Spotify Versus the Ages

Photo by Daniel SchludiPhoto by Daniel Schludi

There are many reasons to be frustrated with Spotify, but my number one at the moment has to be the way their payment setup is forcing artists to change their song structure in order to get paid by the service. So much so that it’s considered an act of rebellion for a song to have a standard verse, chorus, verse format. Or, as in the case that Alan Jacobs writes about, a slow intro that gives way to something with hooks.

Every summer needs a song, and pretty obviously this is the one for 2021. One note: it’s significant that Lake Street Dive has been around for about a decade and is very much an indie band. How can you tell? Because the song begins with a slow intro before kicking into that irresistible groove. A song calculated to maximize streaming-service revenue would never do that: because Spotify only pays artists for listens of 30 seconds or more, studios are forcing their songwriters to frontload their songs’ choruses. Hypotheticals” as a composition is a relic of the past; we’ll get fewer and fewer songs structured that way. Another reason — along with that sweet groove and Rachael Price’s amazing voice — to appreciate a terrific pop-R&B throwback number.

When you think about it, artists have always tailored their songs to certain mediums, to some extent. If a song wasn’t short enough for radio, for example, with The Diamond Sea” by Sonic Youth, clocking out at just under 20 minutes, the band made a radio-friendly edit. More frequently, the constraints of the medium were built into the creation of the song. However, this payment structure that Spotify has introduced puts the artist in a very small box in which to write a song. It’s another way Spotify is changing the musical landscape, and in this case, not for the better.

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