[This review of Spotify is essentially part 2 of my review of MOG v. Napster v. Rdio v. Rhapsody.]
Spotify is finally here and I got my invite to use the free portion of the service, which is ad supported for streaming millions of songs through a computer. Spotify also offers two other pricing options. For $4.99 you can get unlimited computer streaming without commercials, and for $9.99 get unlimited computer streaming and on-the-go music for your smartphone or iPod.
Spotify requires downloading and installing a client to use, unlike all the other services that can work through the web. Think of the client as a customized browser just for music.
My first impression is Spotify is BLAZINGLY fast! Second, the sound quality is excellent with 320kbps streams. Third, without me noticing it, Spotify indexed all the songs on my computer and added them to their search engine. One of the first things I did was search for music I know that’s not on the other services, and was deceptively blown away when Spotify started playing Willis Alan Ramsey’s legendary out-of-print CD. It wasn’t until after I searched on Nanci Griffith’s “Daddy Said” and it started playing that I realized I was playing my own songs. I was disappointed that Spotify’s library wasn’t truly unlimited, but this is a very cool feature. With one search engine I can play Spotify’s library of 15 million songs and my library of 18,000+ songs.
Spotify works with a client that must be installed on your computer – and for disciples of Steve Jobs, yes, there is a Mac client. If you have an iPhone or Android smartphone, and you’re willing to pay the $9.99/month Premium fee you can sync your Spotify playlists to play offline. If you’re online (Wi-Fi or 3G/4G) you can stream the entire site. Users of the Free and $4.99 Unlimited plan can use the Spotify client to load your personally owned songs to your mobile phone or iPod. What this means is Spotify wants to replace Windows Media Player or iTunes to manage your music – but it doesn’t require any conversion – Spotify just indexed my songs immediately after installing.
The client for Spotify is streamlined and basic, with a dark background – it reminds me of sleek basic version of iTunes. Spotify is rather plain looking compared to Rdio my current favorite streaming music service, and Rhapsody, my longtime favorite. Those sites love to show lots of album covers, but Spotify doesn’t do that. It has two areas of the client where random visual ads pop up, but they hardly bother me, and I hate ads. One reason why they don’t bother me is who looks at the client when they are playing music? But on the other hand there are audio ads!!! Now that might take some getting used to.
Having an ad support site means millions of people can try subscription music and discover why spending $4.99-$9.99 a month for subscription music is one of the most fantastic bargains on Earth right now. I can even get my wife and other friends that refuse to pay for music hooked on Spotify.
I’m playing Colbie Caillat’s new album All of You while I write this review and so far I’ve had three commercial interruptions between songs. The ads so far seem to be music related spots, and the audio ads have been either for Spotify Premium or other album artists – nothing as offensive as AM radio ads – so far.
Spotify does have social features but not wonderfully integrated like Rdio. They seem to depend on Facebook or Twitter, although you can get the URL of any album, song or playlist and send it to your friends who have Spotify and they can then play what you want them to hear. I didn’t test the Facebook feature because I hate sharing on Facebook. I’m afraid Spotify would annoy my friends like Farmville fanatics with their sharing.
Spotify is slick in its simplicity. Here’s what it’s Chart’s list page looks like, that show the Top 100 Songs and Albums. [Try clicking on the images to see larger views.]
Notice the ad on the right. Now here’s what the album page looks like:
And here’s how Spotify shows my Bob Dylan albums.
Go to http://spotify.com and request free invite. Try out the service. If you’ve never used a subscription music service Spotify is a great introduction. But do yourself a favor if you like it, spend $4.99 and try out http://rdio.com for a month. Read my review of the four other top music subscription services. They each have unique features that make them all worthy considerations. At the very minimum, if you love music get the free version of Spotify. If I wasn’t so attached to Rdio right now I would buy the Unlimited version of Spotify, and I might still, it’s a very slick and FAST music player.
The reason why I’m sticking to Rdio is I have two friends at work that use it too, and the social features are addictive. For so long music has become a solitary pursuit with people plugging in and tuning out. Now, music is becoming social again. I have great nostalgia for when I was growing up and me and my friends would get together and play albums. No one seems to do that anymore. Well, with subscription music services you can, just not together in the same room.
A third co-worker is definitely going to join Rdio, and a fourth is considering it. That kind of momentum is sealing my allegiance to Rdio. But subscription music is just catching on and Spotify might be the service to join, especially if you have a lot of music buddies on Facebook.
To sum up the comparisons I’d say MOG is a top consideration if you want the most efficient way to make playlists and you want to play music through your Roku. Napster is your choice if you love playing songs from Billboard charts that go back to the 1950s. Rhapsody might have the widest selection of songs, and it seems to have the most supplemental information and it has a great blog. Spotify is great for two reasons. First, there’s a free version, so everyone can use it. Second, it’s perfect for people who have large personal collections of MP3s because Spotify integrates its collection with yours seamlessly. Finally, I believe Rdio is best for people who like to share music with real world friends and discover new music by social networking with online friends.
I imagine all of these services will evolve quickly and develop new features and copy the best features of their competitors. I believe streaming music is the future of music distribution and the end of owning music – except for true collectors who like to fill their houses with 78s, 45s, LPs and CDs.
JWH – 7/21/11