Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A Review of Spotify

High Fidelity A new (in the United States) music streaming service launched a bit ago: Spotify. I've downloaded it and put it through its paces, and I thought I might share my thoughts with you, the general public.

We've come a long way from the days of the CD. Now, most people have their music on everything from their computer to their cell phone. But all that music takes up a fair bit of space on a hard drive. That's where the cloud comes in. The next big thing in digital music is being able to play songs directly from the internet--no need to store all the music on your own device. Some services (like Amazon) let you upload your songs to their servers. This takes a lot of time, but it can be effective. Others (like Pandora) let you stream "radio stations" online for free--songs that are similar to a certain artist or song.

Spotify is a service that's been going gangbusters in Europe for the past while. I essentially lets you listen to any song for free--regardless of whether or not you own it. You have to have an internet connection and a computer, but that's the only requirement. (You can, of course, purchase the song to be able to listen to it without a connection, and for a fee, you can be a premium Spotify member, which lets you stream your music to an iPhone or other device). It's taken forever for it to come over to America (mainly due to music licensing issues), but it's arrived at last. I signed up right away.

How is it?

I'm honestly not blown away by the service. In theory, it should be really cool. The ability to share music with friends on Facebook, post public playlists, listen to your music on any computer--all very nice. But the sharing seems like the biggest offering, and its execution is clunky at best. When you share a playlist, not everyone can see all the songs on it. They can only see the songs in it that they already own--unless the subscribe to the playlist, at which point the songs become visible.

I think.

That's the thing--I'm not sure. The user interface leaves much to be desired. I've used it, read about how to use it, experimented with it, and I'm still not sure I'm doing everything with it that I can. That's frustrating, especially in an age where I'm so used to having something made in such a way that it's so intuitive, the manual seems redundant. Not so with Spotify. It doesn't help that their online help section leaves much to be desired, too.

It seems to me I should be able to add music freely to my library--the one I can listen to on a computer for free. I guess you can, as long as you add them to a playlist first. I'm sorry for seeming so confused--it's just a reflection of my frustrations working with the program.

In the end, I'm not sure how much I'll use Spotify. It feels to me like an over-hyped summer blockbuster. You hear and read so much about it, that by the time it's released and you get to see it, you can't help but be disappointed.

How about you--anyone out there already use Spotify and love it? What am I doing wrong? Do share . . .

1 comment:

  1. I like Spotify because it lets me listen to songs that I choose (unlike Pandora), lets me listen to songs I don't already own (unlike Amazon Cloud), lets me listen to those songs for free (unlike Rhapsody, where they want my credit card before they're gonna let me do that) and with no strings attached (at least for now, there are no song limits). And it will import my iTunes and Windows Media libraries so if I do want to listen to music I already own, I can have all that music available to me too. I'm using the free version and haven't investigated the benefits of the other membership levels yet.

    One thing I've found useful since I am not yet ready to connect through Facebook: if you know a friend's username, you can type spotify:user:[username] in the search box and click the Add button. (They need to have added a public profile first.) All of their playlists show up without having to subscribe to each one individually, and I haven't had problems playing any of the songs in the playlist using the free version.

    We'll see what gets taken away once they get enough suckers, er, users in the US. But for now, I don't have to haul my CD collection in to the office, and I can sit at my desk and listen to whatever album title randomly pops into my head. That makes it worth hanging in for now.