We recently received a thumbs up from our scholarly communication advisor to use Spotify for the jazz appreciation MOOC. I realized I had been spoiling for a fight, and when I received the news, it was like all the air had been let out of my tires. But this is good news for our planning process, after all. And as she pointed out, Spotify is legal (i.e. it has a business model that compensates copyright owners, who willingly participate), and in the ad-supported version, it’s free. The only drawback is that there may be students enrolled in the MOOC who do not reside in countries where the service is available (no Spotify in India, Brazil, or China for example–see here for a list of countries in which it is available). But as Georgia remarked, they will in all probability find suitable alternatives. Simultaneously, through the librarian grapevine, I learned that students in the History of Rock MOOC offered by the University of Rochester have organized themselves for the listening exercises by creating Spotify playlists. And it dawned on me that there was yet another way to present those listening examples.
Here’s my Spotify playlist for the first few weeks of the jazz appreciation course. Neat, huh?
As our scholarly communications advisor implied, Spotify is just a sliver of the digital music pie. Download services like iTunes still dominate the digital music sector, generating 71% of global revenues, but subscription streaming services have picked up a substantial slice of the market at 13% (Recording Industry in Numbers 2013). Interestingly, Europe and the US are mirror images of each other in terms of how users prefer to access their music; Europeans prefer streaming services while Americans mostly download music. A key to the growing popularity of streaming services may be the fact that users are more likely to explore music they mightn’t otherwise listen to because they don’t have to buy each track.
In the music streaming group, we’ve got Spotify, Rhapsody, Deezer for our friends in Europe, Rdio, and Microsoft’s Xbox Music (and many, many others). Stand by for Google Play All Music Access, which was unveiled at Google I/O last week. This was newsworthy partly because Google beat out Apple, which has yet to release its much anticipated iRadio. And of course a lot of users stream music via music video sites like YouTube and VEVO.
In the user contributed content group, there’s Grooveshark:
Lastly, there are radio services and curated sites like Pandora, This is My Jam, and Songza. These aren’t necessarily the best ones to go to for a known query though since they’re designed more to introduce you to things that you might like based on your initial input. You essentially select a playlist curated by other listeners, or by a MIR algorithm, and if you’re like me, the results can occasionally be irritating. Why, after selecting Baroque as the genre, Pandora thinks I want to listen to The Messiah in the middle of May is beyond me…
In summary, there are copious and growing amounts of (mostly) legal digital music to access on the internet these days, which makes the prospect of designing listening exercises for online music classes surprisingly straightforward. Granted, subscribers do not control the collection, so content could change or disappear from one moment to the next. But with a little searching, it can probably be had from one service or another. This is likely not at all the case for supplemental readings in the humanities, but I’ll save the discussion of open courseware and textbooks for another post.