I recently opened up the Spotify app on my iPhone after a long period of neglect, and OMG.
Having followed news of the service’s interface overhaul aka the Tik-Tok-ification of Spotify, I was aware I would be seeing something different. But I wasn’t prepared for just how different the app would appear, and how out-of-step this new version is with the core mission of music delivery provided by the best music streaming services.
To be fair, following a series of key, and costly, acquisitions over the past few years, Spotify has positioned itself as more than just a music streaming service. It is now an audio platform, with podcasts and audiobooks getting equal promotion in the revamped Spotify app. There’s a lot going on in there, and for someone like myself who has a more traditional approach to music consumption, along with a more old-school relationship with social media, the new Spotify is thoroughly off-putting.
The kind of change that I would have liked to see in an updated Spotify is an upgrade to Lossless and High-Res music over the lossy compressed library currently available for streaming. That and some Spatial Audio offerings would have been good. But none of those things are going to happen.
“The industry changed and we had to adapt”
Spotify co-president Gustav Söderström stated in a recent interview that the service is still working on a HiFi tier. That news comes two years after the company first announced it would be adding Lossless CD-quality music, an upgrade it suggested at the time would be rolled out “later this year.”
Instead, we got SpoTik-Tok, which is not surprising. In a TheVerge Decoder podcast interview with Söderström cited in the article linked to above, here’s what the company’s co-president said of the supposedly forthcoming HiFi tier: “We are going to do it, but we’re going to do it in a way where it makes sense for us and for our listeners. The industry changed and we had to adapt.”
The new Spotify’s vertical-scrolling navigation and free-flowing video reels certainly signal an adaptation – over-adaptation, in my opinion. And it means that Spotify is dead-serious about catering to a very specific audience. But that audience doesn’t necessarily care about Lossless audio (HiFi) and they’re certainly not going to pay more for it.
Yes, it’s true: Spotify’s plans for its HiFi tier had involved a price increase over the basic $9.99 per month Premium subscription. That may have made sense when the company first announced its HiFi plans, but since then Apple Music and Amazon Music Unlimited have both made Lossless, High-Res Lossless, and Spatial Audio part of their standard $10.99 / £10.99 / AU$11.99 per month subscription.
Making sense for us and for our listeners
Let’s be realistic, there is no longer a world in which a Spotify HiFi tier makes sense anymore. The company is aggressively catering to an audience craving an abundance of content and wants it fed to them in a manner that syncs up with current social media formats. The company most likely awakened to the reality of what they needed to do following a third-quarter operating loss, and subsequent stock value plummet, in 2022, and thus the new app.
This revamped Spotify perfectly encapsulates the company’s ambitions to be everything everywhere all at once when it comes to audio streaming. I’m sure that there are plenty of Spotify users who enjoy using it and also appreciate the stream of sometimes random-seeming content that flows to them as they scroll vertically through the app’s interface.
But I imagine that, like me, many listeners who value Lossless, High-Res, and Spatial Audio are likely to be put off by the changes. Even if the company were to add those features to the Spotify Premium tier at no extra cost – something that at this point they would need to do following Apple Music and Amazon’s moves – the new overstuffed, and overstimulating, app is something of a non-starter for music fans simply looking to access a high-quality digital music collection.
Spotify could always offer a second app, maybe one called Spotify Old, with a less hyperkinetic interface. As someone who cringed when Instagram first introduced Reels and continues to loathe that addition to the platform, I know I would prefer it to the new SpoTik-Tok.
But really, I’m fine with just continuing to use Tidal and Apple Music, two services that I have spent years using and building a digital music collection with, along with creating extensive playlists. I don’t expect either of those services to shake things up in the dramatic manner Spotify has, and if they did I would be seriously upset.
As for Spotify, if you’ve spent time creating a collection on that platform and have been holding out hope for Spotify HiFi to arrive, it’s probably time to cut the cord. Spotify has been stringing you along long enough. As its co-president said, the company will only add that feature when it makes sense for it and its listeners, and at this point, that time will be never.