Friday, January 30, 2009

Spotify gets cleaned up

Yesterday, The Guardian ran a piece praising Spotify:

Now Spotify is here, a completely legal service which tries to get close to that universal jukebox idea, where all you have to do is either pay a monthly fee (£10 in the UK) or listen to some ads at the start of a track (and see them on the application's interface) and you can get at a huge range of music. It's not quite every song ever made - give the folks a chance - but it's a big start.

It's been well-received, and was starting to gain impressive traction. The music industry must be pleased, right? A new way of delivering music that people loved, would pay for (or at least generate advertising revenue) without the need for them to download anything they shouldn't. They've wanted iTunes dominance to be shifted - Spotify looked like it might at least be in with chance to taking market share. The answer, right, to music company's prayers?

Of course not. The RIAA doesn't just look into the mouth of a gift horse, it'll ram a tube down the poor thing's throat in order to inspect the stomach lining before insisting on a full fMRI scan. And so it is that today Spotify are contacting their users under music industry duress:
Some important changes to the Spotify music catalogue

January 28, 2009

Next week we are going to be making some changes to our music catalogue that we feel are important to communicate clearly. Unfortunately we are going to be removing a number of songs from our catalogue and adding country restrictions to some tracks, which may make them unplayable for you.

Why are we doing this?

The changes are being made so that we implement all the proper restrictions that are required by our label deals. Some tracks will be restricted from play in certain countries, this means that if you share tracks with friends who are in other countries it’s possible that they won’t be able to listen to them. The reason for this is that our agreements contain strict rules as to what tracks can and can’t be played in various countries that we are now capable of implementing. These restrictions are a legacy from when most music was sold on tapes and CDs and they have continued over into streaming music, our hope is that one day restrictions like this will disappear for good.

Additionally, some of the music that has been delivered to us had been delivered by mistake even though the artist did not want their music to be included in a streaming service. In order to respect the decisions of the artist we now have to remove those tracks. We have not lost any licenses and no labels have stopped working with us, this is just a matter of updating our catalogue to be in line with the agreements we actually have. In hindsight it would have been better to remove this in October when we launched publicly, we realize this now and apologize to you for not doing it sooner.

How will this affect you?

A number of the tracks that you’ve listened to previously will no longer be available for streaming, these tracks have already been removed from the search function. If you have some of these songs in playlists we will try to automatically replace those songs with versions from albums that we are not removing so you don’t lose the song. If there is no replacement available then the song will appear in red on your playlists.

What’s next?

From this point on there are no plans to remove any more music and our catalogue will only grow from here. We already have music from all the major labels and a vast majority of the independent labels licensed, between them we have millions of tracks that we still can add into Spotify. Now it’s a matter of importing that music into our system, which we are doing on an ongoing basis in an effort to add thousands of albums a week. We continue to work hard to sign deals with more labels and will work with the labels we have signed to fill the holes in our catalogue.

Our dream is to create a music experience where users can play whatever music they want, whenever they want, it may take awhile but we will keep working at it. Please feel free to leave any questions you may have on the blog or join the conversation on our forum if you require more information.

It's down to publishing restrictions caused by some tracks being available on compilations and the... sorry; I was getting confused there: it's down to the majors thinking its better to frustrate users today rather than accept there's some work and horse-trading that needs to be done behind the scenes. Seriously: they couldn't sort this out while leaving the tracks up?

Still, perhaps people will wait for the RIAA companies to be satisfied, rather than flocking off to some other service that hasn't been bending over backwards to remain properly licensed. Perhaps.