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
CalebS
Regular

Spotify has an incredibly rich classical music cataloge, but much of it suffers from sloppy track, artist, and album naming, making searching for a specific album, work, or performance tricky.

 

But unfortunately, Spotify recently started making it worse, not better.

 

It used to be that music on labels like Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, and Phillips had the best naming convention for tracks, artists, and albums in the entire classical cataloge.

 

For example, the three movements of Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 27 were named like this:

 

Mozart: Piano Concerto No.27 in B flat, K.595 - 1. Allegro

Mozart: Piano Concerto No.27 in B flat, K.595 - 2. Larghetto

Mozart: Piano Concerto No.27 in B flat, K.595 - 3. Allegro

 

This meant that if you added this concerto to a playlist called "Favorite Piano Concertos," it was easy to see at a glance what the work was. In search results, it was easy to pick out what you were looking for. It was a good solution to a system that, unlike iTunes, doesn't have a "composer" category.

 

Within the last couple of weeks, however, I started noticing that new releases were following a different, highly flawed naming convention, and that tracks in albums I'd had in playlists for months were actually being RENAMED in this horrid new format.

 

The new format looks like this: 

 

MOZART: 1. Allegro - Live in Italy / 2011

MOZART: 2. Larghetto - 2. Larghetto - Live in Italy / 2011

MOZART: 3. Allegro - Live in Italy / 2011

 

Source: spotify:album:3efOoSKGmjL2vhKPHgYAfy

 

It appears that someone with absolutely no knowledge of classical music got put in charge of naming tracks on new releases and updated albums. The name of the work, "Piano Concerto No.27," is missing from the track names. Now if I'm scanning through a playlist, I have to waste time trying to figure out which piano concerto it is, or if it's even a piano concerto (granted, in this example the album contains the names of the two piano concertos on the album, but what if it's in a box-set album called "Mozart: Complete Piano Concertos?"

 

The problem is that titles like "allegro" are worthless for identifying a classical work, because it's not descriptive of a specific work, but rather a generic tempo marking. The many symphonies, sonatas, and concertos by Mozart, Beethoven, etc. contain names like "allegro" and "adagio."

 

This new change is extremely unhelpful! What was wrong with the old way? I really wish Spotify would do more to standardize album and track data for classical music. Right now, with this new change, it's taken a turn for the worst, not for the better.

Jude
Spotify Legend

Mea non culpa: Along with the musical content, all metadata is supplied to us by the submitting labels. If the format of track data is changing this is being initiated by the labels responsible. Spotify displays the track information as it comes. I suspect that this also means track information will be changing wherever this content is displayed around the internet.

 

These changes don't sound very convenient. However, I looked at one example you gave, and noticed that the composer is now featured in the list of artists, with [composer] next to the name. This actually opens up new possibilities for search. In essence, there is now a de facto Composer field, particularly if you inlclude [composer] in your search. Perhaps these changes have been partially motivated to work around the lack of a Composer field in many services.

 

I'm not really qualified to say what the best format would be for classical music. How about getting SpotifyClassical involved ? I'm sure ulyssestone will be interested (and he might throw in some oblique text phrases in Greek too).

 

 

timewart
Regular

Entirely agree - it's as frustrating as eMusic or any other online service/media player. 

 

Spotify are missing a trick - improve the use of metadata or lose a whole community willing to pay and happy to support the service.

dannymitchell
Regular

Very well stated and astute comments, A.B.  I especially agree with your first "3)" point. Spotify has the potential to be an INCREDIBLE educational tool.

kevinmstocks
Regular

+1 

 

I only recently started to use Spotify for classical music and have experienced the same frustrations.  Seems like an easy fix.  I'm a premium subscriber and have considered dropping that service for this reason.

OwenDavis
Regular

Yes, this is an issue and quite obvious that many people agree with it. I personally have spent countless hours organizing playlists to let me compile and navigate through the amazing albums offered by the great new music composers, performers, and ensembles. The demand seems to be there spotify, will you meet it? New Classical music is not just a niche so please don't treat it as one. (Speaking for the whole, being a composers myself) We are living and hungry, looking for any way to meet our audience. Spotify is a great resource, but it can be made so much simpler by just a little bit of elbow grease that IS possible. 

 

Sincerely, 

Owen Davis

 

P.S. I personally think Classify is a joke. It's almost offensive. 

kyburz74
Regular

I have a similar, related issue which pertains  to the new welcome page, which doesn''t work at all for classical music. It's  the old rule of metadata, GIGO. Garbage in, Garbage out. 

RobH
Regular

Just another +1 to the brilliant opening post.

 

I cancelled my paid membership of Spotify because of this issue - it offers a very poor user-experience for classical music. I still use it sometimes, but find it frustrating for all the reasons outlined above.

 

I'd use Spotify a lot more often AND pay for it if the ideas in the opening post were implemented.

 

Rob

kamanetzki
Regular

Well put!

Another example of poor labelling is this; I want to listen to Claudio Abbado conducting Mahler. He has recorded the set of 10 symphonies. When you click on the "cover" link you just get track titles eg Langsam. Schleppend but no labelling of which symphony they belong to.

I love Spotify especially for discovering new classical music but the way one finds a piece of music is deficient.

 

Have Spotify contacted you on this point?

RichardMVickery
Regular

Yes - it is ridiculous. Especially affects classical and jazz numbers.

Searching is weak to start with, but without tracking the composer, it is almost useless. I am considering dropping my subscription for this reason.