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Tim Cook thinks Spotify is 'draining the humanity out of music'

By Cal Jeffrey · 17 replies
Aug 8, 2018
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  1. Tim Cook recently took a dig at Spotify because of its use of algorithms to curate playlists. In a sit-down interview with Fast Company Cook said, "We [at Apple] worry about the humanity being drained out of music, about it becoming a bits-and-bytes kind of world instead of the art and craft."

    Spotify’s algorithms take into account a user's play history and compares it to others to fashion lists tailored to the listener’s preferences. Cook says that Apple Music playlists are curated by humans making what users listen to more personal — he even used the word "spiritual."

    Spotify CEO Daniel Ek thinks this is nonsense. He believes algorithms can much more accurately select music that a user will like, thus giving each individual user their own listening experience. The best that human-curated playlists can do is appeal to a broader range of users. Some may like Apple Music’s lists and some may not. With Spotify, every user knows that "Daily Mix" lists will have music that they listen to frequently and that "Your Discovery Weekly" will have tunes that they may not have heard but will like because they are similar to what they already listen to.

    "Music is everything we do all day, all night, and that clarity is the difference between the average and the really, really good," said Ek.

    Putting curation aside for a moment and focusing on the numbers shows that Apple is in an excellent position to take the top spot in streaming music. Currently, Cupertino’s service has attracted about 50 million users with around 40 million paid. Spotify’s subscriber base is almost double that. However, Apple’s free-to-paid ratio is much more favorable at 1:4 versus Spotify’s 2:1.

    The reason that the ratios are significant is that ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers) and BMI (Broadcast Music, Inc) do not care about how much money a company makes from an artist’s music. All they care about is how many people are listening and that the company in question is paying the appropriate royalties.

    With Apple Music, Cupertino is only shelling out freebies for one out of every five of its listeners, and that is only on a temporary basis, not indefinitely. Plus, Apple doesn't even care about losing money in this venture.

    "We’re not in it for the money," said Cook. Apple can afford to be the "loss leader" in this race.

    Conversely, over half of Spotify’s user base is listening for free, so the company is picking up an enormous bill for them. It offsets that loss with advertisements, but the company is still hemorrhaging money. Spotify lost $1.5 billion in 2017 alone.

    On the bright side, since going public Spotify has attracted more paying customers and Q1 losses are down for 2018 to about $49 million.

    Personally, I like Spotify and am a paying customer. Even though I own an iPhone and have briefly considered switching to Apple Music, I have stuck with Spotify specifically because the playlists give me exactly what I want to listen to. Like Ek, I am not convinced that humans can make me a playlist that suits me perfectly.

    What do you think?

    Permalink to story.

  2. VitalyT

    VitalyT Russ-Puss Posts: 4,478   +3,036

    Who cares about Apple's corporate BS? They live on it.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2018
  3. Julio Franco

    Julio Franco TechSpot Editor Posts: 8,247   +1,268

    Because he's the right guy to criticize (its competitor) Spotify.
  4. m4a4

    m4a4 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,458   +1,034

    I have thousands of hand-picked songs and specific tastes (more specifically, good melody over everything else). Why should I care if it's curated by a human or algorithm?
    If anything, it's easier for an algorithm to narrow down my tastes...

    And also, it makes it sound like Cook is subtly saying "we're better than everyone else" (again lol).
  5. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 3,979   +2,285

    I have never used spotify, and I may never use it. I used LastFM for a while, and its algorithm was terrible, IMO. I had very carefully added music I like to my library, and also pretty much played only from my library, then LastFM changed things around making it nearly impossible for me to play the music in my list. Their algorithm for playing things almost never played anything I liked after that, so I stopped using them.

    If spotify's algorithm is anything like that LastFM one, I would rather just play music serially from my own library instead.
  6. Reachable

    Reachable TS Evangelist Posts: 369   +183

    I would think that human-curated lists might be more prone to prejudices. That's how it seemed to be when I was using Pandora (I'm assuming Pandora was human-curated.)
  7. p51d007

    p51d007 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,965   +1,230

    So far, I've been pretty happy with Spotify. The thumb up/down when I hear a song does a pretty good job of playing similar music that I like, when I want a VARIETY of different songs/artist.
    But most of the time, I have albums or playlists that I listen to that I don't have to skip.
  8. frostyshield

    frostyshield TS Booster Posts: 87   +89

    "Tim Cook thinks Spotify is 'draining the humanity out of music'"

    uhhh says the guy who wont let me share my playlist on apple music..

    Also kinda creepy how apple has employees looking at my playlists and going oh Frostyshield might like this! Like.. at least take me on a date first before you stalk me bro.
  9. tehxion

    tehxion TS Rookie Posts: 20   +10

    Another happy Spotify customer with an iPhone and iWatch here! The AI recommendations are far superior to Apple Music's hand picking. The only reason I keep apple music around is the watch integration (local storage save) and I'm seriously considering ditching my subscription soon.

    It sounds crazy but I use Spotify for recommendations and then manually add these to Apple Music so I can save locally on the watch. My conversion rate (recommendation to like) is almost 0 with Apple music and upwards of 40% with Spotify.

    What would be good is some real numbers on the conversion rate, how many of Apples listeners turn recommendations into likes vs Spotify.
    Cal Jeffrey likes this.
  10. Luay

    Luay TS Enthusiast Posts: 96   +21

    I thought “draining the humanity “ was rich coming from Cook, then I read “we’re not in it for the money”.

    Imperial nudity is what it is. Funny what a trillion $ can do to one’s brain.
    Cal Jeffrey likes this.
  11. Dustyn

    Dustyn TS Booster Posts: 103   +40

    Pretty sure it's the other way around....
    Nobina likes this.
  12. Nobina

    Nobina TS Evangelist Posts: 1,939   +1,489

    Tim sure know a thing or two about draining humans.
    Dustyn and Digitalzone like this.
  13. regiq

    regiq TS Addict Posts: 237   +113

    I think that having too much choice isn't necessarily a good thing. When young I could enjoy one album on my walkman for weeks, now it's unthinkable. Of course I've changed, not only the technology, but I still prefer listening to whole albums instead of mixtapes/playlists.
    Both of these companies just want to sell us as much as they can and that's the main reason for curated/customized playlists.

    Edit: just to clarify my first sentence: having 10 streaming services isn't too much choice, having millions of songs at your fingertips is.
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2018
  14. 5charactersname

    5charactersname TS Rookie

    So the tech giant is worried about draining the humanity out of music (wtf does it even mean?!?)... Yes, that's exactly why I'm not going to switch from Spotify to Apple Music. Because I prefer dimwit algorithms than narrow-minded humans and their records selling agendas. What a variety of choices btw :D How about browsing albums and making playlists yourself? Nah, it's better to wait for the next U2 album that you'll get from Mr Cook and his team for free, whether you want it or not. Hand-picked and carefully curated ;)
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2018
  15. JordLevy

    JordLevy TS Enthusiast Posts: 46   +14

    I've used both, but prefer Spotify personally.
  16. Dosahka

    Dosahka TS Addict Posts: 149   +58

    did you actually tried it mate? I did not even know that I can share it, but for your cryout I've spent 20 sec to find this, also you require iOS 11 on your iDevice, probably that's why you can't.

    Also for the article:
    For one of my friend Spotify can predict the "best" song for to be the next, for me and for other friends it's simply like when you try to catch a rain drop.
    Apple music is better in overall (I'm mixing punk-rock, rap, R&B, hop-hop etc... and so many more genre also different years from '70 to 2018, I think it is impossible to get me the right one, but I consider myself as an extraordinary in terms of music taste)
  17. McMurdeR

    McMurdeR TS Addict Posts: 144   +115

    And Apple wouldn't want to get their mits on Spotify's market share and make as much money out of it as possible?

    Ridicule isn't enough for Tim Cook and his bare faced hypocrisy
  18. Cal Jeffrey

    Cal Jeffrey TS Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 1,767   +427

    What I found hilarious about the interview (I wanted to include it but it just didn't seem relevant enough) was when Fast Company wrote:

    I was thinking, "Riiiiiiiight. Tim Cook is soooo passionate about music -- he is such an enthusiast that there is not one single public photo of him wearing headphones -- NOT EVEN AIRPODS -- not one."

    Trust me. I looked because I wanted to find one for the article.
    cliffordcooley likes this.

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