Spotify’s Mandatory Facebook Link Reminds Us: Music is Personal
Since I’m always trying to enter the “cool kids” crowd, I decided to join the new music service “Spotify.” I’d heard from many people that it was better than Pandora, and that you had much more control over what you listened to, which could be just about anything. I’d also seen the updates on Facebook showing me what my various cool friends were listening to on their Spotify accounts.
Upon downloading the program and trying to use it, the login screen informed that I could either log in with my Facebook account or with my Spotify account. I didn’t want to use my Facebook account. I am actively against any program that connects to my Facebook account, mostly because I don’t see the need for it other than a) they want to gather information that I have let Facebook use or b) they want to use my account to promote themselves. And I’m not really down with either one of those. So I tried to create a Spotify account. Then I ran into this screen:
As you can see, the Spotify website conveniently grabbed all of my information from my Facebook account to make it oh-so-easy for me to sign up. And you can see that Mark Zuckerberg has put his stamp of approval on the program with the boring endorsement “Spotify is so good.”
I tried for about 20 minutes to work around this problem and create a Spotify-only account. After much searching on their website I finally just googled it (as I do with everything) and came upon the longest page of comments about a specific issue that I have ever seen. One person asked the simple question of whether it was possible to have an un-Facebook-linked account and the Spotify team replied with:
“To us, this integration is all about creating an amazing new world of music discovery. As most of our users are already social and have already connected to Facebook, it seemed logical to integrate Spotify and Facebook logins. We already use Facebook as part of our backend to power our social features and by adopting Facebook’s login, we’ve created a simple and seamless social experience.”
So at one point it was possible, but no longer. There are now over 1500 enraged responses at this mandatory link. With a conservative estimate that 1 in 10 people who read a post actually comment, we can guess that at least 15,000 people have viewed this page, likely by googling the same question I did. One must also take into account that not everyone who is angry at this marriage is finding this page. So in all, there are a whole bunch of pissed off people. Most of the comments can be grouped into three major frustrations:
- Some people really, really, really, really hate Facebook. They will have no part in its domination of the entire world.
- Some people buy Spotify accounts (there are free and paid versions) for parents and others who don’t have Facebook and would not benefit from having an account on the site. Or they work in places where Facebook is blocked.
- Finally, there is a general unease with the posting of the songs a person has listened to on Facebook. While this service is optional, the default is to have the systems linked and it resets to the default after a certain number of hours of listening.
It’s this third point that really caught my attention. Commenter Chris Lowth put it this way: “I dont want a ‘social experience’. I want to listen to the music I like without spamming any FB friends I may have. I dont want MY fb wall filled up with “Fred is listening to the Rolling Stones” messages – and I dont see why my friends would want have theirs filled up with mine.”
Many people complained about the Facebook posts that announce what a person has been listening to on Spotify. There were various reasons listed including: they clog up Facebook walls, I may promote an artist I’m only trying out but don’t end up liking, and frankly it’s no one’s damn business what I’m listening to. And this is where I realized that just like it is for me, listening to music for most of these commentators is a very private experience. While I love to promote musicians I like (see my reviews) what I listen to in the comfort of my own home/office/ears while I’m writing this blog post is not necessarily information I want announced to the world. And I am not the only one. Why? Because music, my friend, says a lot (sometimes too much) about who we are.
Think about it. Aren’t there some songs or artists that just seem to speak to the exact experiences you’ve had in your life? Doesn’t sharing the information that you identify with it therefore say something about you or what you’ve been through? But we don’t feel that way about ALL the music we listen to. So when I tell people, “You know that song by Selena Gomez? I really like it!” people could incorrectly infer that I identify with Selena Gomez and feel that my life is superficial enough to be expressed by a 19-year-old who doesn’t write her own lyrics. (And yes, I do like the song.) And there are times when we’re trying to work through an emotion and music helps us along. But if we’re listening to Adele non-stop we might not want to announce to the world just how sad we are that it didn’t end up working out with loser-what’s-his-face or that we missed happy hour at the bar (see below).
Spotify claims that it makes the Facebook link mandatory because they want to create a social experience. But the problem for many people is that music is TOO social. It carries a lot of information that is socially understood like what our values, goals, and motivations are. What makes this all that much more interesting is that not too long ago, we literally could not experience music by ourselves. Before recording devices someone had to play an instrument or sing so that another person could experience music at all. Weird, right? Now music can be an incredibly private experience. One that we might not want to share with every one of our Facebook friends.
Although a good number of people have complained about this (and many are talking with their wallets and canceling subscription accounts) it’s doubtful that it will make a dent big enough to change Spotify’s policy. So until then, I at least will keep on listening to Pandora.