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

Dear Spotifymozart_earphones.jpg --


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.



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")



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).



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.



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.



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.


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!


Suzuki violin students

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!


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Related Ideas


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. 

Music Fan

HUGE problem for classical listeners, I agree with the uselessness of facing a lot of tracks that are only labelled: Allegro, Allegro, Allegro, Allegro...  Which is exacerbated by search problems that result from lack of composer metadata - specifically:


A) Variations in spelling (to find an album of works by J.C. Bach, for instance, you'll have to figure out that there are at least five different "artists" with that name. J.C. Bach, J.C Bach (no period after the C), J. Chr. Bach, Johann Christian Bach and someone named Johann Christian Bach-Akademie. Probably others -- I give up.  


B) Inconsistencies in placement. Composers are sometimes labeled as artists, sometimes not. ("Johann Christian Bach-Akademie" is an artist on a Mozart album.  Mozart is not.)  The result is...


C) Extraneous search results. Some of the search results are correct, most are not. 


D) Misspellings. At the moment I'm listening to an album Spotify calls "Concertos Haro and String Orchestra" -- the album cover spells "harp" correctly -- but I wouldn't have been able to find the album by searching for "Harp."  (To be fair, iTunes and Amazon sport the same misspelling.  Maybe Spotify get your track titles elsewhere.)  This is made worse by the lack of cover art.  That is a separate issue, but cover art information is FAR more reliable than Spotify's labelling. (So Spotify removed it.  Go figure.)

Music Fan

This would be immensely helpful - really bad metadata is forcing me to go online and look through the track lists from the label's website just to see what I'm listening to.


Yes yes yes yes - I agree!!


Spotify was clearly created WITHOUT classical music in mind. The system works fine for all other music.


Is it such a novel concept that classical listeners want to be able to search by composer, music piece title, movement, orchestra, soloist etc?!I suppose it is to anyone who is not a classical music listener.


So - when you create a new program/concept: how about consulting people from different walks of life? Music lovers of different styles? "How would you use this program?" "Would this work for you?" (It's like a fancy restaurant putting together a menu with foreign language foods/ingredients and spelling them all wrongly. Couldn't they find someone anywhere who knows the language to proof read the menu and make sure the foreign language words are spelled correctly?!)


Hmmm - I think my frustration shows n this post. I'm just glad I'm not alone. Now let's just hope the Spotify people will listen and try to FIX this!



May i just add my vote of support to this thoughtful campaign to have 'classical' music properly tagged.

It is no use Spotify showing 'Adagio by Daniel Barenboim' when there is no informaton about whose Adagio!

I acknowledge that the fault lies years ago with the designers of iTunes etc who decided that all music consists of 'songs' which are 'by' the performer, thus excluding most composers and all instumental music from proper treatment! This is an issue which the digital music business has conitnued to neglect for decades, despite valient efforts by some serious music lovers to fix. Please Spotify, use your power to do something about it before one of your competitors does so.  


Are there services like Spotify that include the composer information?

Festival VIP

I know this isnt going to be easy to implement but PLEASE do this!!  



Absolute approval! Please adjust the comfort für premium users and listeners of classical music to minimum standards. I am willing to pay more - if the money finds its way to the artists, proper indexing and recording information.


Spotify, you have the power to do this.

Music Fan

While I agree with most of the above especially Euphonium Bob, I was surprised at the extent of classical music on Spotify especially the amount of older recordings.  As one who has done some music library cataloguing I am aware orgainising the metadata so that everyones contribution and aperformance rights are recognized is no simple matter  Listing sonatas, symphonies according to fomr, Opus No, Key etc is not that simple either.


I look forward to reading comments of other listners on musical works and recordings.  However I am glad to see artists and composers are acknowleged for their royalties and copyright 


@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.