You have to look pretty hard for someone who doesn't have an opinion about Spotify, the Swedish music-streaming service that launched in 2008 and hit the States in 2011. It's hard to deny its ease, selection, and um, free-ness, but it's also been a magnet for controversy.
In both the controversial NPR blog by Emily White about "never owning any music" and Cracker/Camper Van Beethoven frontman David Lowery's gone-viral response letter, Spotify is called out for not adequately paying artists. White hopes that future Spotify-like services pay artists a higher percentage than current models, and Lowery attacks more pointedly, saying:
The Internet is full of stories from artists detailing just how little they receive from Spotify. I shan't repeat them here. They are epic. Spotify does not exist in a vacuum. The reason they can get away with paying so little to artists is because the alternative is The Net where people have already purchased all the gear they need to loot those songs for free. Now while something like Spotify may be a solution for how to compensate artists fairly in the future, it is not a fair system now. As long as the consumer makes the unethical choice to support the looters, Spotify will not have to compensate artists fairly. There is simply no market pressure. Yet Spotify's CEO is the 10th richest man in the UK music industry ahead of all but one artist on his service.
But the fact remains: A lot of people are using Spotify. According to a Spotify rep, the service boasts 10 million active users globally and over 3 million paid subscribers. So what are people using the site to listen to exactly?
For the month of May, Spotify looked at the Top 10 of 18 major American cities: Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, San Antonio, Seattle, Washington, and Phoenix.
So how does Phoenix stack up against the rest of the country?
Here's our top 10:
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1. "Somebody that I Used to Know," Gotye featuring Kimbra 2. "Call Me Maybe," Carly Rae Jepsen 3. " We Are Young," Fun, featuring Janelle Monae 4. "Payphone," by Maroon 5 and Wiz Khalifa 5. "What Makes You Beautiful," by One Direction 6. "Boyfriend" by Justin Bieber 7. "Wild Ones," Flo Rida featuring Sia 8. "Glad You Came," The Wanted 9. "Starships," Nicki Minaj 10. "Feel So Close," Calvin Harris
How does Phoenix measure up against, say, Los Angeles? Their top tens are looking like kissing cousins. New York? Same story again, except Carly Rae Jepsen's glossy pop ode is featured at number one, Maroon 5 and Wiz are hanging out number two, and that ever-present Gotye tune is at number three (oh, and swap out Harris for Eric Church's "Springsteen"). It looks a lot like we're listening to just about the same stuff as everyone else here in Phoenix -- and that means we're listening to a lot of Gotye (be warned, the song auto-loads when you click the lists, so I've heard the intro more than I'll ever need to again).
Nothing feels regional on the list -- you could suggest some hometown pride for fun., but clearly, those guys belong to everyone now, despite any Arizona connections (and they're all over the top 10 lists).
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There are a few interesting inclusions. Electro-pop band M83's "Midnight City" is charting in Austin, Of Monsters and Men's "Little Talks in Denver," Drake and Lil Wayne's "The Motto" is getting action in Houston, Drake and Rihanna's "Take Care" is getting clicks in Jacksonville, and Kanye West's "Mercy" (produced by Phoenix producer Lifted) is making waves in Detroit, and Houston.
For the most part, the Spotify top lists are looking a lot like the Billboard Hot 100 charts, but these outliers, the songs that don't quite fit into the national picture, suggest that Spotify's part of the conversation -- where that conversation takes the music biz, and if anyone is going to make any money from the conversation -- remains to be seen (or heard).