I heard about Spotify – http://www.spotify.com/ – a few months ago when I watched a video interview with Napster founder Sean Parker. Parker who’s always been into the sharing of music has said that Spotify is, “the answer to piracy.” I’m a big music fan and the problem of music piracy on the Internet is a huge one so I was super interested in this. The problem was, when I watched the video Spotify wasn’t available in the United States. Well, the wait is over and Spotify is here!
What Is It?
Quite simply, Spotify is another way to listen to music over the Internet. It’s an on-demand free music library that you can listen to on your PC, Mac, home audio system and cell phone. All of the music streams live so there’s no downloading of files to your hard drive. According to the site:
Spotify is a new way to listen to music
Millions of tracks, any time you like. Just search for it in Spotify, then play it. Just help yourself to whatever you want, whenever you want it.
Click here to watch the Spotify story in their words.
So this is yet another program that gets your content (in this case your music) into the “Cloud”. It allows you to essentially listen to every song you could think of with a few clicks of a mouse and few keystrokes.
How Does It Work?
After downloading and installing the client on my machine I fired it up and was met with an interface that looks vaguely familiar. Very similar in layout to the iTunes interface. That said, it wasn’t quite the same thing and because of that I didn’t really like it all that much. To be fair, this will just take some getting used to.
Searching is rather simple and straight forward (again, very similar to the look/feel you’ll get from iTunes). I’m a huge nerd and my initial search will prove that:
My search returned results very quickly and I was happy that my obscure search wasn’t TOO obscure for Spotify.
I wasn’t quite sure how to begin listening to my new found music, but after a little bit of trial and error I figured out that I had to create a playlist (simply a matter of clicking NEW PLAYLIST… duh) and dragging my selection into that list.
The quality of the music was great and I had no problems with skipping or buffering. I’m on the office network which is pretty fast but these days Internet connection speed isn’t nearly the issue that it was in (*gasp*) the dial up era. That being said, Internet speed COULD be an issue if you’re on a really slow connection.
As with everything (it seems) these days, I was given the option multiple times to share my content with my social networks. Spotify offers integration and easy sharing with Facebook, Twitter and a few others.
For a full list of everything that the program will do you can see their Feature List here.
So What’s The Catch?
Ahh… the catch. You didn’t think all of this music was just going to be FREE did you? Well, depending on how you want to listen to your music there may be a cost. It’s true and you can log in and listen to your entire music catalog for absolutely free. The free version of Spotify is ad supported but the ads are not nearly as annoying as they are on say Pandora, Grooveshark or Playlist.com. The big “catch” for the free version (as I see it) is that you’ve got to be logged in. Unlike iTunes, if you’re not logged into Spotify you can’t listen to your catalog. This becomes a problem if you’re without an Internet connection for whatever reason (travel, power outage, etc.).
This can (naturally) be remedied to the tune of $9.99/month for Spotify Premium. This service offers completely ad-free listening, mobile listening, enhance sound quality (320 kbps), and a few other features (for a full list click here). Spotify also offers an ad-free version (without the enhanced sound quality or mobile listening) for $4.99/month.
The other catch here is that for this to really be powerful and give you what you’re looking for, you need to KNOW what you’re looking for. For some people the joy of experiencing music is finding new music to listen to. If you’re not hooked into a large social network and you don’t have friends suggesting music to you you’re going to be limited to the music you already know. There is a “What’s New” feature that will give you some ideas, but it’s nothing on the order of Pandora when it comes to suggesting something new to listen to.
The iPod Sync Issue
Personally I’ve been an iPod user for years now. I carry the vast majority of my music collection on it and that’s how I listen to my tunes. Luckily Spotify offers the ability to sync your iPod and gain access to your music library on there. However, there’s a big catch…. RESTORE.
I won’t go into the details here of what an iPod restore entails other than to say that it completely wipes your device back to factory settings (IE, it’s empty when you’re done). For a long time iPod user that manages my own library (rather than having iTunes sync it for me) this was a bit disconcerting. I’m computer savvy enough to know how to back up my iPod before doing this restore so I didn’t lose any files but I’m guessing there are quite a few users out there who will end up losing music and podcasts if they go this route. Proceed with caution.
The Bottom Line
Everyone likes getting free stuff. Spotify essentially gives you a world of music at your fingertips for free. If you listen to podcasts then iTunes is still for you, but if you are in a music listening environment where you’re always connected to the Internet then this is an absolutely outstanding solution. Spotify is for people who know what they like to listen to and love to share what their listening to. If that’s the type of user you are and you can get past the initial iPod restore issue then this is in all likelihood the wave of the future when it comes to digital music.