The Spotispy Hostage Situation

Apr. 11, 2023 [technology] [proprietary]

It may not currently be possible, using only libre toolsets, to extract podcasts hosted on Spotispy into local audio files. I had no idea how bad it really was because I’ve dutifully avoided the big tech[nocrat] disservices. So I haven’t tried to interface with Spotify until I recently needed to try pulling down a podcast which doltishly decided to choose Spookify to host their work.

It was no shock to find that no direct download link is provided on the page. “No problem!”, I thought at first, “I’ll just get the media link from the browser console”. Nope. They obfuscate it within a javascript web player. “Alright, yt-dlp will just pull it down”. But support for ripping from the audio monopoly has actually been broken within the youtube-dl family of programs for some time.

So it was time to fall back to specialized projects designed for this godforsaken host. Spotify-dl, in addition to needing npm to install, consistently failed with an error deserving no elaboration. While spotdl, asking for installation through python pip (thanks, let me just clutter my system with a bunch of out of repo crap), says right in their documentation that audio is just matched through GooTube search and downloaded from there. Had to pass on that one.

Defeated, I trudged over to the addons repository to peruse the downloader options there. Nothing. The walls erected by Spot-I-Spy seem to have been enough to deter even the energetic and adventerous browser addon development world. And the more generalized downloaders also scratch it from their lists of supported sites.

Wow. So there must be some web service offering to grab and convert Spotify-hosted podcasts, right? The big ones all do strictly music only. The others either failed to interpret any format of the links I supplied (sanitized or not) or demanded far more than just running some scripts. Not a swamp I’m willing to go crawling in.

The last resort of any such endeavor, dedicated desktop GUI programs, all suffered from one common flaw: proprietary Windowns or Mac exclusive dumpster fires. They made big promises in their documentation, but what good is it when the program itself cannot be compiled from source within and for a sane environment? And with that, I found that my determination to find some way to acquire the podcast as either .ogg or .mp3 was anything but proportionate with my desire to listen in. Too bad, so sad. Host it somewhere that isn’t malware.

Which highlights something to be observed in the podcasting space. Each podcaster who decides to exclusively host their material with Spyify is acting as a sort of pied piper, leading a train of hapless children into the darkness of an isolated cave. One of the original strengths of podcasts was that they’re democratized and portable. Using this audio giant completely hobbles those strengths. Why would you ever impose it upon your listeners?