Spotify to music subscribers: drop dead

SINCE AT LEAST 2010, subscribers to Spotify’s paid music service have asked the company to include the ability to sort playlists alphabetically in the desktop player. It’s the sort of drop-dead obvious feature that should have been built into the player while it was still in alpha. Yet, after six years of requests by paying customers, the feature still does not exist. Many good people work at Spotify and take pride in working to create the best possible music service. But the management in charge of feature requests does not seem to care about or respect customers.

Spotify subscribers organize their music in playlists. Any serious music listener will soon have dozens, if not hundreds, of playlists. They appear in the sidebar in reverse chronological order of the date of their creation. From a programmatic standpoint, the order is random. The inability to sort playlists alphabetically soon makes listening to one’s entire collection problematic. You ignore most of your playlists because you can’t find them, and waste time recreating existing playlists because you’ve forgotten they exist—or can’t find them.

For years, Spotify users have taken to the company’s message boards to request that this basic, rudimentary, obviously necessary feature be added. And for years, Spotify’s official message-keepers have strung users along. Reading these message boards is a study in corporate indifference. In this board, for example, which began in 2012, one customer after another explains why the ability to alphabetize their list of playlists is necessary if they are to continue using the service. It’s almost comical to watch the customer support folks react to each post as if it is a new idea; or attempt to pacify the customer by assuring her that staff is “working around the clock to implement this feature.” That last comment was made in 2015, three years into the thread; there’s been no word about the feature since.

The desktop player does let users change the order of a given playlist by dragging it up or down. That feature would suffice for someone who had three playlists. It might even work for someone with a dozen playlists. But for someone with several dozen or more playlists, manual drag and drop is not only no solution, it’s actually insulting.

What Spotify has done is create an all-you-can-eat buffet, and equipped its customers with a toothpick in place of a knife and fork or chopsticks.

The problem can’t be that difficult to solve, as Spotify has added alphabetization of playlists to its phone and tablet apps. Yet the desktop, a primary source for folks who listen to music while working, remains as primitive as it was in 2010.

Six years of alternately pretending not to know that your paying customers require a basic tool to manage their subscriptions, and pretending to be working on a solution, shows a basic disregard for the paying customer. Which kind of goes along with a disregard for the working musician, who isn’t exactly getting rich off the Spotify royalties that have replaced CD sales.

Apple Music has rubbed me the wrong way since Apple first crammed it into their increasingly dysfunctional iTunes player (whose poor usability is what drove me to Spotify in the first place). I hate that Apple Music shows up on all my Apple devices, even though I don’t subscribe to it, and even after I’ve turn it off in Settings. In this regard, Apple today is like Microsoft in the 1990s. And I don’t mean that in a good way.

But, as obnoxious and overdesigned as it is, there’s one thing I like about Apple Music: it just may drive the complacent management at Spotify to actually start listening to their customers.

My Brother is a Monster

MY MOTHER played piano and cello. My father draws, paints, and sculpts; plays trumpet and guitar; and led an advanced R&D lab in the 1970s, developing robotics and rocket parts. You know what I do, but I also play keyboards and other instruments, studied music theory, and composed and produced music in my own studio before failing up into my present career. We Zeldmans go our own way, bring our own juice, and leave a trail of tears and gold. But my brother Pete Zeldman is the real talent in the family.

My brother Pete spontaneously composes and performs music of such rhythmic complexity that Edgard Varèse and Frank Zappa would be proud. Even with an advanced music degree, you’d have a tough time following the music analytically. But you don’t have to, because it grooves. That’s the crazy surprise of it. My brother plays 17 in the time of 16 in the time of 15 in the time of 14, with cross rhythms in simultaneous 3/4 and 7/8, and you could dance to it. Admittedly, you couldn’t pogo, but it doesn’t pretend to be punk. Musically it is probably the exact opposite of punk, but spiritually it is punk because it is pure affirmation.

My brother made two CDs before releasing his new video, Enigma, this week. I listen to these CDs a lot. Although I’ve watched my brother develop his unique rhythmic musical theories over the past 20 years, I don’t attempt to “follow” the music in any analytical fashion while listening. I just let it wash over me. So can you.

New art is rarely understood. New music is rarely what the people want. They threw tomatoes at Debussy and Stravinsky, and now their compositions are gentle backgrounds for dentist’s offices. White people laughed at rock and roll and their children danced to it. Those rockers laughed at hip hop and their kids dance to it. My brother’s music is like that. It is something new. It’s not going to be a movement because it takes a certain kind of twisted genius to conceive of and play it. But you might like it. And if you’re a drummer, you probably need to hear it.

I am proud of my brother and delighted to share his genius with you. Samples from his new video are available at His CDs are also available.

Sound Taste

I ADORE MUSIC, especially rock, electronic, indie, hip-hop, and jazz, including:

MF DOOM, Beck, Brian Eno, David Bowie, Chet Baker, John Coltrane, DJ Vadim, The Rolling Stones, Arcade Fire, John Lurie, Beirut, of Montreal, Eels, Madvillain, Nick Lowe, Minutemen, King Crimson, Bob Dylan, Muslimgauze, Elvis Costello, Muse, The Clash, The Beatles, Kid Koala, Sugar Minott, Duke Ellington, Electric Six, Bad Brains, Talking Heads, Woody Guthrie, Björk, Cansei de Ser Sexy, Simone Dinnerstein, Moby, Prince, Johnny Cash, Frank Sinatra, John Foxx & Harold Budd, Air, Tom Waits, Thievery Corporation, Robyn Hitchcock, Minor Threat, Manu Chao, OutKast, Boards of Canada, Dean Martin, Freddy Kempf, Laurie Anderson, Philip Selway.

Check it out:

Social Network Creep

The Social Network, a David Fincher film.

If you’re intrigued, as I am, by the trailer for David Fincher’s upcoming The Social Network, and if part of what compels you about the trailer is the musical score—a choral version of Radiohead’s “Creep”—you’ll be happy to know you can purchase said song via On The Rocks is the album, “Creep” is the track, and Scala, a Belgian all-teenage-girl choir, are the artists. Highly recommended.

P.S. If had an affiliate program, I’d have free music for life.

Kind of Blue – 50th Anniversary

Kind of Blue: Fifty years ago, Miles Davis released an album of pure modal improvisation. It changed not only jazz but all music that came after. Wikipedia’s write-up explains, although their fact-filled prose misses all the poetry. Better still, just listen. Thanks for the nudge: Ray.

Comments off.

To be of use to others is the only true happiness. Although a 160 GB iPhone would also be nice.

I was hoping Apple would announce a new generation of iPhones with hard drives sufficient to hold an entire music collection plus a handful of videos. Failing that, I was hoping Apple would announce a new generation of iPods that were exactly like iPhones (sans the phone), with hard drives sufficient to hold an entire music collection plus a handful of videos. What Apple announced was an iPhone without the phone.

So I bought a 160 GB iPod Classic. I already have an iPhone, and you can borrow it when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.

The Classic holds my digital music collection (currently, 31 GB) plus five or six movies digitized at high enough quality to play on a Cinema Screen, and has acres of drive space to spare. I feel that I will never fill it up, although I’ve thought that about every hard drive I’ve ever owned, and I soon filled them all.

The Classic is new and shiny and I almost never use it because the classic iPod interface feels prehistoric after using an iPhone. (Indeed, half the things I do on a computer feel awkward compared to doing them on an iPhone. Click on a friend’s street address in your iPhone. Wow! Now do the same thing on your computer. Ick.)

There are about five movies my toddler loves on the Classic, but she won’t watch them on the Classic. She wants the iPhone and asks for it by name, like cats do for Meow Mix.

The Classic is good for plugging your whole music collection into your stereo. Or it will be when the dock arrives. The Classic does not ship with a dock, and no dock is made for it, but you can order a $50 Universal Dock from Apple. The order takes four weeks to process plus another week to ship. Be kind and call those five weeks a month. A month after unpacking my new Classic I will be able to hook it into my stereo and charge it at the same time—something I expected to be able to do on the day it arrived.

The frustration of that wish is not tragic, but it is not particularly smart marketing, either. This, after all, is a product for people who ardently wish to carry their entire music collection plus a handful of movies in their pocket. Wish fulfillment is the product’s whole reason for being. (Well, wish fulfillment plus the execrable state of air travel, which can turn a jaunt between Chicago and New York into an odyssey of despair and boredom. Carry a Classic and those five hour delays fly by, even when nothing else is flying.)

The guaranteed nightmare of even the shortest business trip aside, what do you do with the Classic? Well, I sometimes bring it to the gym. Because sometimes at the gym, it takes a while to find the right groove. The iPhone’s 7.3 GBs aren’t enough to hold a sufficient musical selection to ensure a great workout.

On the other hand, I can’t answer a business call on my iPod. So even though the Classic gives me lots more music to choose from, I mostly bring my iPhone to the gym.

No iPod is an island, or should be.

Did I mention that the iPhone has a gorgeous, high-resolution screen and the iPod does not? Then there’s the whole gesturing with your fingertips business. How nice that feels, and how weird and slow and un-Apple-like it now feels to go back to the clickwheel that once felt so poshly smart and modern.

I tell you this. If Apple can put a capacious, chunked-out hard drive on the iPhone—even if doing so makes the phone a tad clunkier—the company will have on its hands its hottest convergent technology box yet. And I’ll be the first in line.

Only 95 shopping days ’til Christmas, Steve.

[tags]apple, ipod, iphone, comparison, shopping[/tags]

That Busted GIF Feeling

That busted GIF feeling.

Has this happened to you? You’re using the iLike social music discovery network and things are humming along nicely. Then one day, because of a brief server hiccup, the iLike Sidebar for iTunes is unable to download and refresh your friends’ photos. Instead of your music pals’ smiling faces, you see the classic “busted GIF” icon that web browsers use to denote “image file not found.”

Here is a screenshot of the iLike Sidebar with missing images.

Here is a screenshot, a few days later, with all friend images missing.

It’s what my iLike sidebar has looked like for the past two weeks. It may be what it will look like forever. Has anyone else encountered this problem? Anybody found a solution? Nothing I’ve tried works.

  • Refreshing the sidebar by clicking the semi-circular “refresh” icon to the right of the label, “Recently played by your friends,” does not solve the problem.
  • Hiding and re-showing the sidebar does not solve the problem.
  • Waiting days, or even weeks, for the problem to correct itself does not solve the problem. The problem never corrects itself.
  • Downloading a fresh copy of the iLike Sidebar and reinstalling does not solve the problem.

iLike’s FAQ does not address the problem. When you encounter a problem iLike’s FAQ does not address, you are supposed to contact iLike. I contacted iLike last week. I’ve also written to Dick Cheney. I haven’t heard back from either one. I’m more likely to hear from Cheney. Cheney doesn’t have a Facebook application and he isn’t adding 300,000 users a day.

Like every other recent website, iLike identifies itself as a beta. When you identify yourself as a beta, and you’re adding 300,000 users a day, it’s to be expected that your technology may be imperfect, and it’s also understandable that you may not have time to respond to every user who contacts you about a problem. Hell, I’m not a beta (and I’m not adding 300,000 users a day) and I can’t respond to everyone who contacts me. I get it.

In the scheme of things, a broken feature in a free web app is no big deal. I still like iLike. But if anyone knows how to squash this bug, I’d like it even better.

[tags]iLike, sidebar, bug[/tags]