ChoralTech: Use Spotify to share music with your musicians
Date: August 23, 2013
Sharing audio examples with our singers is a great way to reinforce the "choral language" out of the rehearsal room. Singers with examples of choral tone, other language singing, or stylistic differences in genre and era will be more able to recall and execute them in the rehearsal and on stage. Unfortunately, it's not always easy to find and distribute audio examples, and doing so can run into dangerous copyright territory. Fortunately, a service called Spotify is showing great potential to help us distribute great audio to our singers by expanding their choral and classical library in addition to their pop catalog.
Spotify is an audio player that connects to a service to stream music to you. A free account lets you listen on your computers, and a premium account extends to tablets and smartphones (as well as other miscellaneous devices). It's most often compared to Pandora, another music streaming service, but that comparison isn't quite right-- where Pandora took your input as a starting point and serves music to you without your control over what's playing, Spotify allows to you select specific songs and albums.
The real power of this for us as conductors is the ability to construct and share playlists. Just like a playlist on your iPod or other music software, you build a list and order of songs to play. Unlike the iPod or others where you have to own the music in advance, though, with Spotify you're building a list out of their library. You can then share that list with other users, who will have the ability to listen to it at their leisure (depending on what type of account they have).
So how can we use this in our groups? Let's say my next program features music from the Baroque. In order to help my singers get a sense of the proper style, I'll search Spotify's library for a few examples of composers and performances that I think represent the style well and create a playlist. The singers create their own accounts (for free, unless they already have or want the premium version) and I share the playlist with them. They can then have my "supplemental listening" to access at home and be more prepared for the stylistic demands of rehearsal.
Of course, the limiting factor of all of this is the size of Spotify's relevant library. The choral offerings are nowhere near as robust as their pop catalog, since that's the vast majority of the user demand. There is an expanding catalog available for our purposes, though, and if more users begin to access and use the choral and classical recordings, Spotify will respond to that increased interest by putting more into the catalog for us to use. In the mean time, there are plenty of examples for us to use to put the sounds in our singer's ears in a more effective and concise way.
Have you tried Spotify with your ensembles? How do you think it would be useful for your settings? Comment below!