I wanted to export my data from Deezer, as is my right. The experience was lengthy and unsatisfying.
Data interoperability is massively important. The ability to take my data from one place and move it to another, or just keep it to myself, is vital in todays locked-in walled-garden ecosystems. I always want to try and find ways to keep a backup of my own data. Just in case something goes wrong – a company sells itself to another company, or accidentally deletes its own data.
Most services don’t let you import data, but by law they now at least must allow you to export it. I listen to a lot of music through Deezer and I wanted to see how much of it I could get back.
Deezer is a music streaming service. The service lets you browse musicians, genres, even podcasts and can scrobble things you’ve listened to, explicitly tag favourite albums, assemble and share custom playlists and so on. All of this is valuable personal data, not just to the company, but also the sentimental value held in me being able to find music that I have enjoyed in the past.
Deezer has an API. The web interface and the official app use it, as well as other tools. In my quest to export my data I found third party tools that use such APIs to, for example, sync playlists between Deezer and competing service Spotify. But I’d rather not share my data with yet another third party, nor have I the patience to build my own data export tool. (Though in hindsight, this might have been faster).
From the Deezer help pages, Deezer points you to a form you need to fill out. Not mentioned on this page is a “download your data” link right on your profile settings page. Fantastic! Nice and easy. Well.
Were it nice and easy, I wouldn’t be writing a blog post about my experience.
The data offered “on demand” is a subset of your recent interactions with Deezer. IT contains only about 100 tracks you have heard recently, your payment history, and that’s it. And it’s formatted using
| tables | in a | text file |. Hardly what I would call “exporting my data in a machine-readable format”, which is what is required by law.
If you want more data, you need to contact customer support using the form on the help page. So, I contacted customer support anyway, saying I wanted a full export of all of my data. Then I waited.
My prior experience with Deezer customer support is poor to say the least. I have had many an issue with apps not working (eventually identifying I needed to clear out the cache, despite the fact that locally cached music is supposed to be one of the big features of the app), or subscriptions lapsing and not renewing properly (I needed to keep pestering customer support about this, they kept giving me free months to compensate, but it still hasn’t been resolved).
Fairly quickly I got an automated reply telling me to look at the link in my profile page, telling me to do what I had already done. I responded to try and push things a bit further.
A day or so later someone responded saying I would need to wait 30 days to get my data back. OK. I waited.
34 days later (close enough, I guess?), someone responded and told me to log in to a corporate FTP server and download my data export file from there. Some attached the login details for my account on the FTP server, in plaintext, to the top of the text file I originally downloaded from my profile area.
The FTP server is to be accessed over the web interface, and it is “captcha protected”, so I know my data is safe and secure. Sigh. After logging in, and giving Google some free work, I click on my file and try to download it.
Alas, the FTP server is too secure. My FTP account “does not have download permissions”. I guess that’s one way of keeping one’s data safe. Stop anyone from reading it, including me.
After another back and forth, waiting another month (only 30 days this time, an improvement), and escalating to the actual data protection officer for Deezer, they finally just emailed me a copy of my full data, now formatted nicely in a spreadsheet document.
And now, finally, many months later I have the data that I wanted. My data. Now in my hands and free for me to do whatever I want with. Copy it over to another streaming service. Perhaps with a note of the artists I have favourited, I can buy their music directly from them, and cut out the streaming middleman.
I’m of two minds about streaming services. I’m not very musically inclined, and I’ve always had difficulty discovering new music. On that from streaming has been a boon, making it cheap and fairly easy to find new things to listen to and new ways to organise them. But it is a real pain trying to make the damn thing “just work”. I’m not sure what I’ll do now.
I think I’ll probably look around and see what the other streaming services are offering, and see if there isn’t some way I can import my data. But with a rise in “exclusives” for specific streaming services, I’m kind of getting tired. I may just go back to listening only to music that I’ve purchased from the artist. It’s way more expensive that way, and more difficult to find new music, but maybe it’ll be easier. At the very least, things will work properly.
A message to deezer
I would like to finish this blog post with a message to deezer:
In today’s data-oriented world it is vital that companies allow people to access their own data. Customers should not need to go through a big song and dance just to get it. One should not need to wait in excess of 2 months to download an excel spreadsheet. I should not have to bounce across customer support representatives do complete a basic request.
Deezer, please sort your shit out.
I can relate to your frustration. Streaming services lost their luster with me a long time ago. My media is all physical (vinyl, compact cassette, CDs, VHS, LaserDisc, and DVDs). As a safeguard, I’ve been digitizing my collection into MP3s and MP4s and burning those to DVDs for posterity. But, the point being, I ain’t spending any more money on media unless I can hold the thing in my hand. I’ve learned my lesson.