July 14, 2011

Spotify's US Launch Goes Well as Listeners Flock for Invites

My experience with early access to Spotify in the US has been nothing short of game-changing in terms of what I expect from my music, and after my having said so for about two years, I know a good number of folks got fatigued of the promise, and just wanted the company to ship already. Today, as was much-anticipated and well reported, Spotify did open its doors in the US, bringing the massive on-demand music library for desktop and mobile devices to the world's biggest music market. The service was open via invitation only, as many found themselves refreshing their email boxes, waiting for the invites to arrive. Luckily, thanks to my ongoing relationship with the company, especially their Head of Special Projects Shak Khan, I snagged a dedicated URL with invites and passed them around on Google+, Twitter and Facebook before I had to zip off to something resembling a real job this morning. The link is here: http://www.spotify.com/us/louisgray/

In case it wasn't obvious, go get it ... now. I'll wait.

After much waiting and an equal amount of hyperbole, the arrival of the music app took on a life of its own, overshadowing the actual delivery of a new challenger that could change the way many of us consume and share music - as much as Napster and iTunes did in their own times.

Quickly stated, Spotify is a streaming music application that offers the deepest legal library of music available for multiple platforms. Unlike the lock-in faced from the iTunes/iOS side of the world, I can get to my Spotify library from any Mac, Windows or Linux computer, and any Android or iOS device. In addition to having incredible instant access to music with almost zero buffering, even if I have never listened to a track before, I can link Spotify to my Facebook social graph, share tracks and playlists with friends, and browse their own listening preferences to discover new music.

Spotify Highlights My Artists, Tracks, Friends, Starred Songs and Much More

In the last two years, when I heard of a new band or a new album, invariably I checked Spotify to see if the music was available there first, and in almost every case it has been - often weeks or months ahead of iTunes, Amazon and others. I often put Spotify to the "name an artist or song" challenge to friends who tried to find some lesser-known band to stump the service unsuccessfully, and then would skip to a later part in the song without any hiccups.

The Crystal Method playing on Spotify. Note the Scrollbar's Size for So Many Tracks!

Through the wait for Spotify's arrival, much attention was placed on the service's plan to continue with a free option for listeners, which scared the heck out of music labels. After much finagling, they landed a way to offer a free, entry price and premium price for the service. Considering premium is only $9.99 a month, it's a steal, period, and I'd expect serious conversions to the higher models. Spotify has also reportedly provided upwards of $60 million in music royalties to artists just in Europe alone in the previous year, putting them second highest behind iTunes. Add the USA to the mix and obvious virality thanks to social networking, and that number is bound to jump.

Pro Tip: Subscribe to the New Singles Playlist to Get New Stuff Immediately

As many skeptics have stated, Spotify does not enter greenfield territory, being flanked by Rdio, MOG and other streaming services, including the grandfather of the bunch, Rhapsody. The company's app is serviceable, but not beautiful, and music discovery could see some improvement. But that hasn't stopped practically everybody I know (myself included) from getting addicted to the service and using it with practical exception of all else. The flexible combination of downloads, streaming, playlists, sharing, and pure high quality sound sets Spotify apart from the rest, and you could see A-list artists as excited about the debut as we have been.

My Friend Charles Hudson's Profile on Spotify

As my invite URL link bounced around the social networks, emails started getting delivered late in the evening, and everybody who has been graced with a Spotify invite almost immediately sees the value and knows this changes their game. I am glad I haven't lost my purchased music converted from iTunes to Google Music, and love that GMusic is in the cloud, for Chromebooks' sake, but Spotify's got me in every other place. Sometimes, even after all the hype, things are better than expected or stated. With Spotify, this is one of those times. You owe it to yourself to try, if you've been locked out before. I am so glad I no longer look elitist with my early access. Go get it.