Spotify Review

spotify main Spotify Review

It’s kinda ironic to be sitting in Norway and writing reviews that are US only. Proxies are nice tools to get around IP restrictions, but it’s also an extra hassle to go through if you’re relying on the service for daily use. Spotify is one of few services that actually started in Europe and is slowly spreading out, so for once I can write a review without having to fake my location.

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Concept

Spotify is one of few services that come from Europe and is often mistakenly looked upon as revolutionary because it let’s users stream music from a giant library of songs. While the free, ad-supported concept is indeed special, subscription/streaming services aren’t really new. Spotify’s paid version is basically the same as Napster and Rhapsody. You download software, log in, and go nuts with listening to music.

Requirements and software

Spotify is coming to the US in the future as well as other countries, but for the time being you can only use the service in Sweden, Norway, Finland, the UK, France and Spain. Spotify allows for “travel use”, which let’s free users log in from other-country IPs for up to 14 days and premium users for as long as they want. This means that if you manage to sign up for a premium account, you can use it from anywhere. As for software, Spotify is software based and you need the client to use it- no online Napster-like streaming. There are also mobile clients available for Android, Symbian S60 and iPhone OS.

Prices

Spotify Free is ad supported and will randomly pop up audio commercials as well as advertisement banners in the software. The ads can get very annoying as there isn’t a static part of the software that will display them- it will randomly resize windows to fit banners in different places. Basically it seems the point of the ads is to annoy you into going premium. Spotify Free also requires an invite, which people with premium accounts get. Premium accounts are €10/£10/99KR per month and gives you access to offline mode, mobile use, “travel access”, higher sound quality and removes ads. Day pass, which is €1/£1/9NOK, removes ads but nothing more.

Spotify also allows you to buy tracks if you’re in the UK, Sweden, France and Spain. Music purchases are provided by 7digital.com and not part of Spotify per say.

Finding music

One of the biggest downsides of Spotify is the utter lack for a way to find music. You can search for music by artists, album or track, access a few lists of music and use a radio feature which lets you create a filter of decades and genres to make a stream, but that’s it. There’s no real browsing, no recommended tracks (though last.fm scrobbling is supported) and nothing that let’s you discover new music. With Spotify you basically need to know what you’re looking for as it won’t try to show you.

The artists and album pages are also rather simple. For artists you can access a bio (if available) as well as artist radio, similar artists and of course the music they have available. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing because it’s very fast and easy to navigate, but they could have done more with it- links to the artist on last.fm, for instance, to try to make it a bit easier to find similar music. Since you can’t access genres or anything like that, it’s often a bit hard find similar artists beyond the ones linked on the artist page. Album pages have absolutely no links to anything else (like similar albums on Napster) so again you’re stuck with having to know it’s there to find it.

The main focus of Spotify is to create playlists, which you do very easily in the sidebar. You can share links to your playlists, sync them between computers and devices etc. This would work better if they had something like a playlist central that some services have, where you can browse playlists and see what playlists an album is on etc. Again this comes down to lack of ways to find music on Spotfy.

Selection

The chart below shows the number of songs available for 20 different artists for each of the music services I’ve reviewed. As I review more, the chart will be updated.

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File formats

Spotify streams using Ogg Vorbis q5, 160kbps. If you have a premium account you can set it to stream as 320kbps instead. Premium accounts can also use the service offline where it will download the tracks locally for when you don’t have Internet access (or if you don’t want to use bandwidth). You can’t use the downloaded tracks to play somewhere else though; it’s still Spotify-only.

Spotify Mobile

Spotify is also available on three mobile platforms; Symbian S60, iPhone OS and Android. The Archos 5 Android tablet is able to use the Android version albeit there is a bug with the playback screen. Mobile use requires a premium account so there are no ads, and you’ll also have access to offline mode. It syncs playlists form the computer, so essentially you can create a bunch of playlists on your PC, make them available offline (up to 3333 tracks) on your device and use it as a normal music player. This makes it comparable to Rhapsody To Go, although since so few MP3 players can use it it’s more useful for people with smartphones.

Conclusion

Spotify is a nice service that let’s you stream music either free with ads or for a monthly fee, as well as use the service on various mobile platforms. The lack of a way to find new music is one of the biggest drawback, and it still lacks some major labels to be able to compete with other services, but the service itself is solid and very usable. Since Spotify is currently available in countries where other services are not, it has gotten a lot of attention and a solid user base already. Whether it will be that popular in the US is a bigger question as there are alternatives there that does a better job of helping you find music, not just play it.

20 Comments

Bash on December 4, 2009 5:46 AM

Thanks for this review.Can i have an invitation please?

ThyASS on December 4, 2009 5:50 AM

Nice…i actually seen this on my sisters computer a few months ago…great idea…what is your opinion on grooveshark though which seems to be another interesting service? and if it is possible can i get the invite…im in Slovakia.:-)

Bash on December 4, 2009 5:51 AM

How does it compare to deezer? Thanks

Andreas Ødegård on December 4, 2009 6:15 AM

Sent an invite to Bash. Spotify isn’t available in Slovakia, ThyASS.

Daniel Mulchrone on December 4, 2009 6:59 AM

I use the free version of Spotify aswell as last.fm and when you get used to the ads, they really aren’t much of a hassle… like listening to the radio.

Squargle on December 4, 2009 7:41 AM

Quite a fair assessment of the advantages and pitfalls of Spotify.Daniel, I know I shouldn’t complain whilst using the free beta but the audio adverts in particular annoy me so much that I seldom use the service. I usually just turn the volume down to avoid it (as muting only pauses the ads). Neurotic but effective.I’m also concerned as to whether artists are appropriately recompensed for their works being available on Spotify. For instance torrentfreak reported that Lady Gaga received just $167USD for 1 million plays. If that’s the case I wonder how much less mainstream bands/artists make.

Azilla on December 4, 2009 8:12 AM

Looks intresting, chance I could get a invite?

ThyASS on December 4, 2009 8:24 AM

shame then..she used somebodys account from the UK :-) wanted to send it to her…she lives there…is there still a chance? :-) …anyway thanks…so what do you think of grooveshark?

Bash on December 4, 2009 9:36 AM

well received. Thanks Andreas

Andreas Ødegård on December 4, 2009 9:45 AM

@Azilla: Invitasjon er sendt :) @ThyASS: Sure, sent you the invitation so you can pass it on. Haven’t tested grooveshark but I’ll look into it

royr719 on December 4, 2009 12:24 PM

Hey Andreas what about rewiewing the Aimp player? I wonder why still you dont write about it, such a good player. Nice review btw.

siiilenttbob on December 4, 2009 3:53 PM

This looks real cool! Any chance of getting a free invite?

Andrew on December 5, 2009 12:24 PM

Enjoyed the review. I have used Spotify for about 6 months on my I Pod Touch and absolutely love it. Have saved lots of songs offline.I have 6 invites available so if anyone would like one, please email me.andreww3362@yahoo.co.uk

korko on December 11, 2009 3:30 AM

Looks better than other similar programs. Might have to try this one.P.S. It’s “per se,” not “per say.” Sorry to nitpick.

Johan on December 12, 2009 2:46 PM

I am a premium (paying) user and think Spotify is THE music service for my computers and Android-phone. Great sound quality and more than decent supply of music. Love that you can set the playlists to also work in offline mode (making the program download them automatically onto your computer).Also, you do get recommended music at the home screen so you´re not completely fair in the review.

Jesus on January 31, 2010 1:51 PM

You can actually find new music through Spotify. There is a “Top Lists” tab in the “Home” section to find the most popular songs and albums in each country, or in all of them altogether.Besides, when you click on an artist name, you can see in the top right corner of the “Overview” page a list of similar artists. Actually, you can go to the “Artist’s radio” tab and listen to all those similar artists.

Music on February 17, 2010 8:22 AM

Spotify is not available at my country…

Jo-Rasta on May 5, 2010 4:14 AM

Hellow everybody,Well as you all know, spotiy is available on 6 countrys for now,but even in the future upcoming strategy, i’ don’t think that africa, is on the first candidates.So maybe someone could give me an invite, i’ve been looking for it for a while, but still nothing.I know that’s not the right place, or even the best way to get the invite, But i tried so many ways, thats i wonder someone could help by reading this .Thanks for reading.

Ashot on April 5, 2011 8:03 PM

Actually spotify is the best going initiative of this kind. Unlike others, its library is quite good, but only for the normal listener. Everything that is rare, or not that popular of course is missing. i would advise to enrich the library, still they are doing great so far – ant they are based in sweden, so the places it works for are limited.

Guioseppe on April 10, 2011 2:11 PM

After spending many years using MusicMatch / Yahoo Music /Rhapsody I’ve finally tried and adopted Spotify

by now (early 2011) Spotify has one of the very best library of tunes to listen and their online offline abilitt without having to ever buy one single song is the best

also while it is true that it s sad that right now that no solution exist (to my knowledge) for using sansa clip with it, it has the largest coverage of apps for all kind of phone (including WebOS for Palm HP) (Pre is to me best smartphone ever after trying a lot of them)

it s worth noting that once you find a way to circumvent country regulation to download it the service works perfectly whether or not you are in Europe no need for any tweek on an ongoing basis, titles are found, streamed or downloaded (for offline listening) without a gltch in the US (how funny isnt it)
it is in stark contrast with the rhapsody service which require some kind of proxy setting to work in europe if your account is set up as a US one (or even wonderfull Pandora that can not be used out of the US :( )

I do hope they keep enriching their catalog with more and more “rarities and oddities” but I have no regret switching and do not see myself changing to anything else anytime soon

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