Blogs & Comment

Winners & Losers: Spotify hits a high note, Google breaks Glass

You can support a starving artist for just thousandths of a penny per stream

▲ Spotify

Taylor who?

Spotify App on some smartphones

The streaming music service announced on its blog that it’s reached 15 million subscribers, for a total of 60 million active users. In the past two months alone, it’s added 2.5 million paying users. The growth is partly due to the fact that more of us are listening to streaming services on mobile devices and, perhaps, the recent controversy over Spotify’s business model. The company has been pilloried by some artists, such as David Byrne and Thom Yorke, for paying only meagre royalties. Taylor Swift famously pulled her entire catalogue from Spotify late last year. The ensuing media coverage may have prompted some people to see what this Spotify thing is all about. In response to the criticisms, the company points to the $2 billion in royalties it’s paid since launching in 2008. (A big number, sure, but a bit misleading; Spotify pays between $0.006 and $0.0084 per stream.) Nevertheless, the argument has not hindered the company’s growth, and it’s the subject of persistent IPO rumours. It’s also possible this recent announcement is a desperate attempt to win back Taylor Swift, but it’s probably not in the cards. Here she is hanging out with Lorde and Haim recently. She’s clearly over you, Spotify.

▼ Google

A kick in the Glass

Woman wearing Google Glass

Google announced it’s discontinuing sales of the current version of wearable computing device Glass and retooling the division within the company. Google presented the change in the best possible light, pointing out that yes, it will release another version of Glass, at some point, in the future, when it’s ready. But it’s clear Glass has problems. Google initially charged $1,500 for the privilege of being a beta tester of the device, prompting the rest of us to wonder what was wrong with these face-computer-wearing nerds. These beta testers were essentially brand ambassadors, and they were not the best at it. Glass proved to be divisive, with some restaurants, bars, and movie theatres instituting bans. The backlash eventually gave rise to a glorious new term: Glasshole. Even Google co-founder Sergey Brin has stopped wearing it in public. There were other problems, too: short battery life, poor sound quality, and a lack of apps. As part of the reorganization (Glass is now a standalone unit, reporting to a different executive) it will be developed in secret, where we can’t ridicule it, and only released to the public when it’s ready. Then we can ridicule it.