Spotify: Business Through Obscurity

Every product/service should have a viable business model that makes it sustainable and, hopefully, profitable in the long run.

We all understand that fact. But we also expect such product/service to be clear on what they provide in the sense of things that may affect the end-user, also known as “The side effects”.

When I began using Spotify, the first thing I noticed was that they were using Ads, which by the way I despised since it was affecting my experience with the service. Then I discovered that they also had “Memberships”, which I immediately identified as their main source of revenue.

My immediate thought was:

If I pay, the hassles that the free-users have will be gone.

Seems like a fair trade, right?

It made so much sense at the moment that I got 2 memberships, one for myself and another for my girlfriend, then I  discovered that there was more to it…

After using Spotify consistently for 2 weeks, I began to notice something weird, that didn’t happen before: my connection began to fail, randomly.

My first assumption was that something was consuming most of my internet connection, and since I’m in the IT field, as you would expect, I have a bandwidth meter on my screen at all times. But my bandwidth meter didn’t show anything out of the ordinary, so the first person that came to my mind was my girlfriend. After asking her, her answer was “I’m not even browsing!”, this left me somewhat baffled.

It wasn’t until really late at night, on one of those “coding nights”, that while being the only one using the connection experienced that rubber banding… all my outgoing connection was being used by, surprise surprise, Spotify.


How was this possible? Is Spotify a peer-to-peer network? I wondered, while browsing the Application Settings & remembering the information on their website. But I wasn’t crazy, nothing immediately came up indicating that Spotify was a peer to peer network.

After a quick Search, I got a Spotify Community post which confirmed my suspicions: Spotify is Peer-to-Peer.

That’s understandable, it’s a cheaper solution than getting several Data Centers around the globe, but…

 Why is this not mentioned anywhere?

If you’re going to be using my internet connection for distributing the data, I would appreciate it if you let me know beforehand. That way I don’t become a nuisance for my Home or my Office.

 Why does the Application lacks the controls to limit the upload bandwidth?

Using all my upload connection is not ok!

Asymmetric Internet connections will completely choke without some way to limit the upload bandwidth.

 Why Premium Users can’t opt-out with a simple setting?

If we look at Ads and P2P as a “Currency” for free users to pay with when they use Spotify. If we give you money, you should allow us to opt-out of BOTH: Ads and P2P.

It’s pretty simple to block the P2P connections for Spotify. But what should I expect of a service that will take my money & my bandwidth through obscurity? I don’t know the answer to that question; but one thing I know for sure: I’m not going to do business with them anymore.

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