Victim of the Modern Age – an open letter to Inside Out Music

Dear Inside Out Music

I’d like to start by thanking you for bringing the world such great music. Symphony X, Pain of Salvation, Star One and a whole host of other bands from the progressive metal genre have been an inspiration to long-established fanbases, and newer fans (like me) alike.
I haven’t known about your record label for long. In fact, it’s only yesterday that I realised so many of my new favourite bands were on the same label. While my music taste is quite varied, my Last.fm profile shows that your bands have been in my ears a lot in the past few months, and as a label you’ve certainly dominated my new listening for the past year.

Now you’re probably wondering what happened in the past year? Most of your bands have had well-established followings for many years, and I’ve been a metal fan for just as long. So what’s the incredible marketing force that’s drawn me towards your music? The answer is one simple word: Spotify.

I joined Spotify as soon as they were giving out accounts. At first I didn’t listen much, as their music which fitted my tastes was limited. However, as their library grew, I found myself listening more and more. Eventually, as I see the value of the service they provide, I decided that it was right to subscribe. £10 a month, for all the music I want. I get my music, I support a new and exciting business model, bands and labels still get paid. It’s using this service that I came across a compilation called “Music in progress“.

It’s fair to say that the album represented a turning point in my musical tastes. I was just getting in to Prog at the time (lots of Dream Theatre and Uriah Heap), and discovering such a great collection of bands with just the music I needed at the time was golden. What’s more, each of the artists’ back catalogues were just a click away on Spotify. Pretty soon my main playlist was about 50% Inside Out bands, and 50% other bands, some I already knew, some I was just discovering.

I recently took some time off work where I do most of my music listening (I’m a programmer, and the right music greatly helps my concentration and productivity). When I came back, I hit play on my usual playlist. After a while, none of my favourite bands of the moment had played, so I skipped a few tracks until one popped up (I listen on random). None came up. I took a look at the playlist for one of the bands, and found Symphony X, and all of their songs were greyed out. “That’s weird,” I thought, so I clicked through to the album and was greeted with a red banner proclaiming “This album is not available”. I looked back at the playlist. Star One – not available. Pain of Salvation – not available. Transatlantic – not available. Say it isn’t so?

What could have made all my current favourites disappear in one go? What was the link? Were Spotify just out to get me? Looking at the footer on the album pages, they all had one name in common: Inside Out Music.

So it seems that you’ve taken your music off Spotify. Pretty much all of it. And I have to say I’m heartbroken. Like I said, I’m not listening to your music for free, I subscribe to Spotify, and you get paid every time I play your songs. I discovered all of these bands through the same great service, and now they’ve been taken away from that service. Why? Who knows.

Now, I’m not presuming you’re to blame here. It could be that Spotify put you in an impossible situation and you had to pull out, or it could be that you haven’t fully grasped the modern age of music. (I have to say that your dead Twitter account and lack on fan engagement on Facebook suggest the latter). Whatever the reason, as a fan who likes his music digitally, legally, reasonably priced and on demand, it’s left me feeling confused and alienated, and I’m not the only one. Surely you’ve published an explanation of this travesty? No. There’s not even a mention of it on your website’s news feed, and other fans like me have been actively ignored on your Facebook page.

If you and Spotify can’t sort out your differences, at least give your fans a reason, and let them know how they can still listen to their favourite bands on the terms they’ve become used to. Need I remind you that your music is still available digitally, on demand and at a reasonable price? It’s available free, in fact, just not legally. Is that the road you want fans like me to take? I’m very respectful of copyright, but I can guarantee you that there are those who will respond to a situation like this by jumping straight to bit torrent, and that’s not good for anyone.

Yours
Mark Johnson

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