Review: Two Weeks W/Spotify [Verdict: It Just Works]

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Music should live in the cloud. That’s obvious. Even a vinyl-loving audiophile with super-powered, magical eardrums would likely agree that most semi-casual listeners — which is most of us — shouldn’t have to manage jewel cases or migrate tracks from disc to computer to thumb or hard drive ad nauseam.

I never bought into Rhapsody. I think Lala is a joke (especially with all the pricing flip-flops). I tried imeem and like the interface/functionality, but don’t have time to invest in another social network. Pandora is overrated (every time I listen, I skip more tracks than I listen to). Napster’s had so many incarnations, I’ve lost count and interest. I’ve never given Last.fm a go, because frankly, I’ve grown tired of all of these services which get close to what I want, but not quite.

My CD collection — which is in the 1,500-2,000 range — is somewhat organized. It lives in a series of alphabetical bins stacked in a hall closet. Once a month, or less, I’ll go searching for a disc. Maybe I’ll find it. Maybe not. Thus, I’ll re-buy. A bummer, but worthwhile if I want to hear the Beach Boys “Let the Wind Blow” and put it on my iPhone, instead of streaming an inferior file on YouTube. $0.99 isn’t all that bad. But it adds up. Besides, what else can I do, without illegally downloading?

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Spotify is a desktop app that lets you stream 3.8 million songs — for free. While it isn’t perfect, it sure does blow away the above-noted competition.

For two weeks, I’ve been listening and, better yet, collecting hundreds of songs that I’ve structured into a variety of playlists so that I can listen, on repeat.

In a word, the service is: AWESOME.

Here’s the jist:

The Rad

The selection is pretty solid: I’ve searched and found dozens of albums and artists I haven’t listened to in, literally, years. That’s my favorite part: no more diving into the closet and flipping through jewel cases; no more re-buying just to hear a song on-demand; no risk of getting sued just cause I want to hear Joy Division’s “Digital” 137 times yesterday and today. Plus, new releases from the kinds of bands you’ll hear on KCRW and some college radio stations.

The UI is logical and smooth, as is the streaming itself. Tracks play, more or less, instantaneously. No disheartening buffering. The free account features tracks at 160kbps. You can, of course, pay up for better sound. I doubt I ever would or will.

It’s legal, thanks to licensing. Supposedly there are ads that get inserted into your playlists. In the two weeks I’ve been listening, I haven’t seen or heard one ad. That’s great for me. That’s not so good for the advertisers. Go figure.

There are a bevy of fun, useful features which you can dive into — drag-and-drop playlist creation, artist/song search, artist radio (not great, imho, but comparable to other streaming radio stations), collaborative playlists, sharing to Facebook — OR NOT. If you have no interest in exploring these, no problem. The UI isn’t gunked up with tons of buttons or links to confuse a casual listener. As such, it’s unbelievably easy to get started and just listen to music.

You can also choose genres, years, and mix and match: 80s goth, 90s dance, or even something like 70s country/reggae:

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The Not-So-Rad

Spotify sports a list of similar artists and artist radio, but I’m not finding this to be all that much of a mind-blowing music discovery tool. At least, not to the point that I’ve gone ahead and purchased or saved many “new” artists I’ve never heard of or lesser-known tracks from artists I do know.

The Meh

1) No Beatles. No LedZep. Even mid-level bands are noticeably absent or incomplete: Wolf Parade’s second album but not it’s first (and best).

2) Oh, and because of legal issues, it’s currently available only in the UK, France, Spain, Finland, Norway and Sweden.

3) I can’t imagine Apple will ever allow the iPhone app to pass go and collect $200m [via Lifehacker]:

photo by RodBegbie

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25 Responses to Review: Two Weeks W/Spotify [Verdict: It Just Works]

  1. Evan says:

    “Even a vinyl-loving audiophile with super-powered, magical eardrums would likely agree that most semi-casual listeners — which is most of us — shouldn’t have to manage jewel cases or migrate tracks from disc to computer to thumb or hard drive ad nauseam.”

    Why not? In the grand scheme of things, is this really such an onerous task?

  2. tw15 says:

    >Not sure why, but I get tonnes of ads? About every 3-4 songs, and often 2 ads in a row.

    Stop listening to prog rock ;)

    RIAA cant touch it outside of the USA

    It doesn’t seem to have the latest tunes – Bulletproof by La Roux seemed to take an age to appear.

  3. gen says:

    Looks nice, a good alternative to deezer which has become not so good here in France.

    BUT an invite is needed…anyone ? thanks in advance !

    wugomoxadyjotejy@tempomail.fr

  4. gen says:

    Nevermind, there is a loophole :

    http://www.zath.co.uk/spotify-beta-invite-flaw-uncovered/

    Just go to https://www.spotify.com/en/get-started/
    and away you go ! I’m listening now…

  5. kawayama says:

    yes: it has loads of music.
    no: it plays the same ads constantly (i’ve tried it in sweden and spain).

    i recently discovered that it senses if you mute the volume on your mac: the ad pauses, and resumes playing when you raise the volume again.

  6. Cadeaux says:

    So, uh…Can I get an invite? I’m currently living in Spain and I’d like to give this service try.

  7. Apreche says:

    Go figure. As soon as there is a legal music service I might consider actually using, not available in the US.

    I do think, however, that a service like this does have two major flaws because it is streaming only.

    1) It’s difficult to make a remix of any of the songs, because I don’t have the actual mp3. Fair use is totally destroyed. Can’t use it to make a soundtrack for a home video or anything.

    2) Again, because I don’t have the actual mp3, I can only listen when I have connectivity. I do see there’s an iPhone app, which is a big help. However, AT&T SUCKS, but not just AT&T. I ride the train to work every day. There is no signal for a substantial portion of that ride. I need mp3s on the phone to get a good listening experience.

    Also, even when I do have 5 bars of 3g, like in my office near Times Square, sometimes data still doesn’t work. I’ll get a message like “data currently unavailable” even though I have full bars of 3G in the center of the most important city on earth.

    I think that this point the only thing that would actually get me to pay for music at this point would be something like an Amazon mp3 subscription. For some reasonable monthly or annual fee I get to download as many DRM-free tracks as I want. Well, it doesn’t even have to be unlimited. It can be a reasonable number. How about $20 a month for 10 albums or 100 tracks a month. That’s a nice reasonable 20 cents per track-ish. Until then, it’s Jamendo for me.

  8. Bugs says:

    I don’t hear any ads when I run Spotify in Kubuntu Linux, but I do hear them when running the Mac client. I’ve seen other people refer to the lack of ads when running in Linux, so I suppose it’s a known bug. Possibly my favourite bug ever :). The ads aren’t too bad though; listening on the Mac I get something like one 10 second ad per 8-10 songs; much better than listening to the radio.

    I just about prefer Spotify to Pandora. I really like Pandora’s “music genome project” and discovered some cool music through it; I don’t think spotify does this as well. But Spotify does hav the clear advantage of letting you play specific tracks and building playlists, giving you much more control than Pandora did.

    (There’s no linux version of the client, but I find that the Windows client runs perfectly under WINE. No special configuration needed, very nice)

  9. daniel.dee says:

    I never realized how hard ripping songs from a CD was.

    Thankfully someone has unleashed a team of developers to keep me from the unspeakable drudgery of putting a disc in a plastic tray and clicking a button.

    I wonder when my favorite independent bands are going to be available on this service? I was going to buy their CD from the back of the bar where they played, but instead I’ll just wait for it to come out on this service.

    I’m also glad that it plays on my $3000 phone toy, which is so much cheaper than a record player.

    Best of all, we get a ham-fisted, jiz-covered review telling us why all the other options are flawed and must be cast-off.

  10. nanboy says:

    http://listen.grooveshark.com/

    Spotify for the US, or at least I’m guessing. An Amazing breadth of music with the ability to create playlists, as well as a “auto suggest” feature based on the songs you’ve already played. The latter is probably the weakest feature.

  11. vonnegutlives says:

    I like having a physical copy of my music that I’ve paid for. I also like contributing to my local economy and supporting the good folks at the local record stores. I also don’t mind ripping my CDs into iTunes. And, finally, I like how my CDs look all nice and organized on my shelf for my friends to drool over (and NOT locked away in a closet like a bastard child).

  12. Steven Leckart says:

    That’s weird. I’m on a Mac. NO ADS. Indeed, raddest bug ever, if that’s the case.

    I agree about Pandora, completely. Cool project, but at the end of the day, if I want to hear the Ramones do “Beat on the Brat” right NOW, then I can.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Just want to point out that raving about the lack of ads on a free *thus ad-paid-for* service is not the best way to keep it from getting overrun with ads or to keep people advertising with it. No ads, no free service.

  14. Zarniwoop says:

    The problem with spotify, and the reason it’ll never replace a physical collection of discs, is the same reason that was highlighted earlier this week by Cory about the RIAA- tracks on spotify are not going to last forever. Sure, if ultimately successful, Spotify or some derivative may well last for decades, but like everything else on the web it is essentially transitory in nature, and once its gone its gone.

    That being said, there really is little reason to download at all now, especially for brand new albums that you haven’t had a chance to buy yet.

  15. remmelt says:

    I strongly believe that the songs you get to listen to on Spotify are stored on a server somewhere, connected to the internet. They aren’t on a cloud, I don’t think. And I should know, I studied computers.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Music should live in the cloud. That’s obvious.

    Wow, it only took two sentences to lose me.

  17. dculberson says:

    It’s part of the storm’s PR blitz to make people like clouds, and thus storms. Thor approved and so far it’s been very successful.

  18. nutbastard says:

    “Once a month, or less, I’ll go searching for a disc. Maybe I’ll find it. Maybe not. Thus, I’ll re-buy. A bummer, but worthwhile if I want to hear the Beach Boys “Let the Wind Blow” and put it on my iPhone, instead of streaming an inferior file on YouTube. $0.99 isn’t all that bad. But it adds up. Besides, what else can I do, without illegally downloading?”

    If you own a CD, it is 100% legal for you to download that CD from any source. It’s illegal to indiscriminately upload – in theory you’re only supposed to upload to people who own the rights to the music. If you do, then you aren’t breaking the law.

  19. Adam S says:

    This is like us Brits getting you back for Hulu. I am oft-irritated by the use of Hulu embedding on Laughing Squid and BB.

    Spotify is the best thing to happen to music since the MP3 in my opinion. I only have two worries, one is that I have to keep my music library updated and can’t go fully streamed since I have a crappy router and two is that their business plan will fail and I’ll end up losing my beautiful programme in a few months.

  20. Anonymous says:

    In the beginning it’s indeed very few ads. The first month or so I generally only got the “Buy Spotify Premium”. After a while, they step it up to the point where it can get quite annoying. Though I have to say, a Premium account is still pretty cheap (about the price of an iTunes album in Sweden).

    The iPhone app, if it gets the green light, will require a Premium account. And the distribution model is quite nifty, large servers plus a p2p type distribution network (look at the TCP connections for the client).

  21. michaelportent says:

    I, like everyone else, wonder about the ability of this service to stay afloat with the RIAA now having huge footholds in our justice system. (See also: http://news.cnet.com/8301-13578_3-10133425-38.html)

    That said, after painstakingly digitizing most of my CD collection several years ago, and not wanting to do more of it, I need a service that will have all the artists I love. Not some of them, not 90% of them, ALL of them. Otherwise I might as well march to my PC and finish what I started with my collection years ago when mp3s first came into popularity.

  22. James says:

    Geo-blocking from Australia also.

  23. gruben says:

    I personally love Lala. As someone who has his entire music collection digitized and on an external hard drive, Lala is great because it lets me sync my library with the site and stream most of my music for free whereever I am.

  24. Vetle Skatvoldsmyr says:

    I’ve used Spotify for a while now, and loved it from day one. It plays the songs instantly, and in high quality. It’s PERFECT for parties. People can queue the songs they want to hear, from a monster song selection. Of course, Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, they’re all needed for full score, but I’ve got all those on CD anyway. Hopefully they’ll come around as well. I also heard U2 chose to release their latest album a week earlier on Spotify, don’t know if that’s true though.
    I found I use Spotify so much, I paid a year’s subscription, which gave me two months for free. I highly recommend it. No visual ads and no ads breaking my playlists. And, in paying, I believe I am helping secure the future of the music industry. This is the way to do it.
    The only thing bugging me is the 0,5 sec silence between tracks. More people have been complaining about that, and the Spotify wizards might have that removed for the subscription version later on – or so someone said somewhere some time ago.
    And: I was given 30 invites with my subscription, and still have some to spare. I’ll send invites to the first 5 who mails me.
    junk@vetlemakt.com

  25. Chinny Racoon says:

    Not sure why, but I get tonnes of ads? About every 3-4 songs, and often 2 ads in a row. It is very annoying, and I think I will stick with my legacy off cloud system.

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