Wednesday, 26 May 2010


I've been using Spotify for a while now and seeing as I have just decided not to renew my premium membership I figure now is as good a time as any to write a bit about it.
For those who don't know what Spotify is, Spotify is a music streaming service. You sign up for an account and you can listen to most of the music in the world (maybe) for free, with adverts. For a fee you can upgrade from this basic package and remove the audio ads. For a larger fee you can remove the ads, save the music to your computer to listen to offline, and use the mobile service.
Sounds great huh? Well it is, I would argue that there is no reason anyone in the world should have not to have Spotify installed on your computer to listen to a bit of music thats stuck in your head but you dont own, or to see what this new hyped band you've been hearing about sounds like. To listen to more that twenty hours a month though, you're going to need an invite. Spotify has two free plans, Open and Free. Anyone can get an Open account, but as I said before you're limited to how much music you can listen to in a month. Invites upgrade you to Free membership which as far as I can tell is a lifelong deal. This is a new system and if you signed up when Spotify started you wont have needed an invite because at the time they didn't have the same kind of traffic to their servers that they do now. You only get invites to give out if you have at some point paid for a subscription.
So you've tried out the free version for a while and Jonathan from Spotify is starting to grind your gears, or maybe you're just interested in trying the mobile client, or offline syncing? There are two paid options, Spotify Premium is what I've tried, as it was the only option available at the time. It's £10 a month and for that you get unlimited ad free streaming of Spotify's fairly extensive library at a higher bitrate than any other plan (320kbps VBR Ogg Vorbis no less). The mobile client is ok, although streaming over 3G will quickly show you how crap your mobile network is, and it currently has none of the social features I'll go into later. It's available for Android, iPhone and Symbian. You can sync albums offline on your phone and you will need to do this to listen without getting frustrated. Offline listening also has the advantage of allowing you a higher bitrate version than they allow streaming. There's also exclusive albums that only Premium subscribers can listen to although I can't say that I remember listening to a single one of them. The thing is, to justify spending £120 a year on a Spotify subscription you need to justify that to yourself somehow. You may think "well without ads I can listen to Spotify instead of CD's/ MP3s". What you will quickly realise is that Spotify isn't all the music in the world, far from it. There's a lot there, but there's a lot of very important classics missing, and new music generally arrives later than it does on iTunes. That and I'm pretty sure people like me who spend over £10 on music every month are definitely in the minority. Frankly you'll get a better experience listening to music with ads and buying albums you really like. If you're buying Spotify for something to listen to on the move, may I suggest the vastly superior, which seems far more reliable over 3G. Now what it is good for, and what I have found myself using it for, is building playlists for filler in between bands, syncing them offline, and using that rather than CDs. It's a good enough quality when synced that I can barely tell the difference between it and CD or lossless formats like Flac.
The £5 client simply removes the ads, no offline sync, no enhanced bitrate, no exclusive albums, and most of all, no mobile client. I guess it's worth it if you really hate the ads and just use Spotify at home and work with a reliable connection, and don't care about the audio quality.
Just recently they introduced a few really good social features that tie your Spotify account to your Facebook account. Once the accounts are connected, you can look at your friends playlists and subscribe to any you like, as well as see tracks that they have starred. The idea of sharing Spotify playlists is not a new thing though, you can post links to Spotify playlists like this, which I have seen done particularly well by Latitude, who compiled playlists of the best tracks by all of the bands on the roster. I think once Spotify is more commonly used, this will happen more.

To summarise, here's 5 reasons you should get Spotify free:

  • Great for listening to new bands
  • Share playlists with your Facebook friends
  • See what your Facebook friends like
  • Great for gig filler
  • Mobile client is interesting to play with (if faulted)

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