When Spotify and its competitors launched it heralded a whole new way to listen to music. Suddenly everyone who could afford a relatively cheap monthly subscription and a device to use it on had access to a near infinite list of the world’s most loved music. Recommendation algorithms would expose them to new music they’re very likely to love. At the same time, it’d cut down on the pull that led some people to pirate their music, so that artists would get paid more fully. Smaller artists who didn’t have the means to promote or produce huge worldwide release could get an audience beyond their local pub. What’s not to love?
Inevitably, plenty. Naturally it’s not only extremely bad AI-written books that are attempting to flood our media channels, and occasionally charts, with dross. Music provides another example, for many of the same reasons.
There’s the AI side of things - both the generative AIs that can “create” music. But also the more traditional, less hyped, AIs that are used to engage the user with the apps concerned. And I suppose the AIs that listen to the music, more on that later.
But there’s more to be concerned about, including bad business models, bad incentives, and the exploitation that inevitably shows up once a few giant middle-men effectively monopolise the relationship between people that produce things of value and those that wish to consume them to the extent that they’re incentives are entirely distinct from either party.
I’m an increasing fan of Marshall McLuhan’s idea that “the medium is the message”. Sure, songs are still songs, but “song” is vague enough that there’s plenty of room for the medium of distribution to influence its content. Perhaps the delivery method is also the message to some extent. His colleague, John Culkin, opined that “we shape our tools, and thereafter they shape us”. Our music-creating, music-promoting and music-listening tools have certainly changed in recent times.
Torrents of new “music” flood the system each day
Apparently there are 120,000 new music tracks being uploaded to music streaming services such as Spotify each day. Each day. MBW calculates that at that rate this year we’ll have added 43 million new tracks to the archives - substantially more than even the estimated 34 million tracks uploaded last year.
(An ISRC is an International Standard Recording Code, used to uniquely identify sounds and music recordings.)
Unsurprisingly, not all of these are new Taylor Swift songs, Beatle re-releases or even exciting new work from up-and-coming new indie bands. Some of it is literally noise; white noise, fan noise, rain noise, other noises are available. More of it is a near infinite of variety of customised “Happy Birthday to X” songs with X replaced by the names of most people you might imagine sending well-wishes to.
And an increasing amount of it is AI generated. And not even 2023-level-AI generated:
On Universal Music Group’s Q1 earnings call, Sir Lucian Grainge criticized what he calls the “content oversupply” that currently sees around 100,000+ tracks distributed to music streaming services each day.
“Not many people realize that AI has already been a major contributor to this content oversupply,” said Grainge.
“Most of this AI content on DSPs comes from the prior generation of AI, a technology that is not trained on copyrighted IP and that produces very poor quality output with virtually no consumer appeal.”
The incentive structure encourages people to game the system
But, similar to the way Kindle Unlimited pays its authors, it’s not really the quality of the track that matters. It’s whether it was played a lot or not. It’s the word that we’ve perhaps all learned to dread a little: “engagement”. 1000 people playing a minute of white noise often produces the same revenue for the creator as 100 people listening to a 10-track album of Taylor’s finest.
As the CEO of Warner Music puts it:
It can’t be that an Ed Sheeran stream is worth exactly the same as a stream of rain falling on the roof.
I note he doesn’t specify whether an Ed Sheeran stream is worth more or less than a recording of the rain, but either way you can probably think of some track of music you personally feel confident has a great deal more value to you and perhaps even to the world at large than listening to one of a million varieties of rain, a good proportion of which might actually 2010-era auto-generated AI fake rain noise.
So where do we end up? With the same dynamics as we had for those terrible AI-written Kindle books.
….the inevitable coming together of the generative AI infocalypse, enshittified subscription service monopolies, misguided algorithmic recommendation systems and the incentives of modern-day capitalism
This of course leads “creators” to game the system. Which is why every time I try to listen to something popular like “Flowers” I have to be quick on the pause button if I don’t want to end up listening to an algorithmically generated rotation of various knockoff variations of the original. Or, to be honest, one reason why for the most part I relieve the pre-Spotify era and almost always listen to music in units of albums, rather songs or playlists. As a sidenote, if this too is your preference and you’re an Apple Music user then I heartily recommend the iOS Albums app which near-forces you into that mode of operation.
Not all of the system gaming is AI adjacent of course. Humans are more than capable of coming up with their own quantity-increasing quality-reducing schemes. Six years ago, Vulture wrote up some of those shenanigans for us to peruse.
There are the aforementioned people trying to trick you into listening to their knockoff version of whatever the current genuine-hit song is. It might be a cover, or it might be something totally different but with a similar sounding name.
…the coverbots and ripoff artists who vomit out inferior versions of popular songs every week, flooding the website with dreck that only succeeds when users are misled. No one would willingly listen to King Stitch’s “Sit Down, Be Humble,” a third-rate cover of Lamar’s original, but the track has been streamed more than 300,000 times thanks to Spotify’s broad search results and a clever title designed to confuse those who don’t know the song’s real name.
Then there’s entries that are not a malicious deception. They’re just not really the same category of thing as the classic idea of an album, even though they are displayed indistinguishably.
Some artists, a term used very loosely here, are providing people exactly what they want. It just so happens that what they want is ephemeral nonsense. Take, for example, the artist Happy Birthday Library, whose Spotify catalogue consists of hundreds of personalized versions of “Happy Birthday” streamed more than a million times.
The algorithms and incentives naturally have an effect on the actually talented and occasionally mega-famous folks too, reshaping what they produce and share. Vulture, and others, suggests that the reason Chris Brown released a 40 track album is because that’s the way to boost your streaming numbers the most. Remember, you get paid per stream of each track - not each album. This huge-track count trick can naturally be used by lesser-known folk too
As they conclude, albeit perhaps with rather rose-tinted spectacles on:
Never before has a song title or artist name been more important than the actual songs themselves.
Never before have so many songs existed just so an album can have a 20th, 30th, or 40th track
Overall they list 11 ways they’ve noticed artists adapting to Spotify’s incentives:
- The Happy Birthday gimmick mentioned above. Who wouldn’t want to listen to a song entitled “Happy Birthday whatever-your-name-is”?
- Writing songs about everything someone might conceivably search for; their example being “the song “Have You Been to Radnor Township?” on the 93-track album Pennsylvania Songs: PA Exiting”.
- Releasing multiple albums with the same songs, often titled differently.
- Release an absolutely silent “song”.
- Convincing people to get their computers to fake-listen to the song.
- “Filling the void” - releasing covers of songs from famous artists who aren’t on Spotify.
- Trying to trick people by naming their songs very similarly to more famous ones. Someone searching for Imagine Dragon’s song “Demons” might not realise they accidentally clicked on the 1-hit wonder Imagine Demon’s song “Demons”.
- Covering everything famous, all the time.
- Adding unnessecary extra tracks to albums as noted above.
- Putting your past popular singles in your new album.
- Seeding popular Spotify playlists with fake artists - something Spotify has been accused of doing, more on this below.
OK, so is it all greedy users exploiting the opportunities the likes of Spotify inadvertently make available to them? No, it is not. It’s easy to go too far in absolving the platforms for their responsibility for this.
For one, it’s 2023. We know how these things go. Everything product decision is a choice. The big platforms decide where to prioritise their development. They decide what they accept and how. If some of the above isn’t what the platforms want to promote then surely if users can find it easily enough to repeatedly write articles about the issue then so could they, given their access to reams of confidential internal data.
In fact they do, sometimes.
Earlier this year Spotify removed thousands of AI generated songs from its catalogue. Many were those autogenerated by Boomy - a site that sells itself as enabling you to “Create original songs in seconds, even if you’ve never made music before” and " Submit your songs to streaming platforms and get paid when people listen".
Now as with many generative AI tools, it may not be a bad thing in principle. It might enable people who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to create their own music be able to, in the same way as the image generators could allow expressions of novel creativity otherwise unavailable to most. But it’s also catnip for folk that care more for income than art.
Robots are creating music for robots to listen to
So why did Spotify go on a deleting rampage of these tracks? Not particularly because they weren’t a great experience for the average user. And there’s certainly no prohibition on using AI to write or help write one’s music.
Rather it was because the people listening to that music were fake. Remember that Spotify pays out based on how many people listen to your tracks. So “creators” built bots that “listened” to the tracks again and again. It’s essentially fraud, given the terms of service.
So in a somewhat dystopian-feeling loop, people are using AI to create music that is mostly listened to by other AIs, no humans involved.
The business model and recommendation algorithms of the mainstream music streaming platforms - quantity over quality, quantity over everything - makes them as vulnerable to clickfarms as any other type of site that provides some kind of reward for attracting lots of traffic of any kind. In this case Spotify has to pay for it directly, which is finally enough of a reason for them to act on it.
People are trying to measure these fake listeners. A French government organisation reported that 1-3% of all French streams in 2021 were fraudulent based on data from Spotify, Deezer and Qobuz. This is likely an underestimate due to the use of VPNs and the like.
Beatdapp, a company who sells a tool that looks for streaming fraud so is admittedly incentivised to claim that there’s a lot of it, wrote that at least 10% of all streaming activity in 2022 was fraudulent. That’s equivalent to $2 billion of revenue illegitimately extracted. They believe that it’ll be worth $7.5 billion by 2030 if it is not stopped.
The fact that more streams = more money has also been more publicly exploited in the past. Eternify was a service that lets users input the name of their favourite artists and it’d play their songs on repeat for exactly 30 seconds each on Spotify. 30 seconds was the threshold at which the artist gets paid, so this was a way you could optimise the income of your preferred musicians without the obstacle of having to actually listen to their output. The site would slowly count up the revenue your mouse-click had accrued for them.
It seems to be have been more of a protest statement from some understandably disenchanted musicians than something that aimed to enable fraudsters. And it probably wouldn’t have saved many starving artists without a truly mass takeup. Forbes calculated that using it for a solid day would generate perhaps $1.44 for the artist in question. In any case, it cost Spotify directly enough to make them go to the effort of shutting it down.
The “pay” most musicians receive from the service is incredibly low
The $1.44 a day figure reveals another not-so-hidden truth. These services are really not paying out a lot of money to the creators of what they’re selling access to. So much so that even a committee of British MPs - a group not particularly known for its sympathy or care for artists - are worried about it.
From all that revenue you’re providing to the streaming services, the folk involved in producing the music are receiving about 16% of it.
Spotify is thought to be paying out between £0.002 and £0.0038 every time you play a stream. Apple Music pays a bit more, a whopping £0.0059. Youtube a bit less, about £0.00052.
And “pays out” is doing a lot of work there, as even many of the reports about “Spotify only pays artists £x” seem to miss. That 0.2 pence has got to be divided up between anyone with interests or rights to the music, as well as each member of the band, the composer, the writers, and so on.
The BBC provides an infographic to help us visualise what that means.
I don’t think that the recording industry was particularly renowned for being favourable to artists even before the streaming revolution. Anyway, all in all, the recording artist(s) often might expect to receive about 13% of that 0.2p. Under a third of a penny.
Thirds of pennies don’t add up fast. A survey by the Ivors Academy and Musician’s Union suggested that over 80% of musicians made less than £200 a year from streaming during 2019. 93% didn’t break the £1000 milestone.
Sure, the megastars might earn substantially more than enough to survive on, but even their entourage aren’t necessarily doing well. The writer of one of the songs on Kylie Minogue’s number-one charting album “Disco” reported receiving £100.
“Right now, hit songwriters are driving Ubers,” she told MPs. “It’s quite shameful.”
Spotify seems to be gaming its own platform
Back to the fake streams. As wrong as it is, let’s not feel too sorry for some of the platforms subject to this streaming fraud. Spotify’s seeming attempts to game it’s own system at the expense of other artists and their own users have been written about elsewhere.
There’s the time it was found to be burying songs from musicians because they’d also made deals with their rivals. Maybe that’s understandable, maybe not, but I’d guess most users don’t understand that to be what’s going on when they search for a song.
What’s even less obvious is that sometimes Spotify decides to pay producers a flat fee to create tracks such that Spotify owns the copyright. They then upload them to their own serivce under fake artist names, people that don’t exist. Why?
From Music Business Worldwide:
Why would Spotify be instructing producers to write and record tracks of this nature?
Bingo: to appear on some of its relaxing first-party playlists, which boast millions of followers between them.
Now they don’t seem to get anything like as many plays as the most popular songs on the platform so it’s not something that’s necessarily dominating the user experience. But each time users plays a track from one of these fake artists Spotify only has to pay itself the stream royalties. Over 50 fake artists of this kind have been found now, almost all of which have had millions of streams.
As ever, it’s not entirely a black and white issue. Spotify have explicitly denied some (but perhaps not all) of these allegations. And, in this case, behind the fake artists are real people playing real music. They’re just paid in a way much more favourable to Spotify at scale than other artists, and they seem to have an automatic route to being included in much-coveted very popular playlists.
Spotify curated playlists apparently account for around a third what’s listened to on the platform in terms of time. To get onto one of them, most musicians have to actively pitch their music for inclusion, one song at a time, before the song has been released. Most of the pitches, around 80%, are turned down without explanation.
Arguably, similar dynamics exist in other types of streaming services. Netflix does of course make its own shows which it heavily promotes on its own service. But as a user it does feel disingenuous to me at least. Why not label these tracks as having been produced by Spotify? Why not explain how they got onto the playlists?
Based on some patent applications, some folk seem to think that eventually Spotify might take the human out of the creation process altogether, potentially filling its playlists with music they generated themselves via AI. Presumably competing against those independent users uploading their own AI music, albeit with potentially a thumb on the scale.
Enshittification, yet again
Platforms such as Spotify appear to potentially provide great examples of Doctorow’s theory of enshittification. When they first launched they appeared provided incredible value for users, revolutionary in some ways. You could access literally millions of much-sought after music for a relatively low monthly cost - or even free on Spotify at least if you were happy to tolerate adverts - entirely on demand. A radio station perfectly attuned to your minute-by-minute preferences. A way to experience far more of the musical art than you could ever afford to if you were paying £12.99+ for an individual album like ye olde days. An experience much safer and easier, not to mention less criminal and more conducive to rewarding musicians than yesteryear’s internet underground piracy scene.
As The New Yorker wrote about Spotify 5 years ago:
The company is essentially insisting that freer and easier access to music is the only thing that matters; everything should be available to everyone, because freedom of choice is an essential freedom.
The platforms attracted so many listeners with this fabulous promise that they became attractive, perhaps essential, to artists. Even many of the very rich very famous names who have sworn off Spotify at some point in time came back, presumably for the audience and its impact on the charts. If you weren’t popular on Spotify then you’d not so much hope of ever topping the bill, attracting the most revenue, being the most famous.
Or maybe they’d even enable vast numbers of people to realise their artistic dreams in a way they’d otherwise never have been able to. As they wrote 4 years ago:
“the goal of our marketplace strategy is to harness Spotify’s ability to drive discovery to connect artists with fans on a scale that has never before existed with the goal of enabling 1 million artists to live off of their work.”
But now, in the final stage, the platforms claw back more and more of the value for themselves.
They stop gaining marketshare only by virtue of being able to sustain periods of loss. They change the user interface longer than their competitors. What’s promoted, when and how becomes something less aligned with the reasons that many users may have originally signed up. They try to make it inconvenient for either users or creators to leave, and costly for artists to make deals with competitors. They acquire potential future competitors or expand into adjacent-ish markets to increase the perceived lock-in. They raise prices - although some believe that the recent near-universal streaming price rises in conjunction with a cost-of-living crisis is resulting in an increase in piracy. They alter recommendation algorithms, alter incentives.
All very logical from the point of view of shareholder value et al, at least in the short term. It’s not necessarily driven by maliciousness; I’m sure many of Spotify’s employees love music, love musicians, embrace that vision of enabling a million artists to live off their work. It’s just that at the end of the day the company’s own incentive is all about coming up with the financial arrangements that most benefit themselves in the marketplace, whether or not it’s at the expense of either or both sides of the user-creator relationship that’s the fundamental reason that they can exist in the first place.
It’s more amorphous to define and subjective to evaluate, but perhaps these services have significantly changed how we tend to consume music beyond the technical side of things. McLuhan and Culkin’s quotes apply on the demand side too. The medium is the message. We shape our tools, and thereafter they shape us.
In days of yore, listeners would usually have to invest financially in a specific number of physical instantiations of music; a cassette tape, a CD or an LP album amongst other formats. In the iPod era this moved onto digital downloads, but still at the level of purchasing individual songs rather than access to a smorgasbord of (a somewhat misleading perception of) everything everywhere, all at once, all the time.
For most people this put a limit on how much music they had access to. This seems prima facie bad at first glance, and perhaps it is. But maybe it also encouraged folk to spend more time and intention in choosing what they listened to, more time exploring any one individual work. I expect a fair proportion of people don’t even know what they recently listened to when they’ve opened their app at the start of the day and hit the “especially for you” playlist.
When the Guardian talked to a bunch of people who’d moved from streaming music back to more traditional forms of consumption they found some examples of this. Here’s Lethem:
[With streaming] there’s endless accessibility, but you’re not really listening to anything. At least that’s what it started feeling like to me. I’m experiencing so much music, but am I really listening to any of it?
And if you don’t like what the algo chose then you can just hit skip 5 seconds in and be provided with something else that tries to hook you in. And it’ll continue forever. There’s no real concept of sitting down to appreciate an album end-to-end when the album is a literally endless playlist.
Many of these services do let you listen by album of course, at least if you pay them for that ability. I’d be curious to know how many people still do that. It’s certainly not the style of listening I feel like I see most heavily encouraged by the apps. Similar to the Youtube and Netflix style next-episode auto-play, the last thing they want to do is make you think you “finished” something to the extent you close the app.
Fairly incredibly, Spotify even used to default to shuffling the tracks of the album you selected into a random order before Adele requested they stopped doing that because, of course, there is usually a reason why the tracks were put in that order in the first place. To quote her:
We don’t create albums with so much care and thought into our track listing for no reason. Our art tells a story and our stories should be listened to as we intended.
Some more conceptual albums would surely simply make very little sense out of order.
So hey, it’s not like Spotify never listens to feedback, at least from megastars. Although even now you do have to be a paying customer of Spotify in order to be given the privilege of a “play in the proper order” button.
More recently Amazon actually went in the opposite direction for its basic music streaming service. Subscribers to Amazon Prime, a service that costs around £9 a month and offers a variety of benefits to Amazon customers including music streaming, found that instead of the previous behaviour of being to choose what they listen to, when they requested music by a particular artist they would get a single track from that artist followed by a load of tracks from other people. Even their manually customised playlists started to shuffle around.
An unhappy customer reports his confusion:
Mr. McKenna, who lives near Albany, N.Y., spent years curating Amazon Music playlists….Recently, the app began playing a rock song he had never heard. When he got to the office, he tried to click on a Kenny Chesney song in his playlist, but it didn’t work. Songs he didn’t recognize kept playing.
For Bob, his chronologically-defined playlists not any more being chronological was enough to drive him back to CDs and Windows Media Player - “It’s like I’ve gone back to 2005”. The only way to keep hold of your Amazon Music collection and listen to what you want to when you want to now became to upgrade to the more expensive “Amazon Unlimited” service.
Shifts in people’s listening choices are certainly not all about these services removing features that were once there. Even where you can in theory still choose to listen to exactly what you want, here’s Nick from the previously-mentioned Guardian article confirming a shift in his behaviour he experienced soon after switching to streaming that I suspect is quite common:
I found myself selecting more and more just one-off songs from an artist, whereas before I’d been inclined to save a whole album
The obvious “discovery” alternative 20 years ago was to listen to the radio or a TV channel like MTV where for the most part you are subjected to other people’s musical selections. From beginning to end, with no skip button. This might let you discover something so new and wonderful that you - and your 2023 recommendation algorithm - would never have considered if left to your own devices. On the other hand you had to listen to a lot of dross you didn’t like, and would perhaps never happen to be listening at the right time to hear songs you were more likely to enjoy - so again, nothing here is all good or all bad. But it’s worth thinking about.
Finlay, in the same Guardian article, spoke to the issue above:
With streaming, he says: “If I didn’t gel with an album or an artist’s work at first, I tended not to go back to it.” But he realised that a lot of his all-time favourite albums were ones that grew on him over time. “Streaming was actually contributing to some degree of dismissal of new music.”
Jared speaks to both upsides and downsides:
My musical experiences definitely feel more dedicated and focused. It’s not as convenient. I’ll reluctantly admit that I listen to less music. Although on Spotify, I wasn’t necessarily listening to stuff. I was checking out the first 15 seconds and hitting skip. Now, I have to work for it and I like that. I can use the internet as a search tool but I’m not using it as a means to listen. I really have to seek things out and research.
Virginia likewise, exhibiting a pattern I found myself adhering to at first:
I will listen to one song 100 times in a row, but I won’t give the rest of the album a chance. Before I used streaming services, I would listen to the whole thing.
Even conceptually, the word “streaming” has connotations that may affect how we feel about what we’re listening to.
Before there was streaming music, what else was streaming? This idea that you can just turn on a faucet, and out comes music. It’s something that leaves everyone to take it for granted.
On the other hand, many of these ex-streamer folk talked about the extra work they now had to do to find what they like. It can comes at a financial cost too, which risks making some of what I wrote seem elitist and gatekeepery as well as Ludditey. After all why should only people with time and wealth to spare have access to reasonable quantities of music? What’s wrong with having convenient and cheap access to so much art? Nothing on the face of it, if we can find a business model that doesn’t incentivise its enshittification and abuse of the creators.
Streaming isn’t necessarily cheap, and you end up owning nothing
Although I would note that for the moderately well-off that it’s not clear to me that paying for a year of Spotify is necessarily cheaper than buying a few albums that mean something to you. Right now, Spotify paid edition would cost you £131.88 a year. That would also buy you a good amount of singles, albums, whatever you’re into. That might well suit people who prefer to or simply happen to end up listening to a certain subset of everything repeatedly. And it’s almost certainly better for the artists concerned.
It also means your music becomes “yours”. You can keep a CD or, let’s be realistic given it’s 2023, an MP3 or lossless music file whether or not you want to keep subscribing to any given service. I’ve been an Apple Music subscriber in my time, and I liked the service. But assuming one day you will choose to, or be forced to, stop paying the company the monthly fee then it’s all gone. If I want to switch to a different service then it’s a faff. Copying your favourite playlists, likes, subscribes, downloads et al to a new place isn’t necessarily easy - the new service may even be missing some of your tracks. And moving your carefully refined recommendation algorithms across services isn’t on anyone’s radar at all and probably won’t ever be; it’s each company’s secret sauce.
You also certainly can’t give your collection or pieces of it to anyone. You can’t give what you don’t own. I can’t find it now, but I remember reading a story about the joy and meaning someone got from inheriting the music collection of their sadly recently-deceased father; the feelings and memories that listening to what he’d collected over a lifetime evoked. But that’s something that likely becomes unavailable with a shift to streaming.
I couldn’t find any documentation about what happens to someone’s music streaming account when they die, outside of several posts on the Spotify forums that mainly end in “try asking customer services”. But it’s surely not something that someone inherits> If you don’t know the person’s password and can open to their email then access may be gone for good. If it’s a pay-for service then I imagine every trace of it simply vanishes as soon as the credit card fails to bill.
Talking about dying is admittedly a little dramatic. But there are other ways your favoured streaming services might be denied to you even whilst alive. Services close, even ones from hugely successful companies
Say goodbye to Google Play Music, the service will be going away for good in December 2020 and with it, all your music if you don’t transfer it over.
Are you old enough to remember Rdio? Beats Music? Yahoo Music Unlimited? Or any of the other 20-30 services currently listed on Wikipedia in its “Discontinued services” section, either entirely shut down or purchased by and replaced with the current handful of big players.
Or you may simply lose access to your account. If Apple, Amazon, Spotify, or whoever you’re with decide for some reason that they don’t want you to have an account then it’s all gone. The various chatboards of the internet are full of stories of people losing their accounts from the big tech firms. Oftentimes they’re more concerned about their emails or photos than their music. But it’s all the same. If Apple, Spotify or the rest of them decide you’ve been misbehaving, or can’t be convinced that you are who you say you are, then whatever effort you’ve put into maintaining your collection is lost. I’d imagine it’s probably rarer for this to happen with music streaming services than some categories - it’s harder to imagine being accused of “abusing” a music streaming account but as many Reddit posts show, it’s not impossible.
For the paid-only services, which is most of them, of course the same happens if your circumstances change such that you can no longer afford the service. And even if not, you’re bound to implicitly supporting any changes in the streaming company’s rules, strategies, personnel or ethics if you want to keep the music flowing. This might well be a price worth paying for many people, for most people. But it is a price.
If one of these eventualities does happen to you, then there are third-party services that try attempt to transfer your streaming collections and various metadata between one such service and another, although I haven’t tried any of them out enough to know how well they work. But not if you already lost access to the service you want to move from. And of course they won’t be able to transfer your playlists, likes et al to a service that doesn’t have the particular track involved.