Week 3: TETRADS and Spotify


Spotify is a Peer-to-Peer (P2P) music streaming device, which offers instant access to over 30 million tracks with more than 100 million registered users and they just announced that 50 million are paid customers (Russell and Niemela, 2017). Spotify offers a wide range of instant played songs with a low playback latency, which is 265ms on average (Keritz, 2010). The worldwide success of Spotify has give music streaming a new step into the norm of listening to music. To understand why Spotify has gain its achievement is to know music listeners’ behaviours have changed over time. In this blog, Spotify is being examined using McLuhan’s TETRADS in order to identify its Enhancement, Retrieve, Reversal and Obsolescent.


Before the birth of Internet, music was brought to home through different technologies such as cassette tapes, records, CDs etc. However, music streaming was a disruptive technology which helps change the way music is played. One of the enhancements that Spotify brings to the users is that it helps personalise playlists without the hassle of record it on tapes, copy and paste into your iPods, or burn into your CDs. Spotify users simply move the songs around and edit the playlist however they like. Another enhancement is that every Monday there would be a personalised playlist that Spotify picked out based on the songs user has been listening to in the previous week and put the ones “they might like” all together as a new playlist. They can be from the same artist, genre or just simply songs that targeted the listener’s personal taste. It is like having a friend who knows all about your favourite song and makes you a personal mixed tape every week. Spotify retrieved the familiar feeling of being noticed and understood, of having a close “friend” who knows your songs based on what you have been listened, therefore users feel special and are willing to pay the subscription fee.


However, Spotify requires a large base of memory in order to download all the songs that you like, otherwise you will need internet in order to play them. Most users would consider not owning the songs or the playlists in their Spotify, as if it belongs to the app and not their own, even though they paid the subscription fee. In order to share or lend your music through Spotify is by telling your friend about a song so they can listen to, not by physically lending them the CDs or tapes. It lost the sense of music ownership and sometimes, Spotify users still go out and buy CDs or records because they want to keep them. An obsolescent is the ability to listen to music privately, as Spotify keeps the record of what you’ve been listened to, what you’ve searched for, sometimes even publishes on facebook as a linked account which gives user the feeling of being exposed. Whereas buying a record or CD, they can freely listen to however many times without being tracked.





Kreitz, G. (2010) Spotify – Large Scale, Low Latency, P2P Music-on-Demand Streaming, Peer-to-Peer Computing (P2P), IEEE Tenth International Conference.


Russell, J. and Niemela, F. (2017) Spotify reaches 50 million paying users, Tech Crunch, [ONLINE]

Available at: https://techcrunch.com/2017/03/02/spotify-50-million/ [Last accessed 30 March 2017]


3 thoughts on “Week 3: TETRADS and Spotify

  1. Interesting article. The loss of privacy seems outweighed by the ability to access a giant database of music at the touch of a button.
    An example of retrieval, in terms of Mcluhan’s Tetrad would perhaps be the ability to access music otherwise lost from youth, due to its format becoming obsolete. Just as back catalogue CDs replaced vast record collections, and entire mp3 collections then replaced CDs (with serato rendering DJs free from having to lug their vinyl collections everywhere but still use needles), streaming has amalgamated the retrieval of musical memory banks you’ve ever bought on any format, whilst throwing the element of an un-hosted radio in.
    The algorithms used in personalising suggested playlists, I would say is an example of ‘Reversal’ in terms of the Tetrad. For me, whilst it can offer suggestions that suit sometimes, it can also get it very very wrong. A good example would be country music. A friend of mine in their late sixties is a country music fan and pointed out that spotify is unable to distinguish political / social implications of music tracks. In America there are different factions of country music – left wing and right wing. Suggestions from spotify could leave a listener getting the stark opposite of an artist they were just listening to.


  2. This is a solid explanation and exploration of Spotify using McLuhan’s tetrad, and I agree thoroughly with your points, particularly when you question whether users consider their ownership of the songs and playlists or not, which I’m sure for many is that they feel like they don’t own them. However, when you liken Spotify’s ‘Monday’ playlists to a ‘close friend’, citing it as both an enhancement and a retrieval, I would question whether or not it is also an obsoleting factor. For example, if the only music I listened to was the playlist prepared for me every Monday based on the algorithmic formulas programmed to respond to my previous listening choices, would the process of discovery really truly be there? In some ways, Spotify’s simplistic approach to playlisting, which in all honesty is quite useful for long commutes, is actually, in some respects, a detriment to the music industry, and to the way in which music is consumed, and more so to itself. If all we listen to is the playlist, surely the choices it generates each week are repeating themselves, as if switching each song out for an almost like-for-like alternative. I would consider having a look at some of the following articles that explore streaming and its enhancements, retrievals, and so on in more depth to better strengthen your own argument here:

    1. Krause, A. and North, A. (2016). Music listening in everyday life: Devices, selection methods, and digital technology. Psychology of Music, 44(1), pp.129-147.
    2. Lamont A, Greasley A, and Sloboda J. (2016) Choosing to hear music: motivation, process and effect. In: Hallam S, Cross I, Thaut M (Eds.). (2nd ed.). The Oxford Handbook of Music Psychology (2nd edition). Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    3. Rentfrow, P., Goldberg, L. R., & Zilca, R. (2010). Listening, watching, and reading: The structure and correlates of entertainment preferences. Journal of Personality, 79(2), 23–258


  3. A concise blog on the usage of Spotify and how it operates. aA well written blog and well researched. However, few more references could have helped direct readers to more information on such an interesting topic. Nontheless this is not a point to labour over.


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