I’ll be honest, I don’t download music that often; I’m not buying songs left and right like some people do. If I buy a song, it’s either because I really really like it, or I’m about to leave on a trip. 9 times out 10, I open iTunes to listen to a new podcast episode, not music. It’s not that I hate music, far from it, but it’s because I prefer the radio style of listening to songs, like Pandora (laziness also factors in here). There certainly are some great songs (both that I own and don’t own) that I listen to over and over, but it does get boring after a while. So since its American debut, I’ve been trying out Spotify for my music needs.
Spotify is music streaming service that has taken most of Europe by storm. It recently has come to America, to many people’s excitement, with deal from the major record labels. Imagine it as iTunes meets Pandora. After creating your account, you download the desktop client and login to your account. From there, you can listen to the music on your hard drive just like you would on iTunes, or make playlists out of Spotify’s collection of 15 million tracks.
The music streams over the Internet sound great (and that’s not even the higher quality streaming). I found almost every song that I looked for, including some I had forgotten. However, there were occasions when I couldn’t find some random songs or albums, but the rest of the band’s stuff was there. Also, people who have more of a taste for indie music or homegrown hits may have trouble finding some songs.
You can then connect your Facebook account, that way you share music with your other friends that use Spotify, making it a lot easier to be social. Then by connecting with them through Faceboook, you can update what song you’re listening to on Facebook, or share music and playlists with your friends. You also have the Spotify profile, where you can tell the world what songs you like, playlists, etc. Likewise, it also syncs to Last.fm, allowing you to scrobble tracks your hear in Spotify.
There are 3 prices for Spotify: free, unlimited, and premium. The free version does all of the above mentioned stuff, has some visual adds that you occasionally see floating around, as well as audio ads that you’ll here about hot playlists and new music. There aren’t too intrusive, much less of a shake-up than other ads (like Pandora), as they’re all music oriented and for Spotify, though I’m glad I finally don’t have to see the visual ad anymore for Katy Perry’s “Friday Night”. That ad just never left my screen. I think Spotify could benefit from culling ads to be similar to the playlists they are in, such as ads for rock bands in playlists composed or rock music, etc. The Unlimited version ($4.99 a month) pretty much just gets rid of ads and is supposed to allow unlimited streaming, but more on that in a minute. The Premium version ($9.99 a month) does the same as unlimited, but adds high quality streaming (really really sounds great), offline caching on devices (kind of like downloading the song temporarily for when you don’t have a great Internet connection or don’t want to use bandwidth), get early listening rights to new releases, and allows streaming to your smartphone with the Spotify app. The app is free, you just pay for the service, so free and unlimited users can sync their own tracks (in iTunes library) with it and browse the catalog, but can’t stream music.
Now about that unlimited streaming. At the moment, Spotify allows all users to stream music without limit in America, even free accounts. But if it follows the path that our European friends are on, then free users won’t have this for much longer, before being cut down to 6 hours a month. When or if that will be, nobody seems to know yet, but my bet is that it won’t last more than a year since the release date.
One thing that gets me down about Spotify’s free version is lack of a radio mode. I like that you can build playlists of your favorite songs, but sometimes I just want to listen, not build. I was hoping there was a radio mode, much like Pandora or Slacker Radio do, but it seems this is only available to Unlimited and Premium users. Fortunately, you can get around this by listening to other people’s or Spotify’s own playlists, as well as getting Spotify extensions.
Spotify is available on Windows XP, Vista, and 7, Mac OS X 10.4-10.7 (Tiger through Lion), and has mobile apps for Android, iOS (iPad and iPhone), Symbian, Palm, and Windows Phone as a free download. Spotify, as of this post, is on an invite only basis, but you can request an invite at www.spotify.com