Spotify After One Month — A Review

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 Positive

  • 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.

The Negative

  • 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.

Will Sweden-based Spotify be iTunes’ Waterloo?

Lost in all the hype this week about Google Plus was perhaps the biggest news in the music industry since Dylan went electric — the Swedish are coming, the Swedish are coming! Online music service Spotify announced it is coming to the U.S. after several years of false alarms and rumors.

So what? Why all the hype? Well, several music services (Rhapsody, MOG, Pandora,  iTunes Cloud) have threatened to change the way we buy and listen to music, but none have the success rate of Spotify. In Europe, Spofity has more than 10 million users and a million paying subscribers. That’s a huge user base and from what I’ve read its both comprehensive and easy to use. If the pricing structure rumors are true…and they probably are…for $10 per month American users will be able to listen to  “any track, any time, anywhere.” As my 13-year-old son says: “nobody buys music anymore dad!” If he’s right…and I believe he is…I won’t be buying music anymore, but rather I’ll be buying the right to listen to whatever I want wherever I want and at only $10 per month that’s a hell of a deal.

The news media has been all over this story this week, and many of them are warning us not to assume Spotify will change everything. But it already has. Plenty of my friends have jumped into Rhapsody and I’ve stayed on the sidelines. Spotify comes with something Rhapsody doesn’t have — customer loyalty and brand appeal. Spotify is cool. Wired compares the service to “a magical version of iTunes in which you’ve already bought every song in the world.

If you’re like me you’ve always bought the music you want. I have hundreds of CDs gathering dust, and even some casette tapes in neat carrying cases tucked away in my closet. And with the switch to digital music I still buy music when I find something I like. It’s natural for my generation to want to own the music. But with Spotify comes the tipping point for the subscription model. Why store CDs or even gigs of digital music on an external hard drive anymore? What’s the point? The music is in the cloud and it will always be in the cloud…the question becomes not whether to buy the new Eddie Vedder album, but rather which service to listen to it on. With Spotify you can stream the album on your computer, on your iPhone, on your iPad…in your car, at the gym, at work. It’s always there and you can listen on any platform. It is truly like having a Tower Records in your pocket.

Owning music is so last century.