Ethan Kaplan On Spotify & Music Consumption

image from This guest post is by Ethan Kaplan, the former SVP of Technology at WBR and WMG. He blogs regularly at

I’ve been a Spotify user for a few years now thanks to an early hook up from Daniel. And I love Spotify. It truly is like magic, and really fun to use. However, I don’t find myself using it all that often. Paradoxical? Maybe.

The issue for me is how I consume music. I don’t consume music like I consume information. I curate, digest, browse and meander the stacks as it were. Maybe it is a generational thing, as I do remember going to Tower Records every Saturday morning and doing the same. What it comes down to is that Spotify democratizes music to such an extent that it becomes just files and audio rather than atomic entities known as albums, artists and genres.

This might be addressing a nascent behavior in terms of music consumption, and I suspect it is judging from my younger family members, but I think something is missing.

Try going to Spotify and browsing movie soundtracks. I’ll wait.

Try searching for John Williams. He is not a guitarist, but that is what comes up mixed in with all of the soundtrack work he has done.

And this is not something unique to Spotify, but also endemic to Rdio and Mog. Mog at least has a page of curated soundtracks, but its just as hard to find them “in the wild” as it is on Spotify. The same applies to Rdio.

iTunes to me is like my Tower Records experiences on Saturday morning as a kid. I can browse genres, artists and albums. It still holds precious something I still hold precious, and while I know I’m in the minority (maybe), it does have a huge effect on my consumption behavior. I find myself curating my taste on iTunes, and broadening my taste on Spotify/Mog/Rdio/Rhapsody. I also find myself creating music-as-atmosphere on the streaming services, and music as focus on iTunes.

Spotify hitting the US is way overdue, and my hope is that they fix some of the data issues, and discovery issues and it grows to making music something to appreciate again. The trending toward this is emerging with things like Turntable and Soundtracking (both worthy of more posts), which I feel are more relevant forms of social discovery than the native Facebook integration in Spotify.

My biggest fear though is one of the biggest strengths of Spotify as a technology platform: they could make a new client for searching for photos and nothing much has to change in terms of UX. The user experience of Spotify is not endemically tied to music, and music deserves its own native experience model. Music is unique still, and different than files, photos, videos or software.

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