Sitting here listening to The Decemberists on Spotify, I realized it has been about a month since the Swedish import landed on American shores. The interwebs have been jam-packed with reviews, some enthusiastic and some…well…not so much. I really am not in the mood to discuss the music business or the future model for which musicians will or will not be appropriately paid for their work. I simply like listening to music and I have a few thoughts on Spotify after a month. So here goes.
- The most obvious place to start is with the selection of music available on the service. Holy crap! Spotify has millions of albums from every genre and frankly it’s a bit overwhelming. I have tried to “stump the band” and so far Spotify has won most every time. In fact, of all the artists I’ve searched for I can only think of one that wasn’t available — Arcade Fire. I’m sure I will find more as I look around, but the selection is incredible. Additionally, I have found a bunch of relatively obscure albums and some different versions of albums that are not readily available on purchase sites like Amazon and iTunes.
- On the technology side, Spotify impresses. I have the application running on my Mac at home, my PC at work and my iPhone and the music streams seamlessly and the apps work great. I was worried the mobile app might lose connection to the service, but so far I’ve had very few interruptions whether I’m listening in the car or at the gym. In fact, since I loaded the iPhone app I haven’t listened to anything but Spotify and love it. I can see where I might want to listen to a radio style app now and then, so I don’t have any plans to kill Pandora, but if Spotify adds a radio-like service Pandora will be in deep shit. I understand Spotify has a feature called “search operators” which allows you to create playlists based on various search terms but I have not yet had the chance to try that. I have been so obsessed with listening to bands I like that I haven’t had time to explore the playlists feature at all.
- I have been running a one-month free trial of Spotify premium so I’ve been able to use the mobile app and that has made all the difference. In order to get the full Spotify experience you really have to have the top-of-the-line service which truly lets you listen to anything, anytime, anywhere. But at $10 per month it’s a no brainer…I am definitely going to subscribe once my trial ends.
- Along with listening to my favorites, and digging up some blasts from the past, one great side benefit of Spotify is that I have been able to explore full albums by bands I had heard about but hadn’t heard beyond a single or two. A good example is the latest from Danger Mouse and Daniele Luppi. I had heard the song “Two Against One” with Jack White on vocals, but I wanted to hear the whole album and certainly didn’t want to buy it based on one song. I called up the album on Spotify, listened to it all the way through, and it’s amazing. So I starred it and now I can listen to it whenever I want. And I didn’t have to buy it. Cool.
- I’m unimpressed with the way you organize the albums and songs you like in Spotify. I am used to iTunes, where I can easily sort through my music by artist, genre, album or song and hit play. Spotify may have millions of albums and songs, but the interface is awkward for keeping music you like and want to listen to often. The service lets you “star” songs or albums you like, and you can click to see your starred music, but it’s not easily sortable. They have work to do here.
- I’m a little embarrassed to say this, but so far the hardest part of using Spotify has been deciding what to listen to. I’ve literally sat in my car for minutes before driving off trying to think of what to queue up. The application does not make for good browsing, so you have to search through the invisible music bin in your mind to choose what to play. It’s harder than you think! One thing I love about iTunes is that it’s tailor-made for browsing and then choosing what to play. The browsing process helps me decide what to play and I miss that with Spotify. To solve this issue, I have tried to think about what I’d like to hear before I get in the car or get on the treadmill, but even that is tough because there are so many choices. I know…tough problem to have!
- I’m not really sure what to do with the social pieces of Spotify. On the right side of the app I can see all of my friends who also have Spotify, and I can see what they are listening to and can “subscribe” to any of their playlists and listen to them. I haven’t fully explored this part of Spotify yet and haven’t even made a single playlist of my own yet. I am sure I’ll figure out the value once I play around more. Also, from my PC at work I’ve clicked on the social share feature a few times, which is supposed to post what I’m listening to on Facebook or Twitter, but each time I’ve tried that it hasn’t worked. Might be a work firewall issue though so I’ll have to try it at home or on the mobile app.
- The home page sucks. It profiles only a handful of new releases and does not offer a “since you like X you might like X” feature. Amazon does this well, but Spotify is seriously missing the boat on promoting artists and helping users find new music they might like.
Overall I have to say I love Spotify and I’m sure they will address some of my minor complaints in the future. But truthfully, for $10 per month it’s the musical steal of the century. I’m hooked.