August 08, 2009

Spotify: The Best On Demand Music Library I've Ever Experienced

You might have read some of the recent coverage around Spotify's potential inclusion (or lack thereof) into the iTunes store. You might also have seen the company's term sheets floated about the Web, as the music streaming startup gears up from its limited release to one that could take the globe by storm. But if you live in the US, there is a fairly good chance you haven't actually gotten to try the application, unless you cheated and used a proxy, because to date, it has been limited to European audiences. Well, despite my years-long allegiance to iTunes, and recent signup to Sirius XM satellite radio, I got my hands on a press beta for the US version of Spotify, and it is amazing.

Spotify's Promise: Legal, Free and Instant. All 100% Valid.

Using Spotify is like having hundreds of thousands of crystal-clear music tracks on demand. After downloading the application tonight, I've closed my iTunes and have been powering through Spotify, finding hundreds of tracks from all my favorite bands, including Depeche Mode, Underworld, and Daft Punk, but I was also able to dial back a few decades, uncovering Jesus Jones, INXS, and The B-52s. You name the song, I found it, including rare remixes. And cheating by looking at songs I really liked on Sirius Radio, I even found more obscure artists, including Deadmau5, Kaskade, Kaz James and Kristinia Debarge.

724 Tracks from Armin Van Buuren In Spotify

Drilling in on The B-52s In Spotify

The promise of instant access to seemingly any song on the planet is apparently here. It's jaw dropping.

Like iTunes, Spotify displays the track that is being played, its length, the album name, and artist, and clicking on any of those items displays information about the track, or the artist, including biographical history. Like iTunes, you can hit shuffle and repeat. And like iTunes, the search capability is very good. But unlike iTunes, you don't have to download the music and you don't have to pay for the music - making it more like the subscription services, including Rhapsody and Napster, that have been slaughtered by Apple's iTunes colossus.

Information Society on Display In Spotify

Jesus Jones In Spotify. (Remember them?)

Spotify's service is not "free" per se. The "free" version displays advertising between songs, and to get an ad-free experience, you would need to pay (at least in the UK) a British pound for a 24-hour day pass, or 10 British pounds for a month. I haven't seen what the US rates will be, but the version I'm using (no doubt the 'press' version) hasn't encountered an ad yet - just pure, clear, music.

If I'm Apple, and I see the Spotify application heading for me like a freight train, I would try to say the application competes with existing features of iTunes. You don't want to let a huge potential competitor in the front door. But if you look at Spotify like they did Sirius XM Radio, which was approved, it's essentially the same story, only instead of dedicated radio stations, you've got individual songs and artists by the bucketload.

I wish, similarly, that I had a "bucketload" of invites to hand out to get you into a theoretical Spotify beta, but I don't. All I have is my copy - and it's fantastic. When it lands here in the US, it's got the potential to be an amazing hit. I just hope people aren't so cheap as to not pay if presented the opportunity. I'm always willing to pay for quality, and that's exactly what we've got here.

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