Why Classical Fans NEED Composer Metadata (and what that could do for Spotify)

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. We need two very specific things from you (at the bottom of this post) in order to fully take part in this awesome community. Please hear me out.

 

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First, why should you want more 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")

 

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What you need to know about how 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 (Glass and Pärt... good choices, though, I'll give you that).

 

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

 

Spotify doesn'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.

 

This has major implications for your "targeted" advertising, featured artists, and email recommendations -- these are never remotely relevant to my musical tastes. I never click them. Which means I'm only coming 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). I listen and I leave.  I'm 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.

 

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But Classical fans actually really NEED Spotify right now!  Why?

 

1) To find like-minded fans. 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) doesn't 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.

 

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The Two Things Classical Fans Need Are:

 

1) Consistently-labeled track titles, particularly for multi-movement compositions like symphonies and operas. We need you to demand that this title metadata be streamlined, organized, and consistent across all your labels so that we can hear multi-movement works the way the composer intended them.

 

Andy Doe at Naxos has the best description I've found for how classical track labeling should work. Note his asterisked editorial at the bottom of his post:

* Spotify doesn’t show you the composers. Just try to find a specific classical recording on Spotify, and you’ll quickly see how maddening this is: the content is all there. You just can’t sort through it. Spotify is, though, a relatively young company, and I think they’ll probably fix this in time. If you want a really good classical streaming experience, you might prefer to use Naxos Music Library or Classics Online.

 

2) A designated "Composer/Songwriter" (or Writers) column, and for Spotify to put pressure on your participating labels to use it. This column needs to be:

 

  1. LEGIT and CONSISTENT: It should be implemented without a 'hack' (i.e. without adding composers into the track field or artist field) so that this metadata can be consistent from here on out. And so labels know what Spotify requires so they can submit it properly.
  2. TRACK BY TRACK: Must be implemented at the track level (not a composer assigned to the entire album, for obvious reasons.)
  3. SEARCHABLE: Searching by composer name should bring up their songs.  I understand horizontal space is at a premium, especially for mobile users, so I wouldn't be surprised if this "composer/songwriter" column is optional to view (which would be fine).  But it still must be searchable data, even if the user has hidden the column.
  4.  SORTABLE: Just like the other columns, which are fantastic.
  5.  CONNECTED: This is a wish-list item, but it would be the most awesome to click on a composer name and have their info pop up from All Music Guide, or wherever (but All Music Guide is excellent), just like the performing artist does.

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How our world changes as soon as you do this:

 

Not only would these changes drastically improve Spotify's search results, and open up the Spotify experience to an entire music-loving audience (and over five centuries of music!), but these improvements would change the way Spotify is used socially.  For the first time, we music creators ourselves will be able to find and promote our OWN Spotify tracks to our fans.

 

If that sounds crazy, it is. But because of the way music licensing works, most published classical composers (yes, we're still alive) don't even know our music is on Spotify. To put it in pop-music-speak: all our songs are "covers," so -- since we can't find our names on Spotify as a composer -- 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 listen to, just to see if it's the one we wrote!)

 

 

I spend a lot of time doing two things: composing new music, and trying to build a fan base for that music. 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?

 

And classical fans are just the tip of the iceberg... wouldn't jazz and folk and musical theater composers & songwriters all immediately change their marketing models when they realize they can search for the music they wrote on Spotify?

 

We can't hear the music we love, and we can't share the music we love, until we can FIND the music we love.

 

PLEASE improve track titling, and PLEASE add a Composer/Songwriter (or Writers) column.

 

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 even further -- for the benefit of all of us.

 

You build it, Spotify, and we will come!

 

Updated: 2015-11-19

Hey everyone! We're here to say this idea is still definitely 'Under Consideration'. We know this is one of your top requests in the Idea Exchange. While we don't currently have a 'Composer' column, we have made changes to give our users more info about classical tracks.

Today the composer is list as the first artist for classical tracks where the label has provided this information. If the composer is missing then we are getting in touch with the right teams to fix this for users. When we have any more updates on this we'll let you all know here, thanks!

 



Related Ideas

Comments
frankbj
Regular

I wonder how long Spotify will allow the blatantly advertising comment from Idagio on Feb 26, 2015, to remain on the community board. However, Idagio's claim (on their web-site) that there aren't any Classical Music oriented streaming services currently is false, see my posting on Jan 28, 2015, for one service, and there might be others. You might find those others scanning the postings on this topic.

spokesong
Music Fan

Not sure why your condemning the posting of the Idagio name while promoting the name of another classical service.

frankbj
Regular

@spokesong on March 3: I am merely noting that I find it strange that a competitor himself is advertising on this spot. And with links to their web-site that is not presenting the market correctly. I am not affiliated myself with the service I refer to, I am just mentioning that there are services that has solved what this discussion is about, one of which I am happy with.

ryebass
Regular

I guess my issue with that post is that it doesn't *seem* to add anything to the conversation; my understanding (and I have yet to personally sample any of the other classical music services i.e. Naxos etc) is that they are limited in terms of catalogue (whilst addressing the metadata issue)...SO, this new I(slow tempo) service, in order to make any claim to anything new and/or a direct response to this thread would have to have a catalogue approaching the breadth of Spotify's in order to make it unique or relevant to this topic.

 

Specifically, I don't want a service that has had 'masterpieces' hand picked by musicologists, but, rather, appreciate having 7 or 8 versions of, say, Puccini's Fanciulla to compare etc...Spotify has this breadth (with some glaring exceptions of course) BUT the issue is, almost entirely, one of the composer name not being given it's own metadata category...sometimes this is not an issue, but other times a HUGE issue and requires a fair amount of legwork to find a given piece (in particular when buried on an album with several composers). 

 

All of this has been covered ad nauseum...but this post regarding this new service did indeed feel opportunistic rather than contributory to me as well...

megiant
Music Lover

Yes! This is what Spotify needs, for users to find composers. And for composers to get their credit due.

Looking for music of your favourite composer is almost impossible now.

mwfromoutwest
Music Lover

Sorry - didn't really read the above but trying to get the message acros that classical album info is greatly insufficient on Spotify.  Nice selection but why can't all the performers be listed (see operas in particular).  I know as a 60 something classical music listerner I am a niche demo for Spotify.  But I am a paying customer and this is a very annoying feature.

 

thanks

jaa_edit
Regular

I was directed to this thread (and, indeed, the existence of a Spotify forum) by the @SpotifyCares account on Twitter.

 

... here I am. I support this idea, and am posting accordingly.

darilbananapeal
Concert VIP

So, it's been 3 years since this has been posted. 

 

I am wondering if the composer/ others looking here have found any shred of relief? Do you all have any hope of spotify organizing the music any better? Is there another service that works?

 

 Classify is no longer an app... so what's taken its place?

 

As a casual classical listener I have trouble finding works that aren't a compilation on some random cd, or ... pulling up mozart's works shows me a big list of cds. Idk which one to listen to! They all vary in quality! Some are horrible recordings, some are louder than others... idk it's just hard. Maybe there needs to be a greatest hits section for us newbies and then explore from there, otherwise the daunting list on the artist's page seems ... daunting ...

EuphoniumBob
Gig Goer

Everyone please read NPR's article on this issue and share!  We need to keep the pressure on.  http://www.npr.org/sections/therecord/2015/06/04/411963624/why-cant-streaming-services-get-classical...

gjbarton
Regular

I am also frustrated by the search ability for classical music and the infuriating titling of some tracks as "Allegro" with no reference to composer or work.

 

However, I understand that when you are repackaging information from multiple sources it can be impossible to present a uniform interface.  Search is also complicated by lack of standardisation in names for almost everything, so even if you had all the information from the rights holders building a truly effective search interface would be problematic. 

 

A pragmatic solution that Spotify could perhaps implement would be to provide a scan of the printed album track page (assuming the rights holders would provide this!)  Looking through my CD collection, this usually has all the information on it that I would want to know about the track and album.  OK it is not perfect - you could not search it but at least I could find out who the composer was and much more having landed on a track.  At the moment, I squint at the album front cover image, but that does not hold all the information!

 

This "solution" would require relatively little work on the side of the rights holders and Spotify.  They already make the album after all!

 

I guess one could even use OCR on the album page to give some primitive search as well...

 

Geoff.