Albums are hard

During the warm-up talk for episode 443 of the Accidental Tech Podcast, Marco Arment complained about an album that was broken in Apple Music such that Apple Music would – to his anger – not play the album as it was recorded. Instead, it would mix the track list in the studio album from different live and studio recordings of the band.

I can totally understand the frustration because it happened to me as well in some cases. This is especially frustrating if it occurs in an album where you know every tune by heart and can recognize even the slightest difference, created e.g. by replacing a specific track by another recording from a different album. Apple Music is definitely no stranger to that.

Marco then mentioned that – in contrast to Apple MusicSpotify would play the album flawlessly, as it was recorded. So, I was thinking to myself: what if Spotify1 is really the better alternative for listening to music in the way it was intended by the artists, instead of becoming subject to the weird choices of Apple Music?

This anecdote got me into thinking about an experiment. I launched the Spotify app and told it to play one of my all-time favorite albums, Bruce Springsteen’s 1975 concert recording at the Hammersmith Odeon, London, UK.

Spotify started playing2, and already the first played track was not belonging to the live recording. It was taken from a studio recording3. The next played track also did not belong to the the correct live recording. It was taken from the studio album The River. And so it went on.

In total, the set list played by Spotify was composed of no less than four (!) different studio albums, plus (believe it or not) tracks from the actual Hammersmith Odeon recording.

Of course, this is (hopefully) not representative of the capabilities of the Spotify service. It’s probably better than that. But on this afternoon, the laugh was on it.

  1. I’m not really a Spotify user. I created an account a couple of years ago, just to kick the tires. 
  2. Admittedly, I’m such a light user of Spotify‘s service that I don’t even know how to stop the player from shuffling the tracks. 
  3. Born to run, if I remember correctly.