YouTube or Spotify for Songs?

Every Sunday, I perform at a little open jam session at Funks Pub (Fitchburg WI) for sh!ts and giggles. It’s a good time, with full backline, sound, and lights provided free to the musicians who show up, as well as a spread of complimentary appetizers on the house.

Now that we’re nearly two years into to the weekly sessions, stuff is really starting to gel. When some of us musicians are really on our game, we even plan ahead and agree to learn some new material to keep things fresh each week. Playing the same jams all the time gets old. Plus with new songs we can get out of our comfort zones and improve as musicians overall. Since we are all learning songs at home and don’t rehearse in advance, it is sometimes a train wreck. But that’s entertainment!

For example, at tomorrow’s jam, one of the keyboardists, a drummer, and I are gonna to try to kick out a trinity of tasty Ben Folds songs. I am familiar with two of the three, but still need to refresh the familiar ones. The one I don’t know is a ballad that’s trickier than it seems. So I need to work on it.

As a punk rocker by nature and a musician in general, I don’t like to pay a lot of overhead for the “behind the scenes” kind of stuff, like learning cover songs. When Spotify came out as a free music streaming service, it was quite a goldmine for musicians to find decent versions of other peoples’ songs to learn (with the exception of some greedy dick bands like Metallica and the Doors, although some of these behind-the-timesers have since gotten with the program). But the tradeoff to having a huge free library of easily accessible tunes was that you had to listen to really bad annoying ads for sh!t nobody buys or paid subscriptions to ad-free Spotify, all of which played at a much louder volume than the songs themselves (which is actually illegal). Plus the free app interface used a lot of banner ads that did that diabolical trick of appearing right under your mouse cursor as you were about to click on a song (a really sh!tty trick if you ask me, because someone is paying for those ads, per click). All of these annoyances were designed to aggravate you to the point of giving in and paying the $5/month to get rid of the ads. But I am a cheapskate who likes to keep overhead low.

So instead of giving in to Spotify’s charlatanry, I started using Youtube more to find free song versions I needed to learn, in video form. Youtube has ads too, but unlike Spotify, sometimes Youtube lets you skip the ad after five seconds and once you have a song video up, you can play the song repeatedly without having to hear any more ads, unlike Spotify, which throws an ad up after X number of plays, regardless of song. So even if you have to suffer 30 or 60 seconds of advertisement before a song on Youtube, there are no further interruptions. This is good for musicians who need to learn cover songs, a process that often means playing a song repeatedly over and over.

I favor Youtube over Spotify by far now for song access and learning. I have also found Spotify freeware to be increasingly slow and cumbersome to navigate. Sharing song links via Spotify is also a pain and requires the recipient to have Spotify, not always true. Youtube is fairly quick about finding what you want and anyone can view public videos in a browser with Youtube open, no app needed when links are shared. Sometimes videos on Youtube are ad free. Youtube will also aggregate similar and related music videos, useful if you are learning a number of songs by the same artist. For example, the Funks jammers covered all of Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” album for Halloween and someone had put all the songs handily together on Youtube, which was quite useful. Spotify would play the songs for you but eff up the order and throw annoying ads in at the worst possible times (I don’t know if you know Pink Floyd albums, but they have a lot of smooth segways between songs that Spotify likes to butcher with ads).

Lastly, Youtube music videos often come with lyrics shown on screen, very useful when learning vocal parts to songs, as well as entertaining to see what people come up with as the actual words to songs.

So Cactus Joe Productions concludes that Youtube is better than Spotify as a source of free music for musicians who are learning cover songs.

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