In praise of Spotify

Anyone not heard of Spotify yet? 

Spotify.com screenshot
The spotify.com homepage.

I’m not usually the first to get into new things online, but I’ve been using Spotify for a few weeks now and am utterly, utterly bowled over by it. If you’ve not heard about it, how best to explain it? It is an online music service that gives you access to an astonishing catalogue of music of all genres and ages, all streamed straight to your computer. And it’s free. And legal. Right now, for example, I’m listening to a random selection of 1950s blues. Earlier this evening I played the brand new album by Lily Allen.

How does it work? Brilliantly. Search for your artist, album, track – whatever – and click on play. The music seems to start instantly – no buffering delay – and from what I can hear the quality is excellent. Imagine iTunes, but instead of being able to select only from the tracks you’ve ripped off CD or downloaded (legally or otherwise) from iTunes store, MP3Sparks, Limewire or wherever, you can pick just about anything you can think of

screenshot
Spotify playing Franz Ferdinand’s Tonight (2009)

And if you can’t think what you want to listen to, the “radio” mode is great. Just select a decade (or range of decades) and a genre (or selection of genres) and it will play random tracks from its catalogue until you tell it to stop.

Screenshot
Spotify in “Radio” mode playing 1950s blues.

Just like in iTunes you can make up playlists (there’s already a facebook aplucation to help you share your playlists with friends as “mix tapes”). Of course the one thing you can’t do is download the tracks to your iPod or burn them to CD for the car and so on. But while your connected to the internet* you’ll soon find you go no-where else for your music. And if we’re heading towards a time when we all have broadband access wherever we are, I can see a time when none of us will need to ‘own’ copies of music – we’ll just access it online from a giant catalogue like this. 

The free version of Spotify has access to the entire catalogue, and is supported by minimal advertising; you get one short ad about every 20-30 minutes in my experience, which is not obtrusive at all. And if you really don’t like the ads, you can pay ten quid a month for an ad-free subscription.

It is simply astonishing, and I love it.

(*A broadband connection is, of course, a necessity for the streaming to work.) 


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