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


as someone who lacks significant interest in either pop music or classical that's any older than 50 years or so, i've come to rely on itunes despite its many significant flaws. i don't buy music there—i get most of it from CDs, artists' websites, radio broadcasts, et cetera—but ultimately it all goes to itunes, as much as it breaks my heart to turn FLACs into MP3s (320kbps, i'm not completely soulless), for the actual listening part.


the reason is simple—user-editable metadata. in itunes i can list the proper title of the piece if the CD misspelled it, move the composer to the more visible "Artist" field and the performer to the more important "Album Artist" field (or simply "Album" in the not uncommon circumstance that the piece i'm listening to was never released on CD).


obviously this is possible because music imported into itunes is actually stored in your hard drive. songs streamed on spotify are downloaded from a central database (i assume) and only kept on your hard drive temporarily, so even if you could edit the metadata for your local version of the track alone it would disappear as soon as you ran out of cache space. and short of going through and fixing every single album manually (how many does spotify have now, anyway?) it's not really feasible to go through and standardise everything. it wouldn't even stop the griping, due to inevitable arguments over whether composer or performer should get top billing.


what i might suggest is to take a leaf from some other streaming services (last.fm comes to mind) and introduce tags. let's say you have 200 tracks by beethoven with 50 having beethoven himself listed as the artist, 100 having the performer listed as the artist with  beethoven's name in the track or album title and 50 that don't list beethoven's name at all. there could, however, be an "Tag This Track/Album" button somewhere. you would be able to view popular tags for a track/album so that people who didn't know how to spell Beethoven wouldn't mess it up and there wouldn't be 999 different tags along the lines of "Beethoven" "L. v. Beethoven" "Beethoven, Ludwig van" etc etc. then you could search by tag and hope it doesn't come up with hundreds of duplicates.


ok, so it's not a perfect idea, but there is really no easy solution.


(it could even be an app, although i imagine this kind of thing would be more effective as part of the system so as to draw on the widest possible cross-section of the listening population)


I can only agree with all above. The search for classical music is painfull and just not working.

Unlike modern music (pop, rock, ..) there are different concepts to be considered:

1. Composer (e.g. Beethoven)

2. 'Work': e.g. 5th symphonie

3. Artists: Orchestra and Conductor or Soloist: here it becomes difficult as there are different concepts depending on type of work:

- can be orchestral work, so Orchestra and Conductor are relevant

- can be orchestral work with soloist: Orchestra and Conductor and Soloist are relevant

- can be solo work (piano sonates et..): soloist

- can be chamber music: Orchestra= Ensemble (Quartet, Trio, ..)

4. Album : Beethoven, 5th Symphonie, Wiener Philharmoniker, Claudio Abbado

5. Track 


Searching today for Beethoven 5th Symphonie just gives you tens of albums, and no information to see which orchestra or conductor....

I use it today on a Sonos system and it does not work well...just trial and error to find a album.


Can SPotify not just build a multi level search engine: stepwise refining your search by key words, just like any good advanced search engine??

Opening Act

Just showing the label along with artist, title etc would be a good improvement


I also agree that Spotify is woefully lacking in its treatment of Classical Music and its conventions regarding title, composer, movement, conductor , orchestra and date etc. All these details are important to Classical music afficionados. Please please please Spotify do sort out your titling and search facilty.

 I listened to a fine piece of music recently apparently 'composed' by Gennady Rozhdestvensky. A well known Russian conductor. I had to search the internet for the actual composer who I had never heard of - one Aman Agadzhikov - and create my own playlist to acknowledge the fact. The poor man is still alive. Give him the KUDOS!!  The piece is the 'Concerto-Poem for Violin and Orchestra'.

Music Lover

With classical music, I want to know who composed the piece I'm listening to as well as who performed it. 

Thank you for providing a marvellous music application.

Completely agree with this post. I am also a premium subscriber. Composer and songwriter data is fundamental. Would Amazon or the Library of Congress classification system ever list a book without naming its author(s)? Of course not. Not being able to look up a piece of artistic content by one of the creators' names is just bizarre. I get that the problem is most likely originating from the record labels--so, Spotify, lead the way by creating a standard where every track is coupled with the composer or songwriter's name in addition to the title, the performer, and so forth. Workarounds putting the composer or songwriter's name in the title or "artist" data are just confusing. As many have pointed out here, "artist" is ambiguous: could mean ensemble, or soloist, or conductor, or composer. Thanks for listening.

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. 



Owen Davis


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

Garage Band

I agree, Spotify missed a huge opportunity to add cohesion to the world of music metadata.


Dear Spotify -


When those who love Mozart go to find music by this composer, it is easy to find: search for Mozart. But, for those who like music made by today's composers, it is often difficult. The songwriter field is crucial to the business of music: people play music, but someone had to write it. For the pop field, often they are one and the same. But for classical, which may be small compared to pop, it is not always the case. I urge you to consider adding in a searchable composer field for classical tracks. These composers toil over how to create their music, and they do it on paper (or computer) for someone to play and record. But, it all starts with them. Lets give users the chance to find music by their favorite composer easily!





Spotify blames the lack of Composer name on the "Rights Holders" not providing this information.

I just do not believe that. 

Classical record labels will almost always issue classical CDs with the composer name as the primary bit of information.


Spotify is not an option for me as long as they ignore this fact.