffice it to say that I’ve been separated from my music collection due to a catastrophic copying error that has sent me on a long-haul project to recopy all my CDs and rebuild all my playlists and a home remodel that has put that project on hold for ten months or so.

It’s a huge undertaking and a pain, but ultimately it’s been a valuable learning experience and a chance to become reacquainted with my music library.

I plan to share some of what I’ve learned here, in the hopes that it helps others.

But for today, for this first post after hiatus, I want to return to the topic of online music that was at the center of my last post.

While I’ve been separated from my iPod and my owned music library, I’ve had a chance to try subscriptions to Spotify, Last.fm and Pandora. And after giving them a go, I’ve formed an opinion on them and am ready to share that.

Before I share my opinion, though, I want to share something that has been critical in helping me to form my opinion.

This image, by David McCandless at informationisbeautiful.net, is a very stark lesson in what online music means to artists.

Image courtesy of David McCandless at informationisbeautiful.net

The image is a bit dated and it lacks information about Pandora. But the overall message is a very stark one. Streaming music is BAD for artists, at least in its current business form.

It’s too bad because it feels like streaming is the future. But anyone who truly loves music has to care about the people that make that music. And in an era where music programs are being cut, orchestras are shutting down and the arts are under attack, one has to be mindful and conscious not just of cost but support.

And so, yesterday, I closed my Spotify and Last.fm accounts. I am keeping Pandora for now (in part because I paid for a full year of the premium service). But Pandora I intend to use as a means to discover new music to own.

I won’t miss Spotify or Last.fm: I didn’t find them revolutionarily easy to use. And in a way, by owning music and curating a library like I am, I have more familiarity and understanding of my music than I would with something just “appearing” on a computer-generated playlist. And Spotify I found to be hard to use in terms of discovery.

Pandora at least does a better job within its model in that regard. It finds for you and you accept that. And the fact that it can introduce me to new things I didn’t know of is of value both to me and to artists.

But for now, I’m happily rebuilding my iTune/iPod library and delighting in finding things that I’d forgotten about. I’ve found better ways to organize iTunes to make things more discoverable. I’ll be writing on that some time soon.