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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