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.

 

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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!)

 

no-name.jpg

 

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!

 

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 1.32.01 PM.png



Related Ideas

Comments
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. 

BestNamesTaken
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.)

andrewhj
Regular

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.  

lispnik
Regular

Are there services like Spotify that include the composer information?

nitramwin
Festival VIP

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

:-)

whhill1942
Music Lover

I don't know about the rest of classical music, but with classical guitar ,they are adding the composer to the artist field (Composer, Artist).(Francisco Tarrega,John Williams) or even (Anonymous,Johann Sebastian Bach,John Williams). If.they are going to add the composer to the artist field, it should be (Artist, Composer). (John Williams,Francisco Tarrega).

PabloWabblo
Regular

I am a label manager, and I know that the naming of tracks is done by the submitting label (ie, me, in our case!), and not by each individual service. IOW, you will notice that tracks are named the same way on iTunes, Amazon MP3, etc, as it is all done from one control panel. We use the fields provided by the uploading service. Some services are more accomodating to Classical music, recognizing movements, soloists, etc. but it is not a standard format.
I know jazz fans have a similar issue with the listing of sidemen, who are important to the appreciation of the music.

It would be good to have a uniform standard practice, a Manual of Style so to speak. I keep hoping that a service will take advantage of this opportunity and provide the type of information that classical music lovers need. A Beethoven Symphony ain't just any Beethoven Symphony, you know.

My 2 cents

Pablo Aslan
Producer
Soundbrush Records

Community Manager
Community Manager
Status changed to: Under Consideration

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!

 

Screen Shot 2015-11-19 at 1.32.01 PM.png



whhill1942
Music Lover

As I stated before, please list the artist first.

 

brainy
Regular

I've experienced the same frustration as everyone here. I've been a premium member for more than a year now but I just cancelled my membership and I've been looking around for a better product. I listen mostly (90% of the time) to classical music and I agree that searching pieces is a horrendous experience.  Something that botters me a lot is when searching for say, Beethoven's piano sonata no. 13, op 27 no. 1, the results will most likely be for the more popular sonata no. 14, op. 27 no. 2 (moonlight sonata). I would also like a 'folder' feature where a piece would appear as a single 'song' in the browser, but one could expand the list to show every movement. Id'd be a better experience for saing compositions and re-organizing playlists.

 

As for your update from 3 weeks ago (two posts up), I think it's great. I disagree with whhil1942, I think composers should come first, before the artist. It just makes more sense to me.