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Friday, April 24, 2009

LhnA puts Spotify to the test


I finally got round to giving Spotify a try this week, purchasing a one month 'Premium' subscription - for €9.99 or approx $12 (which will be automatically extended unless I cancel my subscription). It's free in some European countries, though you will have to put up with the occasional ad with the free version. Unfortunately our friends in the US will have to wait a bit longer, as it's not yet available there.

signing up

After purchase, the next step is downloading and installing the (surprisingly light) program, which only takes a few minutes.

Once opened, it's much like your regular music player (MediaMonkey/iTunes). It looks similar and has much the same functions. The only difference is that the songs it plays aren't actually on your computer (they're stored in a gigantic supercomputer buried deep in the Arctic, possibly). Other than that, there really is little difference. Like MediaMonkey, it has a handy queue function (titled 'play next' in MediaMonkey).

"It's like a magical version of iTunes in which you've already bought every song in the world" Wired

The main difference between your using your own computer and Spotify is quite simple: the music. i.e. what music does Spotify have and what doesn't it have?

Well, for the casual music fan, Spotify will have more than enough. All the big chart stuff is there, as well as a pretty decent back catalogue of the bigger mainstream bands and acts (i.e. Coldplay, Radiohead, Franz Ferdinand, Bruce Springsteen, Lily Allen, New Order, Blur, Eminem, Madonna, Bob Dylan).  While there are some odd omissions in this category, with e.g. U2, the Killers, Rihanna etc missing. This is surely a record label issue, and it's probably just a matter of time before they get on board too. The more momentum Spotify  picks up (and users it gets), the more it will  surely (be able to) add. iTunes didn't have the amount of songs it now has on day one either. Spotify currently has approx 6 million tracks.

integrated band info, courtesy of Allmusic.com

As for smaller bands, well I really have been quite impressed so far. For example, I found Beat Happening's 'Black Candy', Kings of Convenience, Jens Lekman, Fleet Foxes, the Magnetic Fields, the latest Camera Obscura, Johnny Foreigner, The Mae Shi, pretty much everything Belle and Sebastian have ever released, the Velvet Underground, Wilco, Art Brut, Pavement et al. There's still plenty missing, but again, new stuff appears to be continuously added, so perhaps this will just require a little patience.  

As a true music lover would never want to give up their own collection anyway, Spotify should really be viewed more as a supplement than a replacement. And as supplements go, this is a pretty damn impressive one.
 radio feature

Another great feature is the Playlist function. Just as with iTunes, users can compile and share playlists. The difference with iTunes however is that you don't actually have to buy the songs to hear them. I personally enjoyed finding Pitchfork's Top 500 or for example their Top 50 Albums of 2008, while music sites like Drowned in Sound also compile their own playlists. You can listen to their favourite songs of early 2009 here.

Spotify can be used on any computer that has the software installed, so you can use it while on holiday for example, while they are currently working on making it available to iPhones etc, so you can use it on the go.

For me the best part of Spotify is simply listening to things I otherwise wouldn't have. Legal or not, you do normally have to seek something out to listen to it. So far I've just ended up browsing around quite a bit.  From Beach Boys to Bauhaus. If you're already using Spotify, you can see my already played songs here.
So, you're probably wondering about one crucial aspect: buffering. Well, good news here too, the good people at Spotify have done something rather clever which has made buffering a thing of the past. Clicking a song starts a song. Period.  


They've also developed a built-in Last.fm scrobbler, for all you users out there.

As for negatives, I wish Spotify would have somewhat more information available, e.g. the type of stuff last.fm and your regular music player already provide. Last played, Top played etc. Plus the home page could be just a bit more informative. Maybe even include your own personal charts. Also it would be nice to have a choice of skins. 

Spotify is still in its infancy however, so they surely are working on more options and applications.


Overall , I'm a pretty damn happy camper. 

I'll leave you with a few songs I've had on repeat these past few days:

Beach Boys - She knows me too well (stereo remix)
Bauhaus - Third uncle


Nocultureicons said...
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Nocultureicons said...

I tried Spotify too recently and was quite impressed with it. As you say, there are some things missing but it's only a matter of time. At the moment it seems Spotify are approaching labels, but once they add a function for labels and artists to add their own music it'll be all go from there!