Free can be creepy

So you’re not confused, this is Peter writing today.  Remember when I told you that Vickie took some of Gloucester’s best music to Iowa on the cloud?  (See that post here, if you missed it.)  I pointed out that we love having our music in the cloud because we can play it anywhere, any time and on lots of devices — PC, Kindle, phone, etc.

Now, all the music in our cloud is music we own — that is, we bought the CD or downloads, or someone gave it to us.

As you may know there are other cloud services that allow you to play music you don’t own.  No, I’m not talking about Pandora.  I don’t like Pandora.  It’s radio without a DJ.  Pandora’s algorithm selects music it thinks you’ll like and streams it.  If I’m going to listen to music chosen by somebody else, I want that somebody to be a person who has chosen the music because he/she likes it.  That’s why I don’t listen to top 40 radio.  Those DJs just play what they’re told.

I’m talking about Spotify (click here if you don’t know what Spotify is).  Spotify let’s you play any song in its massive library for free any time you like, plus it has a social angle, which can be very exciting, but with a rub.  Here’s an example:

Yesterday, one of my favorite local musicians,  Carlos Menezes (of Runaround, Cape Ann Big Band and other tremendously creative projects) created a Spotify playlist featuring Fitz and The Tantrums and, when he did that, Spotify sent me an email.  Why, you ask, did Spotify send me an email when Carlos created a playlist?  In a word: Facebook.  Like most Spotify users, I log in using my Facebook account.  So does Carlos.  Whenever Carlos creates a public playlist, Spotify sends an email to all of his Facebook friends who are also Spotify users — automatically — and I got one, since Carlos and I are friends on Facebook (I like to think we’re friends in the real world too).  I have a lot of respect for Carlos’ taste in music, so I clicked on the link in the email, which launched Spotify and showed me his playlist.  Then I clicked on the first song (Breakin’ the Chains of Love) to play it.  As soon as I played that song, a new post appeared at the top of the Activity section of my Facebook Page announcing to the world, “Peter is listening to Breakin’ the Chains of Love by Fitz and The Tantrums.”

That’s the rub.

Call me old-fashioned, but I really don’t want the world to know what I’m listening to and when I’m listening.  So I “removed” the Spotify activity from my Facebook page.  And when I did, I selected the option to “remove Spotify” and guess what?  Having done that, I could no longer play any songs on Spotify.  In order to play songs on Spotify again, I had to allow Spotify to post on my timeline.

Is it just me, or does this seem creepy to anybody else?

Well, I like Fitz and The Tantrums, so I might just buy their CD and put it in my cloud.

Owning the music has its advantages, not the least of which is that the artist gets paid a whole lot more if I buy a song than if I stream it on Spotify.  According to published reports, I’d have to play Breakin’ The Chains of Love about 100 times on Spotify before Fitz and the Tantrums got as much as if I downloaded it from their website.

And then there’s the privacy bit.  Once I buy the songs and put them in my cloud, my family and I can play them anytime we like without anyone else knowing what we’re playing and when.

Don’t get me wrong, I really don’t mind telling people what music I like and what I listen to, but I want to choose whom to tell and when.  I don’t want Spotify and Facebook deciding that for me.  I’ve been misquoted in the press and had things I’ve said taken out of context often enough to know that it wouldn’t be a stretch to assume that somebody will draw an unintended inference from seeing all my listening published on Facebook.

If I’m going to take grief from people, at least I want it to be because I recommend something specific with intent, like tonight you might want to go to the Rhumb Line and see my friends Allen Estes and Orville Giddings.  Or if that’s not your cup of tea, check out the other live music in Gloucester.

So to all you artists out there whose music I have in my cloud, don’t expect to see any Spotify posts in my Facebook Activity saying that I’m playing your music.


  • You can specify who can see the posts that Spotify makes on your wall. I have mine set to be private, so that when it posts, only I can see it. That more or less solves (or at least ameliorates) the privacy situation. That is to say, Spotify still knows and keeps track of what I listen to, and so does Facebook, but at least it’s not visible on my profile.


    • Hmmmm. I Should have checked that. On second thought, no. I don’t trust either Facebook or Spotify not to divulge my history or sell it or use it for something that I don’t approve of. And the funny thing is, I can’t come up with a logical reason why I would object to having my music playing history divulged beyond the creepy feeling I get when I think about that possibility. How do others feel?


  • straight creepy homie


  • spotify and all its brethren are why zuckerman et al have billions in the bank and you don’t. reminds me of that old charlton heston movie ‘soylent green’. evil harvest, only it’s data, not social security liabilities. get used to it.


  • hmmm….I don’t like that ‘big brother’ stuff either. I tend not to agree to any apps on FB for that reason. It’s too bad, really. FB could be so powerful to just let people choose what they want to share, but these companies want to own our choices.


  • Peter – What if you sign into Spotify without going through FB? That would solve the privacy issue.


    • Funny you should ask. I tried, albeit half heartedly. The thing is that when I tried to sign up using my email address, it was already attached to the account I had opened by logging on through Facebook, so I couldn’t use it again. Makes sense. But at that point, it had become too much time spent on trying to fix something I didn’t break. Plus, I’m not sure, but that would probably have prevented me from getting notified when somebody like Carlos makes a public playlist — the operative word here being “public”. Hell, I might want to make a public playlist too. And, as Fr Green says, it seems that I could have prevented my plays from showing on my timeline. I guess the real problem here is that I just got creeped out. It’s kind of like when you taste bad milk. You don’t want another glass of milk even if it’s perfectly OK.


  • From a songwriter point of view: My “one hit wonder” (Ballad of Whiskey Row) – gets hits from Spotify all the time. I have spent a few thousand dinero in recording and advertising. Each time I get a Spotify hit, they pay me less than a cent. Same for Napster and the other venues. The wave of social networking is their gain.


  • now listening to Ballad of Whiskey Row :- )


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