I wrote a small ripper for spotify. It can save your favourite tracks and albums directly to mp3 files and it even includes id3 meta information (including album cover). It uses libspotify [4], the official third-party developer package from spotify. Note that it’s against the ToC’s of libspotify to rip streams, but there is a number of good reasons to still do so.

The most important reason to rip streams might be that spotify tends to randomly remove single tracks or entire albums from their library. This happens on request of the corresponding record labels and can get really annoying. You pay to listen for the music that you love and the labels still have the power to decide that you are not allowed to anymore.

Another reason to rip your favorite tracks is that it’s a way to conserve important memories. This aspect is completely lost if you only rely on streamed music. Since I was a teenager, I constantly extended my precious mp3 collection. I keep multiple backups of it and treat it like a treasure. Music is strongly linked to emotions and by listening to music of a past chapter of your life you can experience very intense flashbacks, everybody knows that. If you don’t, you already are a victim of the cloud. Nobody knows if spotify will still exist in 10 years. If not: all your playlists and memories: gone! what a nightmare. This is already a problem of digital music that you keep on the computer. You can easily lose the entire music collection of your life by one single HDD crash. Compare this to the perfectly reserved vinyl record collection of your grand parents in the attic! Our generation won’t have this. However this problem gets even more severe if you are not even in control of you favorite music and keep it in the responsibility of some cloud service. You will not have any musical memory.

Music in streaming services is watermarked [1,2]. The record labels use this technique to be able to track the sources of illegally shared music in the internet. These watermarks can influence the quality of the music: “The problem here is that the UMG watermark degrades the audio to about the equivalent of a 96 kbit MP3” [1]. For some people this is a reason not to use streaming services. If you are not that audiophile, you can probably accept the watermark. But be aware that it’s a tracking technique! Theoretically, if you upload your ripped spotify streams on piratebay, the record labels can identify you as origin and sue the hell out of you. Practically, this is not (yet) possible. I ripped the same track from two different user accounts, resulting in a 100% match between both (I used libspotify 12.1.51-Linux-i686-release and “3 Doors Down – When You’re Young” [1]). This means that both tracks (from different user accounts) contain the same watermark. The record labels will be able to identify spotify as the origin, but not you as a person. This is not an invitation to share your rips though! First it’s illegal of course and second, it’s technically easily possible to watermark on user accuracy. libspotify only lets you access the decoded PCM stream [3]. It may contain a user-specific watermark, generated on client-side in the future.

[1] http://www.mattmontag.com/music/universals-audible-watermark
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audio_watermark
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulse-code_modulation
[4] https://developer.spotify.com/technologies/libspotify/