Is Spotify too friendly with Facebook?

Daniel Ek Spotify was launched in October 2008

Last week the music streaming service Spotify got the kind of endorsement money can't buy. At Facebook's F8 event, Spotify's founder Daniel Ek was invited to share the stage with Mark Zuckerberg, and explain just how "awesome" it was going to be to share your music tastes with your friends.

That privilege was not extended to Facebook's other music partners, and it looked at first as though this was a deal which offered a lot more to the European start-up than to the social network.

Now though it is becoming clear that there may have been a price to pay, with Spotify apparently tying its whole future to Facebook. The risk is that this will alienate its existing customers who are already up in arms about one aspect of the deal.

If you go and try to sign up now you will find that a condition of joining Spotify is that you are also a member of Facebook. The argument is that it's all part of the "deep integration" between the two services and users will become addicted to sharing in a seamless way their music listening habits.

Now you would imagine that there would be an almost perfect overlap between the 800 million strong Facebook crowd and the kind of people who might be interested in a streaming service. Nevertheless the reaction from many fans of the music firm has been a mixture of shock, surprise and an almost tearful rage.

Here's a selection of messages I received when I asked my Twitter followers about the new policy:

"I think I'll probably close my account."

The updates were announced at Facebook's annual F8 developer conference

"It's ridiculous - why would a social site insist you have another social account to use it?"

"Spotify were like the innocent of the internet, then in a parallel move they sold out to Coca Cola."

"It is utter madness."

A lot of this appears emotional rather than strictly logical. After all, if you're already on Spotify you won't need to sign up to Facebook - or link your account to it. I put that to one user, who said it was a matter of principle - nobody should be forced to use Facebook to get access to Spotify.

And, just like the Facebook users who accuse the network of selling out to big business, a lot of the anger seems to come from those who appear bemused by the idea that an internet firm would actually need to make money.

Spotify has tried to explain the move by asking users to "think of it as like a virtual 'passport', designed to make the experience smoother and easier, with one less username and password to remember."

Martin Lorentzon and Daniel Ek Founders Daniel Ek (L) and Martin Lorentzon (R)

But what is clear is that the whole idea of sharing your music tastes with the world - or "creating an amazing new world of music discovery" as the firm puts it - does not appeal to everyone. That I can understand - if you're relaxing with some cheesy 70s pop, do you really want your much cooler mates to know that?

Spotify's founder seems to realise he has a big PR problem on his hands. Daniel Ek has been busy on Twitter over the last 24 hours responding to complaints about the Facebook issue. Here he explains the strategy:

"We want to remove barrier to sign-up and create a more seamless experience. As we think our users are social."

But there is also a hint that the policy could be changed:

"We'll try lots of things, and probably screw up from time to time, but we value feedback and will make changes based on it."

My suspicion, however, is that Mr Ek is none too worried about the threat of desertion by those horrified at the Facebook integration.

A much bigger concern will be that too many people join his free service - now open to all those American Facebookers - get used to the idea of sharing friends' music on the social network and never get persuaded to upgrade to the paid offering.

Even given the minuscule licensing fees paid to artists each time a track is streamed, that could prove very expensive.

But Daniel Ek and his team should be satisfied with their work over the last few months. After all, Spotify's recent history, with new markets entered and fans rushing to condemn changes in the service, looks like a miniature version of what Facebook has gone through over the last few years.

Now, like a pilot fish attached to a great white shark, the smaller firm has entrusted its destiny to the social networking giant. It just has to hope that it can feed itself for a while - before it gets eaten.

Rory Cellan-Jones Article written by Rory Cellan-Jones Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

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  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    My complaint is that I do not want to see what people are listening too all the time. Having Spotify integrated with Facebook will create masses of spam that people in general do not wish to see.

    There has to be a better solution out there.

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    How do you explain Spotify's sudden removal of individual tracks or even entire albums without ANY prior notification due to changes in regional licensing from the record labels (most of whom are shareholders in Spotify)?

    You're effectively paying a tenner a month just to preview music. I found I had to buy the tracks/albums on iTunes out of fear of losing my music.

    It's all too much hassle now

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    The main problem with Spotify is the very low level of compensation for the artists whose work fuels the service. The idiocy of confusing a friendship network with a taste network is secondary but is still critical. Last.FM does a fantastic job for me of identifying music I didn't know I would love, and it achieves this by not confusing these two different types of network.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    I don't understand why you say it's illogical to object or why you label objectors as people who are "bemused by the idea that an internet firm would actually need to make money". I had a paid Spotify account but want nothing to do with Facebook, so I've just deleted my Spotify account entirely.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Concerned about CCTV but have no problem with everything you do online being public? Then stay indoors and join Facebook.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    If you look over on the GetSatisfaction page for Spotify, you'll find more than a few disgruntled Spotify customers, some of which have even cancelled Premium accounts as they do not agree with this kind of deep integration with Facebook, which inevitably will send your listening habits though Facebook's OpenGraph. I cancelled Premium a long time ago. This has made me consider not using it at all

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    Share what you're listening on a blog or twitter and it's interesting, share what you're listening on facebook and they'll use it for marketing services, sell your data to a third party and then claim you'd opted in to this with their ever-shifting privacy policies. Although there's no such thing as a free lunch I'm a paying customer for Spotify and I find this intrusive and annoying.

  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    Hey Rory, how about doing an article on an ongoing debate that may have real consequences for computer users? I'm talking about the exchange of blog posts etc. with a Cambridge professor and Red Hat developers on one side and Microsoft on the other. The topic? UEFI secure boot.


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