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Please support a COMPOSER field on Spotify!

Location: Minnesota, USA

ChoralNet users:  if you use Spotify and want to help me advocate for a "Composer" field for improved classical music searches, please CLICK HERE to "Give Kudos" to this post on the Spotify Community Forum. Thank you!!

(you can read it there too, but it doesn't have the pictures! -- oh, and there's an adorable puppy photo if you read far enough.)


Dear Spotify --

Meet me:  I am a 32-yr old classical musician, and typical of your frustrated (yet somehow still optimistic) classical music listening audience.

I feel like you aren't listening to classical music lovers.  And I'm dying to take part in this awesome community.  Please hear me out.

Why should you want classical music lovers?

1) We pay for the music we love (translation: more paid memberships for Spotify)

2) We passionately share our love for classical music (i.e. more potentially social Spotify users)

3) We teach others about classical music; we are music teachers in schools and universities and conservatories everywhere. We have the power to make Spotify-listening a requirement in our classes (i.e. more new, young users for Spotify)

4) We fight hard for the music we love (this is why we keep writing even after you've determined our posts "case closed")


Here's how we classical musicians currently use Spotify:

1) First, we buy memberships immediately (well, immediately after the first symphony we try to play is interrupted by an ad). This is fine!  Totally worth it.  Incredibly cheap, even. (I donate much more to my local public radio station per year.)

2) Next, we immediately realize we have to search elsewhere for composer/songwriter info -- leaving Spotify and often finding another place to hear what we were searching for (i.e. not returning to Spotify)

3) If we DO come back to Spotify, we discover there's a Classical app called Classify.  Classify is cute, but you can't be serious. There are exactly two composers listed in the Contemporary Classical category (see screenshot -- Glass and Pärt... good choices, though, I'll give you that).


Why you and I don't know each other yet:

You, dear Spotify, don't yet know how to quantify what I'm listening to, because I'm listening to my favorite composers over and over again, and you don't require your labels to give attribution to the composer. So you have no idea how to predict what I will like.  Here's how I know you have no idea:

Without being able to predict what I like, you don't know how to advertise to me.  So your "targeted" advertising, featured artists, and email recommendations to me for new music, are never even remotely relevant to my musical tastes. I never click on them.

Which means I only come to Spotify to listen to specific things I already know I love (once I've determined the particular album or performer's name in order to search for it).  So I do not use Spotify to discover new music: I listen, and I leave.

Which means I'm not clicking your ads, not exploring Spotify's other artists, not getting involved in the Spotify community, and not using any additional features -- social or otherwise -- that Spotify has to offer.

Plus, neither are my classical-music-loving friends, so why bother.


But classical musicians could REALLY use Spotify right now! Why?

1) To find like-minded music lovers.  Classical music lovers have fewer and fewer places to "geek out" with each other.  Our orchestras are going under, our non-profit organizations are seeing diminishing donations, our school programs are being cut... we are aching for a place to share our love for classical music.

2) To keep up with a quickly-changing genre. Classical music is blurring more boundaries than ever. It is being infused with so many rich and exciting influences and cultures. It's changing every day and we desperately need a place to keep up with it.

3) To pay our beloved, favorite artists.  With no other alternative, we're uploading our performances (even commercially-released tracks, often illegally) to YouTube, which (unlike Spotify) does not pay the artists and is not a sustainable business model for our industry. We're shooting ourselves in the foot providing so much free content there.  But, unfortunately, that's where our classical community is listening to music right now.


So how can you reach us?

The two biggest things the classical community needs in order to use Spotify are:

1) Consistently-labeled track titles, particularly for multi-movement compositions like symphonies and operas. We need you to demand that track metadata be streamlined, organized, and consistent across all your labels so that we can hear multi-movement works the way the composer intended them. Here's a great post that explains our classical community's frustration.

2) A designated "Composer/Songwriter" column, and for Spotify to put pressure on your participating labels to use it.  This is to improve your search results, of course.  But also so that we music creators ourselves can find and promote our Spotify tracks to our fans. 

Because of the way music licensing works, most published classical composers themselves don't even know their music is on Spotify.  To put it in pop-music-speak: all our songs are "covers," so we need to search Spotify by title. (Heaven help us if we've written an "Alleluia" or a "Sonata No. 1" or an arrangement of "Joy to the World" with gobs of search results to click through, just to see if it's the one we wrote. Ugh!)  If composers like me could simply search our own name to find our music on Spotify... wouldn't we (who are increasingly entrepreneurial) and our fans be all over social media, advertising tracks, asking people to listen, and asking friends and fans to join Spotify to share new compositions?

Those improvements could spawn a whole new chapter for Spotify!  Our classical community is very tightly-knit, and will follow each other in a big herd to whatever service can provide this experience for us.

All the talk of "personalizing" the experience of Spotify is awesome, but it's completely moot for an entire music-loving audience (and over five centuries of music!) if there's no consistent metadata for tracks.  And that metadata MUST include the name of the composer/songwriter.

I know that the metadata issues are largely coming from outside Spotify, but I had to let you know that those decisions have wide-reaching implications, and Spotify's apparent apathy about it this (i.e. passing the blame to the labels) is not going unnoticed.

If you have any ideas for how classical music lovers (indeed, *any* music-lovers) could help Spotify advocate for these crucial improvements, please respond and let me know.

And, above all, thank you for Spotify.  It's a great concept and I am thrilled that it's available in the USA, and licensing music legally. Now please make it classical-user friendly and let us help you grow your membership -- for the benefit of all of us.



Abbie Betinis


PS: ChoralNet users: if you agree, please CLICK HERE to "Give Kudos" to this post on the Spotify Community Forum. Thank you!!

PPS: And thanks mom, for the picture of your amazing puppy.