Hey, Spotify. Remember me? I’m that guy that wrote a glowing review of you as soon as you landed at Ellis Island and got your citizenship. I liked you when you first got here. And now you’re pissing me off. Like a lot. Let’s talk, shall we? I’d rather settle this with words than fisticuffs (and cancelling my subscription).
Let’s get the big stuff out of the way right off the bat. You screwed me. I came home one day after going for a drive, listening to music on my phone via the Spotify app like always, and I suddenly discover that all 27 of the songs I’d listened to that day were plastered all over my Facebook profile. I never told you that you could do this. I never once implied that I wanted to share every song I listen to. In fact, for me this is a very bad idea. For the last couple weeks, I’ve have a playlist of about 25 or so classic rock songs and whatnot that I’ll put on as I drive to work. Every day. The last thing I need is to spam the same selection of songs to everyone I know every day.
I would’ve been less pissed about this if I’d been notified. But nope. I wasn’t. What’s worse is that I discovered, after much research, that the reason I wasn’t notified was because the Spotify Facebook app that I’d signed up for had simply changed. Updated with the new Timeline features for Facebook. When I tried to re-add the Spotify Facebook app, I was clearly told that my songs would be published.
Why is this worse? Because you apparently think that the new users you’re getting because of your deal with Facebook are more important than the early adopters like me who evangelized you so hard when you first got here. I take this personally. Maybe I shouldn’t, but I do. I know why you did it. And understanding that doesn’t make it better. It actually makes it worse.
You did it because Facebook promised you a shit load of money. I don’t necessarily think that Facebook is actually paying you (though it wouldn’t surprise me). But Facebook did promise that you would get tons of users, which leads to tons of money, if you played by their rules. And it’s definitely Facebook’s rules.
There’s a lot of sites out there that use Facebook Connect as an optional log in. There’s very few I know of that require a Facebook login. In fact the only other instance of such arbitrary requirements I can think of is TechCrunch. Their conversion to Facebook-only comments was particularly frustrating since they previously offered DISQUS and Facebook as options. The exclusion of perfectly valid commenting methods in favor of a much more restricting method was infuriating.
I no longer comment on TechCrunch.
If I hadn’t had the option of signing up for Spotify without using Facebook, I might not have done it. I made an exception for turntable.fm, but come on. It’s turntable. You’re not. You’re a variation of the Rdio/MOG/Rhapsody theme. Admittedly, a particularly good one. But I can still get your service elsewhere.
You know who else can? Everyone else ever. That’s the target market of your competitors. “Everyone ever.” With the exception of people who do not have a computer or functional internet connection, your competitors can target the rather large market of “everyone”. You, on the other hand, can now only target the considerably smaller market of “everyone on Facebook”.
That’s leaving money on the table. You don’t consciously leave potential customers out in the cold unless you think you can get more from a smaller target market with a huge partner than you can with a larger market on your own. You’re not fooling anyone. You are latching on to Facebook because you want to ride Zuck’s coattails to success in the U.S. market. Which is kinda crazy, since you got a ton of new users—even paid users!—within your first couple months.
The sad thing is, it’s going to work. I mean, it’s not sad for you. You’ll be swimming in cash. Facebook is more than just a juggernaut of users. It’s pure addiction, crystallized in website form. People spend more time on Facebook, and accomplish less while they do it, than any other site. Now imagine that while you were on that site, in addition to an endless stream of racist comments, poorly thought-out political opinions, and appeals that you prove your loyalty to Jesus by copy/pasting some status (can you tell I live in the South?), you also saw every song your friends were listening to. You can even click on them and listen to them yourself! For free! Just sign in and download this app! No, really, we promise this is legal this time!
Suddenly, using the power of Facebook, you’ve managed to advertise your service using something even more powerful than word of mouth: silent Facebook endorsement. People don’t even have to do anything to tell all their friends about your service. Of course, this only works if they’re always sharing their musical tastes. It’s an integral part of the plan and if you make it the default, a.) there will be a bunch of people who won’t bother turning it off, either due to laziness, apathy, or ignorance, and 2.) your userbase will shoot through the roof.
You’re right. And I hate you for it. I hate it because there’s still a part of me wants to cling to the idea that my life is separate from the internet. That’s right. I, an internet writer, who constantly tweets, who has deep personal friends he met on an IRC channel, who has gotten jobs because of constantly being on the internet, who is the go-to guy among his social circles for all things internet related, still want the internet to be only a portion of my life. I like it, though. I still want there to be part of my life that’s cut off from public broadcast.
I suppose this would normally be the part where I say that I see your point, and innovating takes risks, and it’s ultimately for the greater good, and it’s way better than constantly fighting with music labels over piracy issues. Blah freaking blah. On the other hand, Netflix has sapped most of my sympathy for underdog media companies. Besides, they made a risky move that a lot of people didn’t like that largely hurt themselves more than anyone else. You, Spotify, sold me out. You actually sold me, for crying out loud.
The final kick to the groin is that you had the nads to create this feature. Private listening mode. As in, if there ever happens to be a brief period in time that you might not want to share every song ever, you can activate this feature. Thanks for deciding what my default behavior is for me, Spotify.
Look, Spotify. I like you. A lot. Between you and turntable, I’ve more or less found music nirvana. However, I am also a fickle man. I have no hesitations about turning on a service, app, platform, or tool when it deserves it. I am not a blind fanboy. I don’t fear suddenly changing my opinions if the situation calls for it. And right now, the situation is standing right next to a giant horn, practically begging to call for it, extremely loudly*.
Clean up your interface, get some better sorting tools in there, make it a bit more clear when you’re broadcasting my activity, and never, ever, ever change what information I’m sharing with a social network without my permission again, and we might be ok. Otherwise, I’m seriously going to have to consider going back to Rdio. Especially now that they’ve got their eyes set squarely on your lunch.
*This has been your confusing metaphor for the day.