Postal Address Insanity: Why I Switched from Spotify to Apple Music

(Josh Centers) #1

Originally published at:

Managing Editor Josh Centers dropped Spotify after finding out the bizarre and user-hostile way the music-streaming service tries to ensure that family members live at the same address.

(Alan Ralph) #2

I’m struggling to think how such a dumb decision like this got signed off by Spotify management. If, as Josh suggests, this might have been done at the behest of the music industry, then those folks need to put down whatever it is they’re either drinking or toking!

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(Josh Centers) #3

Based on my years in a large corporation, I’m willing to bet that this was essentially what you’d call a “diplomatic fiction” to make some music executive happy. It’s like how, in a past life, I came up with the idea to print legal documents on red paper to make them harder to copy, even though it was at best a mild inconvenience. But, it made some executive be able to say that he took precautions against unwanted copying (and I’m sure my neck would have been in the figurative noose if something happened). Likewise here, it was probably some music label executive insisting that family plans couldn’t be shared outside of a household, Spotify pushing back on that (since enforcing that would be even more user-hostile), and then some creative genius (and I really mean that) at Spotify coming up with this goofy compromise that let them move forward.

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(John Burt) #4

Interesting, brief, and to the point. I shared it on FB. (I don’t use any music service ICYAW.)

(William Lisowski) #5

There are online APIs that standardize an address to the Postal Service “official version” - all caps, changing “Terrace” or “Terr” to “TER”, and the like. All that needs be done is for Spotify to apply that standardization to both the addresses before comparing them.

(Josh Centers) #6

Yeah, I’m familiar with that. Addresses can be surprisingly tricky business. I found a store location one time that had 7 different, totally valid addresses.

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Apple surpassed Spotify once again in the race for the most paid subscribers. They did overtake them about a year or so ago, but Spotify dropped its rates and also inked a deal in which a new premium Spotify subscriber gets an ad free premium subscription to Hulu, which juiced up the numbers of both services:

Except for reporting a barely minuscule profit this past quarter, Spotify has been hemorrhaging money since it started and predicted another big bloodbath for this fiscal year:

If I remember correctly, they’ve eaten through well over half a billion $ to date, and the number of paying subscribers has been gradually dropping. This is in addition to having its arms persistently twisted by music companies and artists. No matter how good their ad sales division is, they cannot compete with the level of granularity, effective positioning and pricing of Facebook, Google and Amazon. So it’s no surprise Spotify is doing whatever it can think of to to increase subscription revenue.

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(Alan Ralph) #8

Wow. I bet whoever supplied you with all that red paper was happy.

Sadly, music executives and common sense just don’t seem to mix. They seem to view the music buying (and streaming) public as their enemy most of the time.

(Alan Ralph) #9

I recently cancelled my Spotify Premium subscription and moved to Apple Music. That was prompted by my growing frustration with Spotify’s Mac app, which (for me) has degraded in performance and reliability to the point where it makes iTunes look rock-solid. Thankfully, I was able to move the majority of my saved playlists, albums, etc. over with relative ease.

(Fearghas McKay) #10

That sounds like it might be an interesting howto article.

Hopefully the same fate as Rdio will not befall AppleMusic/Spotify just after publication :slight_smile:

(closer) #11

Spotify is a kids toy run like an online dating service. Apple Music is far more comprehensive and run like a real radio station. The density of it can make it a bit overwhelming at first, hence the sheep flock to the children’s toy.

(Glenn Fleishman) #12

When I signed up for the family plan, I entered my address, and I happened to notice on the verification page that it had changed my address (let’s pretend it’s 1234 E. Any St.) into a European or Swedish format? Any St. E 1234

I’ve had this happen before with European services, which seem to use rigid algorithms instead of the right address correction thing. I changed my address before approving it to the correct American style, and thus my family hasn’t had trouble signing up. If I hadn’t really paid attention in that step, I’d be having this trouble!

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(iminanallgirlgang) #13

I don’t want to defend anything Spotify does, but having implemented address verification/standardization on multiple ecommerce applications, I have a hard time believing any of these insane conspiracy theories about the music industry mandating any of this. It’s an incredibly common fraud combatting tactic and any company that’s not doing it is bleeding somewhere.

Yes, there are commercial services which perform address verification and standardization. Without fail, they all use a common data source–the USPS–with their own layer of natural language parsing nonsense on top of that. If the USPS is wrong–and they very frequently are–then these services are going to be wrong as well. It can be insanely frustrating just how often seemingly common edge cases trip them up to the point of utter non-functionality and this can easily make one feel like maybe you don’t really need to be paying them anywhere near as much as you are. Given the number of requests I imagine Spotify would be sending through them on a monthly basis combined with the fact that they are not shipping physical goods anywhere it’s not difficult for me to imagine a department head saying “screw it, we’d rather deal with the support costs” and just going with a simple, braindead equality test. Not showing you what you’d entered before just sounds like a bad PM from General Assembly didn’t put much thought into their work more than an evil record company executive boogeyman who’s out to get you.

And beyond that, I really don’t think a minor frustration in setting up a family plan warrants any amount of drama. If that’s the biggest problem you experience today then you’ve got a pretty good life.



    May 11

Not showing you what you’d entered before just sounds like a bad PM from General Assembly didn’t put much thought into their work more than an evil record company executive boogeyman who’s out to get you.

I just referred back to the previous posts in this thread, and I didn’t get the impression that any record company boogeyman was “out to get” any Spotify subscriber. A post did imply that the record companies are squeezing Spotify to goose their subscription revenues so that could pay them more. In fact, artists, labels and music publishers have been at war with Spotify over many issues regarding increasing compensation as well as copyright violations, and they consider Spotify the boogeyman. Here’s just one of their recent settlements, and there have been many:

And Spotify is most definitely, and aggressively, putting the squeeze on family plans:

Looks Like Spotify’s Crackdown On Family Plan Abusers Is Working:

“At the end of Q2 2018, only 35% of Premium users paid for an individual account. 24% subscribed to a Family plan. Breaking down the costs of 6 individual subscriptions, the company loses up to $44.95 a month on every Family plan.”

And beyond that, I really don’t think a minor frustration in setting up a family plan warrants any amount of drama. If that’s the biggest problem you experience today then you’ve got a pretty good life.

Since I have been involved in the publishing and entertainment industries for decades, even more than I have been a user of Apple goods and services, I am very interested in hearing about any sort of relevant drama. In my previous post, I posted a link to an article about Spotify’s quarterly earnings statement, which ends with “Spotify said it expects to post a loss of between $228 million and $410 million in 2019.” I also quoted another article about Apple once again exceeded Spotify in paid subscriptions even though Apple doesn’t discount subs and Spotify does.

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(Jeff Porten) #15

The USPS normalization discussion is fascinating. I ran a business almost 20 years ago that used that API; in my experience it was rock solid.

The Apple family plan is even better than you said. I signed up individually when a client did, so I could show her the ropes. Decided to keep it because it’s the only working method of syncing iTunes to my Android. (Several apps say they do. They lie.)

It occurred to me that her family plan had open slots and maybe I could free ride hers, but before I did that I checked for iCloud ramifications. Turns out: the TOS doesn’t say adding me to her “family” isn’t allowed. It’s totally kosher. Technically, Josh and his wife could save $15 a month by becoming Engsts in the eyes of Apple Music.


I think this is because Apple, one of the most profitable companies in the world, doesn’t need to make a whole lot of money off of Music. They primarily need it to sell more hardware and services, and to lock people in to the Apple ecosystem. The fact that Apple pays more per play and strictly polices copyrights make artists, labels and publishers hate them a whole lot less than Spotify:

Apple Is The Big Winner In Spotify’s Battle Against Songwriters Rate Hike

(The article also discusses how artists hate Spotify’s family and student rates.)

Apple just needs Music to not loose much. Like iTunes, which established iPod on the map and helped sell a lot more Macs, it is estimated that it’s a little profitable. Going forward, it has built a solid ground for Apple News+, as well as for their upcoming TV and games subscription services.

(David Ross) #17

My business uses a UPS store box. Many web sites come back at me saying basically.

You entered: 3355 Any Street - Suite 443#245

USPS thinks: 3355-443 Suite 245 (Or something similar.)

Is better. Want to use the USPS version?


It can get old.


(David Ross) #18

Then there are those of us with homes in 2 different states. Of course we’re a bit used to it as we run into “is this credit card billed to NC or TX” when asked to enter the billing address.

(William Lisowski) #19

USPS works fine for me when I enter the suite/apartment/… into the second address line field, as long as there is such a field (which usually is the case). A web site that expects US addresses for USPS verification but don’t allow a second address line doesn’t understand USPS addressing.

(Allen Gainsford) #20

…as long as all their customers live in the US, of course.