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The day I canceled my Spotify subscription

Posted on:February 19, 2024

I used to be a big fan of Spotify. I was such a fan that I went to extraordinary lengths to get access to it while I lived in Tunisia, years before I was technically allowed to use it there.

I liked the early desktop application; it felt like a better iTunes. Without the hassle of piracy.

Side note

Growing up in Tunisia, piracy was the norm. Our debit cards didn’t work internationally, and publishing companies never thought of us as a viable market to bother with. Access to any form of culture was exclusively done through eMule, LimeWire, torrents, and MEGA. It was a pain, but the alternative was to pay someone in the gray market to do it for you. And you just bought pirated movies, albums, games, etc.

That changed for me when I was able to open Spotify, click on a track, and it just worked.
Spotify was so convenient that it made up for the hoops I needed to jump through just to get access to it.

The convenience of having almost any music you could think of, the seamless blending of my local MP3s and the Spotify catalog, and the added bonus of discovering new tracks were all worth the hassle for the teenage me. I had to set up VPNs, create multiple accounts for free trials, download shady patched builds… And it was all worth it.

In 2015, I moved to Europe, and with my VISA card in hand, I finally was able to subscribe to Spotify Premium.

No more hoops. I could finally use Spotify in a legit way and, more importantly, help support the artists I like.

I then started using the mobile app. It made me forget about my old iPod Nano. Then there was a redesign, another, pricing changes, introduction of podcasts, and now audiobooks?

Falling out of love with Spotify

Today, I dread opening the Spotify app. The main screen is littered with podcasts I don’t care about, nor have I ever listened to. It keeps pushing playlists that feel generic, bland, more based on demographics than my years of consistent listening history. And there is nothing I can do about it.

The main screen on Spotify is not user-customizable. There is no way for me to signal that I truly, really don’t care about that podcast and I haven’t cared about it once since you have been pushing it for the last 18 months!

Today, I have to scroll for a long time before finding anything remotely interesting on the Spotify main page. The alternative is plain old search and playing on repeat the same dozen curated playlists.

The lack of customization feels like a slap. Like Spotify designers telling me “you don’t know what you want, we know better,” but the problem is they don’t, and they haven’t for a long time.

Spotify is not good for me

I used to cherish music, I used to religiously collect, catalog and enjoy every album on my iPod. I could navigate the endless folders and find that exact song that I needed for that precise moment.

Spotify killed that, I listen to what it suggests and just accept that it will go away when it decides to rotate it out. Spotify trained me not to look too hard, to let the flow be, and if that awesome song is gone or removed, don’t worry, we still have a million more.

Spotify: the audio company

Spotify really doesn’t want to be limited to music; they want all of your audio. When Spotify announced their walled-garden podcast platform, they explained that they needed to break away from the open podcasting standards because they were building features so innovative that it would be impossible to port back to RSS and independent players.

Years later and Spotify has only introduced some feedback forms that were used (and quickly dropped) by a couple of podcasts. The walled-garden stayed though. And the dark patterns they keep using to boost the numbers have only pushed me away.

Oh, and yes, the podcasts now have ads, even when you pay for Premium. That is some great innovation.

The business model

I might have been naive, but when I started paying for Spotify Premium, I thought my money was going to the artists that I was listening to. Turns out I’m too stupid to understand how this complex mechanics of deals and pools and what they dubbed the “Streaming Economy”. Your Spotify Wrapped and InstaFests Suck, and Here’s Why

I thought that if, for a month, I listened to one artist, then Spotify would take a cut, but then all my monthly subscription would go to them.

Instead, my subscription is probably pooled according to some black box formula and ends up paid to some of their top performers like Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, or The Weeknd. While the indie artist I have been obsessed with gets literally nothing because they don’t meet a certain arbitrary threshold.

Today I realized that I don’t find joy in Spotify anymore. I’m no longer that teen that wanted to show everyone this amazing music app on his bulky laptop. Today I exported my data, I canceled my subscription, and I mourn the app that Spotify was and could have been.