“You’ve got to see this,” a friend said to me in June. “It’s a new music service that lets you listen to anything you want from anywhere. And it’s cloud-based, so the music doesn’t take up any space on your hard drive.” He played a few songs for me and showed me how the service worked. I was impressed.
“What’s it called?” I asked.
“Spotify,” he told me. “It’ll be available in the U.S. in a week or two.”
Spotify arrived in the U.S. on July 14. The initial reviews were generally positive. The L.A. Times loved it; so did David Pogue of The New York Times. After nearly a month of playing with it, I’m sold on Spotify too. It’s completely changed the way I access my music. Best of all, it ought to save me money.
Spotify allows subscribers access to millions of songs from personal computers and mobile phones. Users can stream music from their computer or mobile phone. Spotify lets you search for songs and albums, create playlists, mark favorites, and so on. It will even scour your existing music library to import your existing tunes. In a way, Spotify is like a musical version of Netflix streaming, only with less hassle and better selection.
(MORE: Spotify Hits the U.S.)
For a few years, I’ve been using three different services to access music. I use both Pandora and SiriusXM for radio-like music consumption, and I use iTunes to store the library of music I’ve purchased. But since Spotify was released in the U.S. a month ago, it has almost completely replaced these tools for me. (I still need iTunes for TV shows and audiobooks.)
Lest I sound like a shill for Spotify, I should point out the service does have drawbacks. For instance:
- The free version of Spotify is ad-supported, and reportedly the advertising is extremely annoying. I wouldn’t know, because I’ve opted to pay $10 a month for the ad-free premium service. (There’s also a $5/month option with no ads and fewer features.)
- Spotify’s interface is less robust than iTunes and other mature music players. There are fewer options for exploring new music and for sharing your playlists with friends.
- You can’t burn CDs from Spotify. This makes sense given the company’s business model, but it’s still frustrating and means that it’ll never completely replace iTunes for me.
- Though the Spotify library is extensive — more than 15 million songs! — it’s by no means complete. If you want to listen to The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Metallica — or other prominent digital music holdouts — you’ll have to find another way to do it.
Perhaps the biggest drawback is that you don’t own the songs you access with Spotify. If owning your music collection matters to you, Spotify isn’t a good choice. It’s more like a personal jukebox than a store. (Again, it’s very similar to Netflix streaming.)
Spotify isn’t the only way to access music from The Cloud, of course. Other options include:
- Grooveshark, a web-based music search engine and recommendation tool.
- Last.fm, which keeps a record of the music you listen to so that it can suggest new songs. It offers a radio service.
- Pandora allows users to create customized radio stations based on songs they like.
- Rdio is an online service that lets you discover new music through social networking.
Why am I willing to pay $120/year for Spotify? Because I’ve been paying more than that for music through iTunes and other sources. In theory (and only time will see if this is true), Spotify will save me money. Plus, I find it more convenient. I love having access to all of my music at any time from nearly any device. It’s like I’m living in the future!