Music Business

5 things I learned during my week without Spotify

Last week I shut off Spotify and spent time exploring its competitors. After all, if Spotify could close its offices for a week, why couldn’t I close what is usually my go-to streaming app?

As a person who writes and advises others about music marketing, it’s important to try to keep up with what all major music streaming services are doing. It was time to live my mantra to be a student of the entire music business.

Here are five observations after my week without Spotify.

1. Spotify is overcrowded

The Spotify interface is overcrowded compared to its competitors, and that’s particularly true on mobile. Many streaming services add podcasts, but Spotify’s goal of becoming home to “all things audio” has led to an overwhelming and confusing user experience. A better design could fix some of it, but ultimately it may mean offering more control over what the user sees when they open the app.

2. You feel less connected to Artists on Apple Music

How artists customize their presence and communicate with fans is limited on Spotify, but it far surpasses the touch points available on Apple Music, where things like merch, tour dates, and self-selected featured tracks are non-existent.

3. The industry has disincentivized paying to stream music

Spend time using the free tiers of Tidal and Spotify and, to a lesser degree YouTube and Amazon Music’s new free service, and you start to wonder if the average consumer has a real reason to pay $100 or more a year for a subscription.

Interruptions for ads were infrequent or non-existent, and I seldom found myself missing any of the features I was paying for.

I will keep paying, of course, if for no other reason than subscriptions return more revenue to artists. But having such full-featured free offerings plus missed opportunities like free hi-rez audio is costing creators and rightsholders billions.

4. Amazon Music’s new free service is NOT a game changer

To get the labels and music publishers to agree to a free version of Amazon Music, the streamer added what can best be described as a permanent shuffle.

In short, you can’t listen to an album in order or choose a song and hear it instantly. Sorry, but that’s a non-starter.

5. Don’t count out the competition

Despite problems with its new free service, Amazon Music is a successful and solid streamer that also offers artists a strong marketing toolkit. Tidal is statistically not a contender, but in every other way, it should be. Soundcloud and Audius take interesting approaches, as Napster says it will in the coming months.

No one is close to being a “Spotify Killer,” but many are just an innovation or two away from grabbing more market share.


Bruce Houghton is the Founder and Editor of Hypebot and MusicThinkTank, a Senior Advisor at Bandsintown, President of the Skyline Artists Agency and a professor for the Berklee College Of Music.

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