Spotify is, without a doubt, the largest streaming music service. The latest estimates peg the user base at just short of 289 million and that’s a big number no matter how you look at it.
However, the service has always taken a somewhat laid back approach to feature updates. Last month, Spotify finally dropped its ridiculous 10,000 song library cap. It is hard to believe, but it took the company nearly a decade to fix a limitation that shouldn’t even have existed. However, there’s one more feature, the lack of which, has had users fuming for years.
Yes, I’m talking about a Spotify cloud music locker.
Now you might say that Spotify has millions of tracks available already, over 50 million of them, shouldn’t that be enough? Why would anyone need to upload their own music to stream from a cloud locker as well?
Well, there are music listeners, and then there are people who really dive deep into their music collection. Not to toot my own horn, but I decidedly fall in the second category.
Between a carefully curated music library spanning terabytes of storage and thousands of hours spent over the years, as well as a record collection filled with hundreds of obscure titles, I like listening to music that no streaming service has access to. Having said that, I’m not a luddite. I’ve been a devoted Spotify fan since 2014, and have patiently lived with all the shortcomings of the service because its recommendations engine, playlists, and Spotify Connect are all incredible.
However, with just 300 million subscribers, the service cannot realistically cover every genre of music. Gracenote, a popular music tracking database, has about 200 million titles listed, and that’s just from the eight markets it operates in. Spotify’s library covers just about a fourth of those. Meanwhile, both Tidal and Apple Music boast of larger music libraries.
Spotify's 50 million track library is huge, but it falls short of the competition.
There are other issues with artist and track availability too. For a medium that was designed to transcend boundaries, silicon valley sure likes to put up gates around art. Case in point, Jay-Z’s entire discography was locked behind Tidal’s pay-wall until very recently. Meanwhile, Apple Music has had its own slate of exclusives. Nobody wants to pay for or juggle multiple music services to listen to the latest from their favorite artist. For that matter, several artists include bonus tracks with retail versions of the album and these often don’t make their way online to any music streaming services.
Additionally, there might be tracks missing from a particular country’s streaming catalog due to tie-ups with labels. For example, India is big on Bollywood music, and when Spotify launched in India, it was missing a large chunk of music the average listener would want to stream. Only in May was Spotify able to resolve its issues with Warner Music and Indian major, Saregama, The latter alone contributed over 1,00,000 tracks to the streaming library and yet, it still doesn’t cover the length and breadth of regional discographies, some which haven’t seen an online release at all.
Simply put, the dream of a single unified music streaming platform with every possible artist is just that: a pipe dream.
From exclusives to regional restrictions, streaming services simply don't have an end-to-end music library.
A cloud locker could easily solve all these problems. Picked up a digital download, or a physical copy of the album? Just upload it to Spotify and your music is available to stream wherever you are.
Letting users add their own music to the mix isn’t just pro-consumer, but is also great for Spotify. Users get to enjoy all the benefits of a modern streaming service including recommendations and quality curated playlists while bringing their own content along for the ride.
The missing feature isn’t even a matter of nit-picking. In 2019, music streaming services grew 32% year-on-year to cross 350 million subscriptions. Of this, Spotify managed a 31% share of the total revenues earned. However, Apple Music is right on its heels with 24% share of total revenues.
In key growth markets like India, YouTube Music is shaping up to be one of the most popular music streaming services. Clearly, users are willing to pay for value adds, and streaming alone won’t cut it.
I jumped on Google Play Music the day the service was announced and part of that decision was heavily influenced by the service’s offline music locker feature. Over time, I had close to 10,000 tracks from my library uploaded to the locker and I really enjoyed the experience of mixing my personal, often obscure favorites, with popular new music. Sure, I ended up switching to Spotify for the better recommendations experience, but I still lament the loss of the thousands of tracks that I just don’t have access to.
With the switchover to YouTube Music, Google is bringing along its cloud locker to the platform. It allows up to 100,000 tracks to be uploaded to the service and can be easily cast, streamed around the house.
It’s not just Google either. Apple Music integrates its iTunes Match service into its own offering. Any track available in your offline library can be matched to a cloud database, and if the track isn’t found it’ll be uploaded to the service and let you stream it from wherever you want.
For a service that charges the same amount as the alternatives, it is a shame that Spotify is missing out on such an integral aspect of the music listening experience.
YouTube Music and Apple Music have a take on a cloud music locker, so why not Spotify?
In the face of credible alternatives, great playlists and curation alone won’t cut it. Against Apple Music, Tidal, and Amazon Music, Spotify is starting to lose steam as far as features are considered. Cloud libraries, high-res playback, and even 360-degree audio, Spotify alternatives are doing their best to woo away Spotify’s userbase and it is now all the more important for the brand to finally start listening to feedback from its user base to cement its lead in the music streaming space.